The Last Command (1928)

last command poster 1928 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good silent film with good imagery


Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Last Command

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Silent/Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  January 15, 1928 (Premiere)/January 21, 1928 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

last command william powell

Revenge is sweet

Leo Andreyev (William Powell) is a producer in Hollywood.  When he spots a familiar face in a pile of photos, he realizes he can finally have the revenge he’s sought.  Grand Duke Sergius Alexander (Emil Jannings) is a broken man and former high commander in the Czar’s army.  Called in for casting, he finds himself remembering his past in Russia and his love for an anarchist named Natalie Dobrova (Evelyn Brent)…and the moment that broke his life forever.

Directed by Josef von Sternberg, The Last Command is a silent historic drama.  The movie won at the first Academy Awards for Best Actor (Jannings) with a nomination for Best Original Story and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library Congress in 2006.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #530) as part of the collection 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg (Criterion #528).

last command evelyn brent

Down with the czar!

The Last Command mostly has a place in film history because it is a first.  It is the first Best Actor winner.  Watching The Last Command, the story and the presentation drive the film.

Often, silent films are a bit too long.  With the need for title cards to drive the plot, they can sometimes get lengthy if they are heavily story driven.  The Last Command manages to be rather tight and tell a story of a love for a country that bridges ideologies.  Sergius Alexander is a representative of the state while Natalie Dobrova is a voice of the people…but they both have the same goal which leads to tragedy.

Much of the story’s strength comes from Emil Jannings performance.  He gets to play two “roles”.  One is the proud and powerful commander but the other is the role of a broken man.  Evelyn Brent is caught in the middle as someone tied to her ideals but in love despite the differences.  William Powell’s ole is rather small in the length of time of the film, but he does propel the story.

last command emil jannings flag ending academy award

I’m calling out for the Academy Award!!!

The movie looks good.  The film has been cleaned up for new prints and show the details that can be missed in older transfers.  The movie has some nice editing (considering the technology at the time) and scenes like the train wreck are pretty advanced.

The Last Command is a solid older film.  It has the classic look and feel of a traditional silent film, and it isn’t as innovative as something like the German Expressionists, but Josef von Sternberg shows a bit of a blending of Hollywood and the stylistic European look.  Sergius’s story is tragic, but the movie is a piece of history.

Related Links:

The 1st Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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