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The Last Command (1928)

A former Imperial Russian general and cousin of the Czar ends up in Hollywood as an extra in a movie directed by a former revolutionary.

Writers:

Lajos Biró (story), John F. Goodrich | 2 more credits »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Emil Jannings ... Gen. Dolgorucki / Grand Duke Sergius Alexander
Evelyn Brent ... Natalie Dabrova
William Powell ... Lev Andreyev
Jack Raymond Jack Raymond ... Assistant Director
Nicholas Soussanin Nicholas Soussanin ... The Adjutant
Michael Visaroff Michael Visaroff ... Serge (the valet)
Fritz Feld ... A Revolutionist
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Storyline

A decorated, aristocratic Czarist General is reduced to penury after the collapse of Imperial Russia. An old adversary, now a successful director hires the general to re-enact the revolution which deposed him. Written by W. Louis <wlouis@ego.psych.mcgill.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

EMIL JANNINGS -- World's finest dramatic actor in a brilliant successor to "The Way of all Flesh" -- and "Variety." You'll be amazed with Janning's tremendous role of the mighty general!...with men...women...a whole nation at his feet! Through flaming love...adoration...hate! To...! The most terrific climax the screen has ever known!

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

April 1928 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

A Última Ordem See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Budd Schulberg, son of the film's producer, wrote in his memoirs about witnessing the filming of this film's final scene. See more »

Goofs

[All goofs for this title are spoilers.] See more »

Quotes

Gen. Dolgorucki: Why are you not in uniform?
Lev Andreyev: My lungs are weak.
Gen. Dolgorucki: Perhaps it is your courage that is weak.
Lev Andreyev: It doesn't require courage to send others to battle and death.
[the angry Duke uses his crop to whip Andreyev across the face]
See more »

Alternate Versions

In 1985 German composer Siegfried Franz reconstructed the original musical score of the film. A version of the film with this score was released in life performances in theaters and shown on television in the eighties. See more »

Connections

Featured in Maltin on Movies: Flipped (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

The looking glass, darkly
22 September 2011 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

This is one of the most richly woven tapestries I have discovered on film about film, acting about acting, fictions about fictions. The extra allure here is that it comes to us from the last minutes of the first hours of cinema, at the cusp of silent and sound filmmaking and so just as cinema - then pioneering elaborate theories about the eye animating the world, and so the eye as soul - was about to revert back to the simple machinations of theater. It would re-emerge from these notions in the time of the New Wave; this is New Wave of thirty years before.

The story is so interesting in itself, you should know a rough outline; an exiled Russian general winds up - is karmically reborn - on a Hollywood set as a movie extra to play a Russian general, reliving the past. The framing story is a flashback to his days in Russia, the old Russia about to be torn asunder by revolution, and then we have contemporary time as he struggles to relive the events for the camera.

The story within a story that emerges is connected by the most astonishing panorama of people acting roles. So we have within the flashback, which takes up most of the film; the general acting autocratic from the power of a uniform; troops acting in front of the Czar who inspects them; the revolutionary girl acting coy and in love; then while truly in love - this is a plot point you will just have to swallow - acting like a revolutionary; finally the general acting out his part in the cataclysmic turn of events.

There is more, once we reach out of the film; so we have a European actor coming to America to act in a film about the same, the only surviving film from his time in America; acting again a part he had played in The Last Laugh some years before. As in Murnau's film it is the uniform, and so the fabric of ceremonial occasion, there a hotel porter's uniform, that permits a performance that validates living. And once painfully stripped of it, there is only naked soul.

This is all very potent stuff to see, but it wouldn't be the same without the powerful ending. The general assumes his position on set as himself, and as cameras roll out their re-enactment of a forlorn trench, he becomes completely submerged in the hallucination, memory, essentially the internal narrative running in his mind of the original events. So we have a third layer here, the set as the space of memory and now the eye, the camera, looking inwards to relive.

The motion rippling across the layers is so seductive we may overlook how this ripple is a full cycle.

The one narrative is finally complete in the others, the cycle only possible with this alignment, and so this poignantly reveals both the creative and destructive aspects of art. The various threads and boundaries blurred, are now clear again through an osmosis of the soul. On one side we have the act of a powerful creation; on the other, bitter end, a broken man consumed in the fire of that act.

Sternberg knew what he was doing. Everything here dazzles with artifice, scale of descent, camera magic. The transition inside the flashback and back from it happens through a mirror, the looking glass of fictions that crystallizes illusion. This is the full cycle then; the ending somberly unmasks truth in illusion, heart in mind.

See, if you can find it, from the same year The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra, about an anonymous, disposable actor caught in the wheels of the dream factory. I will follow the thread to The Blue Angel.


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