Veidt, Conrad

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VEIDT, Conrad

Nationality: German/British. Born: Berlin, 22 January 1893; became British citizen, 1939. Family: Married 1) Gussy Hall (divorced); 2) Felicitas Radke, one daughter; married third wife. Career: Studied with Max Reinhardt, and acted in his company in Berlin, before 1914 and after 1916; 1914–16—served in the German Army; illness permitted him to be assigned to Berlin after 1916; 1917—film debut in Der Spion; 1919—controversy over his portrayal of a homosexual in the film Anders als die Andern; formed own production company; directed first film, Wahnsinn; 1920—role in Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari and other expressionist films in the early 1920s brought him international attention; late 1920s—made some films in Hollywood; 1934—after being detained briefly in Nazi Germany because his third wife was half-Jewish, emigrated to England; 1940–43—worked in the United States. Died: 3 April 1943.

Films as Actor:


Wenn Tote sprechen (Reinert); Die Claudia von Geiserhof (Biebrach); Der Spion (Heiland); Der Weg des Todes (Reinert) (as Rolf); Furcht (Wiene) (as the Indian); Das Ratsel von Bangalor (Antalffy) (as Count Dinja)


Die Serenyi (Halm); Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (The Diary of a Lost Woman) (Oswald) (as Dr. Julius); Dida Ibsens Geschichte (Oswald) (as Erik Knorrensen); Des Dreimäderlhaus (Oswald) (as Baron Schober); Colomba (von Wieder) (as Henrik van Rhyn); Jettchen Geberts Geschichte (Oswald) (as Dr. Köstling); Henriette Jacoby (Oswald) (as Dr. Köstling); Sundige Mutter (Oswald) (as Herr Kramer); Opfer der Gesellschaft (Grunwald) (as Staatsanwalt); Nocturno der Liebe (Boese) (as Frederic Chopin); Die Japanerin (Dupont) (as the Secretary)


Gewitter im Mai (Beck); Die Reise um die Erde in 80 Tagen (Around the World in Eighty Days) (Oswald) (as Phileas Fogg); Peer Gynt (Barnowsky) (as the Button Maker); Anders als die Andern (Oswald) (as Paul Körner); Die Prostitution (Oswald) (as Alfred Werner); Die Mexicanerin (Bonn) (as the Seducer); Die Prostitution II (Oswald) (as Editor Hofer); Die Okarina (Kraft) (as Jaap); Prinz Kukuck (Prince Cuckoo) (Leni) (as Karl Kraker); "Prologue and Epilogue" (as Death), "Die Ercheinung" (as the Stranger), "Die Hand" (as the Assassin), "Die schwarze Katze" (as the Traveller), "Der Klub der Selbstmörder" (as Club President), and "Der Spuk" (as the Husband), eps. of Unheimliche Geschichten (Oswald); Nachtgestalten (Oswald) (as the Comedian); Episode 1 (as the Hermit from Elu/Lucifer), Episode 2 (as Gubetta/Lucifer), and Episode 3 (as Grodski/Lucifer) of Satanas (Murnau)


Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) (Wiene) (as Cesare); Der Reigen (Ein Werdegeng) (Oswald) (as Peter Karvan); Patience (Leni) (as Sir Percy Parker); Der Januskopf (Janus-Faced) (Murnau) (as Dr. Warren/Mr. O'Connor); Liebestaumel (Hartwig) (as Jalenko); Die Augen der Welt (Wilhelm) (as Juliane von Derp's lover); Kurfürstendamm (Ein Höllenspuk in 6 Akten) (Oswald) (as the Devil); Moriturus (Hagen) (as Wilmos); Abend-Nacht-Morgen (The Memoirs of Manolescu) (Dreier) (as Brilburn); Kunsterlaunen (Otto) (as Arpad); Sehnsucht (Murnau) (as the student); Der Gang in die Nacht (Murnau) (as the blind painter); Christian Wahnschaffe (Gade) (title role); Der Graf von Cagliostro (Schünzel) (as the Minister); Das Geheimnis von Bombay (Holz) (as Tossi); Menshen im Rausch (Geisendörfer) (as the composer)


Die Liebschaften des Hektor Dalmore (Oswald) (title role); Der Leidensweg der Inge Kraft (Dinesen) (as Hendryk Overland); Landstrasse und Grosstadt (Wilhelm) (as Raphael Strate); Lady Hamilton (Oswald) (as Lord Nelson); Das Indische Grabmal (Mysteries of India; Above All Law; The Indian Tomb) (May) (as Ayan, the Maharajah)


