The First Best Actor Oscar Almost Went to a Dog (Allegedly)

One of the biggest movie stars of the 1920s was Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd. He was born in France and was rescued by Lee Duncan, an American soldier who saw him in the middle of a WWI battlefield. Duncan saw potential in him and trained him and got him in films. Rin Tin Tin starred in 27 Hollywood movies before passing away in 1932. And he might have gotten the most votes for Best Actor in the first Academy Awards ceremony.

Large, ornate room, filled with people in formal dress sitting at different tables.
The first Academy Awards

The legend goes that when they were counting the votes for Best Actor, Rin Tin Tin received more votes than anyone else for the inaugural Best Actor award. However, wishing to avoid embarrassment, they gave it to the human actor with the most votes instead.

Rin Tin Tin - IMDb
Rin Tin Tin, about to make his screenwriting debut

The legend had circulated around Hollywood for years until Susan Orlean (everyone’s favorite drunk Twitter aunt) wrote a history on Rin Tin Tin. She has given credence to the legend and has even called on the Academy to give a posthumous Oscar to the late German Shepherd.

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend (Thorndike Biography): Orlean, Susan:  9781594135613: Books
Orlean’s book

Instead of Rin Tin Tin, the first Best Actor Oscar went to Emil Jannings. Jannings was an accomplished actor who gave many great performances… and then appeared in Nazi propaganda.

Emil Jannings, pictured with his bestie Joseph Goebbles

Alright, maybe they should have given the Oscar to the dog.