The Last Laugh | Chicago Reader

The Last Laugh

The 1924 film in which F.W. Murnau freed his camera from its stationary tripod and took it on a flight of imagination and expression that changed the way movies were made. Cameras had tracked and panned before, but never to such a deliberate and spectacular degree. Emil Jannings is the hotel doorman whose life is ruined when he is shunted to semiretirement as a lavatory attendant and his beautiful uniform is taken away from him. The film was a great international success and secured a Hollywood contract for its German director—although a president of Universal, according to legend, complained that the story made no sense because everyone knew that washroom attendants made more money than doormen.

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