Lucrezia Borgia (Oswald) (as Cesare Borgia)


Paganini (Goldberg) (title role); Wilhelm Tell (Dworsky) (as Gessler); Glanz gegen Gluck (Trotz) (as the Count)


Carlos und Elisabeth (Oswald) (as Karl V/Don Carlos); Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (Waxworks) (Leni) (as Ivan the Terrible); Orlacs Hande (The Hands of Orlac) (Wiene) (as Paul Orlac); Nju (Husbands or Lovers) (Czinner) (as the Poet); Schicksal (Basch) (as Count Wranna)


Le Comte Kostia (Robert) (title role); Ingmarsarvet (In Dalarna and Jerusalem) (Molander) (as Helgum); Liebe macht Blind (Love Is Blind) (Mendes) (as Dr. Lamare)


Der Geiger von Florenz (Czinner) (as the father); Die Bruder Schellenberg (The Two Brothers) (Grune) (title roles); Dürfen wir Schweigen? (Oswald) (as Paul Hartwig); Kreuzzug des Weibes (Berger) (as the Prosecutor); Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague) (Berger) (as Balduin); Die Flucht in die Nacht (The Flight in the Night) (Palermi) (as Count Heinrich di Favari)


The Beloved Rogue (Crosland) (as Louis XI); A Man's Past (Melford) (as Paul La Roche)


The Man Who Laughs (Leni) (as Gwynplaine); The Last Performance (Eric the Great) (Fejos) (as Erik the Great)


Das Land Ohne Frauen (Bride 68) (Gallone) (as Dick Ashton)


Die Letste Kompagnie (The Last Company; Thirteen Men and a Girl) (Bernhardt) (as Hauptmann Burk); Die Grosse Sehnsucht (Zselkely) (as himself); Menschen in Kafig (Dupont) (as Gordon Kingsley)


Der Mann, der den Mord beging (The Man Who Committed Murder) (Bernhardt) (as Oberst Sevigne); Die Nacht der Entscheidung (Buckowetski) (as General Gregori Paltoff); Der Kongress tanzt (Congress Dances) (Charell) (as Count Metternich); Die Andere Seite (Paul) (as Captain Denis Stanhope); Rasputin (Trotz) (title role)


Der schwarze Husar (The Black Hussar) (Lamprecht) (as Rittmeister Hansgeorg von Hochberg); F.P.I. (Hartl) (as Elissen)


Ich und die Kaiserin (Hollaender) (as the Marquis); Rome Express (Forde) (as Zurta); The Wandering Jew (Elvey) (as Mathias); I Was a Spy (Saville) (as Commandant Obersertz)


Jew Suss (Power) (Mendes) (as Joseph Oppenheimer); Wilhelm Tell (The Legend of William Tell) (Paul) (as Gessler); Bella Donna (Milton) (as Mahmous Baroudi)


The Passing of the Third Floor Back (Viertel) (as the Stranger)


King of the Damned (Forde) (as Convict 83)


Under the Red Robe (Sjöstrom) (as Gil de Berault); Dark Journey (Saville) (as Baron Karl von Marwitz)


Tempête sur L'Asie (Oswald) (as Erich Keith); Le Joueur d'échecs (The Chess Player; The Devil Is an Empress) (Dréville) (as Baron Kempelen)


The Spy in Black (U-Boat 29) (Powell) (as Captain Hardt)


Contraband (Blackout) (Powell) (as Captain Anderson); The Thief of Bagdad (Berger) (as Jaffar, the Grand Vizier); Escape (LeRoy) (as General Kurt von Kalb)


A Woman's Face (Cukor) (as Torsten Barring); Whistling in the Dark (Sylvan) (as Joseph Jones); The Men in Her Life (Ratoff) (as Stanislas Rosing)


Nazi Agent (Dassin) (as Otto Becker/Baron Hugo von Detner); All through the Night (Sherman) (as Ebbing)


Casablanca (Curtiz) (as Major Strassner); Above Suspicion (Thorpe) (as Hussert Seidel)

Films as Director:


Wahnsinn (+ ro as Lorenzen)


Die Nacht auf Goldenhall (+ roles as Lord Harald/the nephew)


Lord Byron (+ co-pr, sc, title role)


By VEIDT: article—

"Conrad Veidt," an interview with R. Herring in Close-Up (London), October 1930.

