OK, this is kind of a weird question. At the end of "The Last Laugh," there's a title card that comes up saying, effectively, that Murnau was forced by convention to add a happy ending. (It's been a while since I saw the movie, so I remembered it as saying the studio forced him into it--but this review
says otherwise.) The title card sounds really cynical, which would be understandable if Murnau really did feel forced to add a false ending, and Roger Ebert, in the link above, refers to the act as "dimwitted," as if it were a crummy artistic choice.
Did Murnau really feel this way, though? Can anyone who's a little more familiar with the guy himself, or with how he worked, tell me what they think? My personal response as a viewer was that the happy ending was a really masterful stroke, one that was a deliberate and cunning choice. The happy ending is so patently impossible that it makes the "real" ending, the one that would have occurred in real life, that much sadder. When I watched it, it was like there were two stories running in my head at the same time--one where the old man died alone and miserable, and one where he rather improbably ended up just fine. The difference between the two was staggering.
Anyway, I've been wondering about this one for a while and wanted to see if anyone had some info or just a point of view about the movie and its ending.