Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt
Conrad Veidt

Veidt in The Spy in Black (1939)
Born Hans Walter Konrad Weidt
22 January 1893(1893-01-22)
Berlin, Germany
Died 3 April 1943(1943-04-03) (aged 50)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1917–1943
Spouse Gussy Holl (1918–1922)
Felicitas Radke (1923–1932) 1 child
Ilona Prager (1933–1943) (his death)

Conrad Veidt (22 January 1893 – 3 April 1943) was a German actor best remembered for his roles in films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), The Man Who Laughs (1928), The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and Casablanca (1942). After a successful career in German silent film, where he was one of the best paid stars of Ufa, he left Germany in 1933 with his new Jewish wife and settled in the United Kingdom, where he participated in a number of films before continuing to the United States around 1941.


Early life and work

He was born Hans Walter Conrad Weidt in a working-class district of Berlin, Germany, the son of Amalie Marie (Gohtz) and Phillip Heinrich Veidt.[1] (Some biographies wrongly state that he was born in Potsdam, probably on the basis of an early claim on his part.) His family was Protestant.[1]

In 1914, Veidt met actress Lucie Mannheim, with whom he began a relationship. Later in the year Veidt was drafted into the German Army during World War I. In 1915, Veidt was sent to the Eastern Front as a noncommissioned officer and took part in the Battle of Warsaw. He contracted jaundice and pneumonia, and had to be evacuated to a hospital on the Baltic Sea. While recuperating, he received a letter from Mannheim informing him that she had found work at a theater in Libau. Intrigued, Veidt applied for the theater as well. As his condition had not improved, the army allowed him to join the theater so that he could entertain the troops. While performing at the theater his relationship with Mannheim ended. In late 1916, he was reexamined by the Army and deemed unfit for service and given a full discharge in January 1917. Veidt then returned to Berlin to pursue his acting career.[2][3][4]

From 1916 until his death, he appeared in well over 100 films. He appeared in two of the best-known films of the silent era: as a murderous somnambulist in director Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) with Werner Krauss and Lil Dagover and as a disfigured circus performer in The Man Who Laughs (1928). According to the Los Angeles Times, "Conrad Veidt starred in this semi-silent film based on Victor Hugo's novel in which the son of a lord is punished for his father's disrespect to the king by having his face carved into a permanent grin." Veidt also starred in other classic silent horror films such a The Hands of Orlac in 1929 (again directed by Robert Weine), The Student of Prague in 1926 and Waxworks in 1924 where he played Ivan the Terrible.

Veidt also appeared in Magnus Hirschfeld's pioneering gay rights film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others, 1919), in which he played what is probably the first gay character written especially for the cinema,[citation needed] and in Das Land ohne Frauen (1929), Germany's first talking picture.

He moved to Hollywood and made a few films in the twenties but the advent of talking pictures and his broken English made him return to Germany.[5]

Life in England

Veidt fervently opposed the Nazi regime, motivating him to emigrate from Germany in 1933 a week after marrying Illona Prager, a Jewish woman. He settled in the United Kingdom, perfected his English and became a British citizen in 1938.

He continued making films in Britain, notably three with director Michael Powell: The Spy in Black (1939), Contraband (1940) and The Thief of Bagdad (1940).

Later career

In the 1940s he moved back to Hollywood, California, and starred in a few films, such as Nazi Agent (1942), in which he had a dual role as a Nazi and as the Nazi's twin brother, but his best remembered role was as Major Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca (1942). He found himself invariably playing the very characters he detested.

He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1943 while playing golf in Los Angeles. In 1998, his ashes were interred at the Golders Green Crematorium in London.

Personal life

It has been reported, though not verified, that Veidt identified himself as Jewish on Nazi questionnaires as an act of protest.[6] This may be the source of inaccurate claims that he either converted to Judaism or was Jewish by birth.[7] Conrad Veidt married three times, his first marriage to Augusta Holl, a famous cabaret entertainer known as "Gussy," took place on June 18, 1918 and ended in divorce the following autumn. Gussy later married German actor Emil Jannings. Veidt married a woman from an aristocratic German family, Felicitas Radke, in 1923. Their daughter, Vera Viola Maria, called Viola, was born August 10, 1925. His last marriage came in 1933, to Ilona Prager, called Lily, and lasted until his death.

He loaned his considerable fortune to the British Government and donated large amounts of his film salaries to help with the British war effort.[8]

Popular culture

  • Comic book artist Bob Kane, writer Bill Finger and artist Jerry Robinson used stills of Veidt in The Man Who Laughs as inspiration for the iconic supervillain The Joker. The creators have long disputed who actually came up with the character.[9][10]
  • Veidt sang the title song Where the Lighthouse Shines Across the Bay (in some territories) of the 1933 film F.P.1. It flopped at the time, but became a hit in the United Kingdom in 1980 after disc jockey Terry Wogan played it as a request on his breakfast show. Afterwards he was inundated with repeat requests.[citation needed]
  • He is mentioned in Thomas Pynchon's 2009 novel Inherent Vice (pg. 115).
  • On their 1979 album Dantzig Twist, the cult French post-punk band Marquis de Sade wrote a track called "Conrad Veidt". The chorus goes with the line " Conrad Veidt is dancing" in French.

Selected filmography

  • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  • Das Land ohne Frauen (1929)
  • Die letzte Kompanie (1930)
  • Menschen im Käfig (1930)
  • Der Mann, der den Mord beging (1931)
  • Die Nacht der Entscheidung (1931)
  • The Congress Dances (Der Kongreß tanzt) (1931)
  • Die andere Seite (1931)
  • Rasputin, Dämon der Frauen (1932)
  • The Black Hussar (1932)
  • Rome Express (1932)
  • The Wandering Jew (1933)
  • Ich und die Kaiserin (1933)
  • F.P.1 (1933)
  • I Was a Spy (1933)
  • Guillaume Tell (1934)
  • William Tell (1934)
  • Bella Donna (1934)
  • Jew Suss (1934) - not to be confused with the 1940 German anti-semitic Jud Süß


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Conrad Veidt — Données clés Nom de naissance Hans Walter Conrad Weidt Naissance 22 janvier 1893 Potsdam, Allemagne. Nationalité  Allemande …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Conrad Veidt — Konrad Weidt …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Veidt — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Conrad Veidt (1893–1943), deutscher Schauspieler Karl Veidt (1879–1946), deutscher evangelisch lutherischer Theologe Werner Veidt (1903 1992), deutscher Schauspieler und Autor Siehe auch: Veit, Veith …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Conrad — ist ein männlicher Vorname und ein Familienname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Bekannte Namensträger 2.1 Vorname 2.2 Zweitname …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Conrad (name) — This article is about the given name and surname. For other uses, see Conrad. Contents 1 People 1.1 First name 1.2 Surname …   Wikipedia

  • Veidt — Veidt, Conrad …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Veidt —   [f ], Hans Walter Conrad, Film und Bühnenschauspieler, * Berlin (nach eigener Angabe: Potsdam) 22. 1. 1893, ✝ Los Angeles (Calif.) 3. 4. 1943; war Schüler M. Reinhardts in Berlin, verkörperte v. a. dämonische Figuren; einer der ersten… …   Universal-Lexikon

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