Conrad Veidt short biography
Conrad Veidt , born on January 22nd 1893 in Berlin starred in more than 100 films. He started his acting career in Germany in 1917, and appeared in a number of famous movies such as "Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari" (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), "Anders als die Anderen" (Different from the Others), "Das Wachsfigurenkabinett" (Waxworks), "Orlacs Hände" (The Hands of Orlac), and many more. In 1926 the "Demon of the Silverscreen", second highest paid star in German film after Emil Jannings, was invited to Hollywood, where he starred with John Barrymore in "The Beloved Rogue" , as Gwynplaine in "The Man who Laughs" and in "The Last Performance". The victory of the talking pictures brought him back to his home country in 1929. There his roles changed. In the following four years he starred as "Aryan type" officers like in "Der schwarze Husar", "Die andere Seite" and "Die letzte Kompagnie", but fortunately also in funny musicals as "Der Kongreß tanzt" and "Ich und die Kaiserin".
That the times had changed was soon a fact, not only noticiable in the new type of films preferred. After the takeover by the Nazis, pressure on Jewish film people became untolerable. Conrad Veidt, who saw many friends and colleages threatended, wanted to set a precedence and agreed to play the leading part in the English production of "Jew Suess", after the pro-Semitic novel by Lion Feuchtwanger . Goebbels, who wanted to keep the popular star in Germany, tried to prevent him from showing a positive picture of the Jews with friendly means ("Aryan-certificate" for the half-Jewish 3. wife Lily Preger) and unfriendly means (house arrest). But Conrad Veidt, who cherished tolerance and liberalism above anything, shot "Jew Suess" and was afterwards declared a persona non grata in Germany. 1934 he emigrated to Great Britain.
Here he shot a series of spy films, as he could not hide his German accent. Amongst others: "The Spy in Black", "Contraband"and "Dark Journey". But adventurer films as well like "King of the Damned", "Under the Red Robe" and "Tempete sur l'Asie" (Storm over Asia). The best-known of these is "The Thief of Baghdad", which was not only one of the first colour movies but went into film history for its revolutionary trick techniques for which it was awarded with the Oscar.
In 1940 Conrad Veidt accepted another invitation to Hollywood. Besides "A Woman's Face" with Joan Crawford, and "The Men in her Life" he was casted in spy movies again. One particular film was "All through the Night" with Humphrey Bogart. With him he shot the film that has become the cult-film of all times: "Casablanca". Conrad Veidt played Major Strasser. The German audience had to do without the scenes with Conrad Veidt until the 70ies, as distributors thought they could not confront the Germans with Nazi scenes.
"Above Suspicion" belongs to the spy movies as well but fortunately this time Conrad Veidt's role, Count Hassert Seidel, was a "good guy" as member of resistance. Fortunately, as it turned out that "Above Suspicion" should be Conrad Veidt's last film. Shortly after shooting was finished he died unexpectedly from a heart attack on 3.4.1943, only 50 years old.
Conrad Veidt was married three times, with his second wife he had a daughter (*1925). He often played demonic characters, murderers or "evil" spies, he was tall (ca. 1.90m), gaunt, had striking features (famous was a vein on his temple, that reflected the degree of his excitement) and he had beautiful, expressive hands. Most striking were his eyes that enabled him to show his inner motions.
Conrad Veidt about his art:
When I get a new role, I first take the manuscript and - I don't find a more drastic expression for it - infect my whole self with it. Days or even weeks before filming I withdraw into myself concentrating on that infectional process. And very soon I feel with almost frighting intensity how the person I have to portray grows inside of me, how I am transformed into it.
But in private Conrad Veidt, friends and colleagues agreed on the fact, was one of the most modest and friendly persons.