Griffithiana (Gemona), no. 38/39, October 1990.

On VEIDT: books—

Kracauer, Siegfried, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, Princeton, New Jersey, 1947.

Allen, J. C., Conrad Veidt: From Caligari to Casablanca, Pacific Grove, California, 1987.

Jacobsen, Wolfgang, editor, Conrad Veidt: Lebensbilder: ausgewahlte Fotos und Texte, Berlin, 1993.

On VEIDT: articles—

Gebauer, D., "Conrad Veidt—Dämon, Teufel, Held, Genie—Ein Magier der Leinwand," in Information (Wiesbaden), May 1975.

Holba, Herbert, "From Caligari to Hollywood: Conrad Veidt," in Focus on Film (London), Summer 1975.

Nau, P., "Notizen zu drei Stummfilmen mit Conrad Veidt," in Filmkritik (Munich), October 1975.

"'CI' Salutes Conrad Veidt," in Classic Images (Muscatine), no. 164, 8 February 1989.

Caldwell, T., "Some Things You Didn't Know About the Original Caligari," in Film Threat (Beverly Hills), no. 20, 1989.

Battle, Pat Wilks, "Conrad Veidt," in Films in Review (New York), March-April 1993.

Battle, Pat Wilks, "Conrad Veidt (Part 2)," in Films in Review (New York), May-June 1993.

Battle, Pat Wilks, "Conrad Veidt (Part 3)," in Films in Review (New York), July-August, 1993.

Wilder, Billy, "Le premier rapatrié de Hollywood," in Positif (Paris), October 1996.

Pattison, Barrie, "Ranking the Treasures," in Cinema Papers (Fitzroy), October 1998.

* * *

Like many of the prominent stars of the great period of pre-Nazi German cinema, Conrad Veidt received his basic training and stage experience from Max Reinhardt, and appeared at the age of 20—just before World War I—at Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater in Berlin. His career in German film began in 1917. Before making his name internationally, in Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari, he had already been seen in 15 films, two of which, Wahnsinn and Die Nacht auf Goldenhall, he had directed.

Veidt's impressive height, handsomely gaunt face, and high cheekbones made him natural casting for sinister or symbolistic roles. He had already played the Button Maker in a film version of Peer Gynt and Death in Unheimliche Geschichten, as well as Phileas Fogg in the silent German film version of Die Reise um die Erde in 80 Tage, before achieving his beautifully mimed and choreographed performance as Cesare, the somnambulist murderer in Wiene's Dr. Caligari, which had originally been intended as a subject for the developing talents of Fritz Lang. Made on the most modest of postwar budgets, this film, with its expressionist-styled sets and theme of insanity, won an international reputation before its proper recognition in Germany itself. It confirmed Veidt as one of the more sinister personalities of German film. He went on to appear (before going to Hollywood in 1927) as Lucifer in Satanas, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Der Januskopf (the characters renamed Warren and O'Connor), Lord Nelson in Lady Hamilton, Cesare Borgia in Lucretia Borgia, and the title roles in Richard III and Lord Byron. Even more prominent from the international point of view, were his performances as Ivan the Terrible in Paul Leni's Die Wachsfigurenkabinett, the lover in Paul Czinner's Nju, in the title role in Wiene's Orlacs Hande, and the lead in Henryk Galeen's Der Student von Prag. He had also extended his range as producer and director as well, with Lord Byron.

His initial career in Hollywood, 1927–29, was relatively undistinguished, and he returned to Germany with the coming of sound. Here he was best cast as Count Metternich in Der Kongress tanzt, and in the title role of Rasputin. With the rise of Hitler he took refuge with his Jewish wife in England and eventually took British citizenship. His natural casting was now that of the sinister German, and he appeared in several of the better British dramas and melodramas in the 1930s—Walter Forde's Rome Express and Victor Saville's I Was a Spy, Lothar Mendes's Jew Suss, Berthold Viertel's The Passing of the Third Floor Back, Forde's King of the Damned, and Saville's Dark Journey. In France he made Le Joueur d'échecs before leaving once again for Hollywood. In the short time before he died prematurely of a heart attack in 1943, he appeared in eight films in his usual German roles, most notably in Michael Curtiz's Casablanca. He dropped dead while playing golf at the age of only 50.

—Roger Manvell