Who was the real Oscar?

Emil Jannings, a German actor who would go on to make propaganda films for the Nazis in the 1930s, was the first recipient of the legendary Oscar. Had there been a mistake? Well, yes. Reputedly, the real winner that year - 1929 - was Rin Tin Tin, the 11-year-old German Shepherd rescued from wartime France in 1918 by a US airman. Rin Tin Tin had gone on to become one of the most popular and profitable Hollywood stars at the time when silent movies were giving way to the talkies.

Rin Tin Tin starred in 27 films, four of which were released in 1929 alone. The then recently formed Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, under the aegis of Louis B Mayer, head of MGM, decided that giving a dog the first of the soon-to-be legendary gold-plated 13.5in (34.3cm) statuettes - in the guise of an Art Deco medieval knight holding a long crusader's sword and standing on a film reel - would give the wrong impression.

If not entirely barking, the decision would set a curious and eccentric precedent. So even though Rin Tin Tin received the most votes for best actor in first-round voting - a rumour New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean confirms in a biography of the canine star - the Academy held a second round of voting with human contenders only.

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