120 years of Conrad Veidt

Dear friends and Conrad Veidt fans around the world,

I invite you to leave at this section your comments on Connie’s 120th birth anniversary.

In case you want to bring him a lengthy tribute, just write me at conradveidtforever@yahoo.com, and I will put here all your tributes on your behalf and, of course, I will credit you for them.


A superb drawing made by Conrad fan Ninona (Vanessa Trueba)
A nice article shared with us by Conrad fan Kelly Brown
Conrad Veidt: Caligari’s Cesare and Uncrowned King of Horror
Lesser known actor of the Horror silents and beyond, the great Conrad Veidt sadly remains anything but a household name.

ByKelly Brown
on Jul 18, 2010

Watching a silent film, especially a silent horror film, is like being transported into another realm. It’s the genre in it’s purest form. No dialogue, along with no fancy modern technology, makes the movie watching experience a more organic and intelligent one. For some, it’s an acquired taste. For others, those with vivid imaginations and an appreciation for the process of art, they can be something of an addiction. Without a doubt, Lon Chaney remains the most recognizable character and crowned king of silent horror; of all horror.

However, while our beloved Lon was up to his ol’ “bag of tricks” here in the States, Germany was steadily producing some of the earliest and greatest horror films ever made; along with it’s own master of the macabre. In recent years, and with delight, more and more fans of horror are discovering the incomporable Conrad Veidt. Like Chaney, Veidt wasn’t strictly a horror actor and left behind a large and varied body of work. Also, like Chaney, horror fans have claimed him as one of their own.

Unfortunately, and sometimes arguably between fans, Chaney died before ever making a “talkie.” Whereas the talents of Veidt stretched from the classic silents and well beyond film’s early years. He was once quoted as saying, “In the middle of my third Hollywood picture, ‘The Magician,’ the earthquake hit Hollywood. Not the real earthquake. Just the Talkies.”

From Birth to Bela Lugosi

Hans Walter Conrad Veidt was born in Berlin, Germany on January 22, 1893. It has often been rumoured that he changed the spelling of his last name. That the V had originally been spelled with the letter W. The reason for the change was simply so that his English-speaking fans would pronounce his name correctly. A kindhearted soul, he was a lover of animals, film and the outdoors; he especially loved golfing. In 1916, Veidt made his acting debut in ‘The Road of Death’ (Der Weg des Todes), and approximately one year later appeared in ‘The Spy’ (Der Spion). However, it was his role as the great Robert Wiene’s somnambulist, “Cesare”, in the expressionist, horror masterpiece ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,’ that would make him a virtual overnight sensation. His creepy performance would gain the actor international attention and acclaim. For decades, images of Conrad Veidt’s 6’3″, pencil thin, black clad figure, stalking and carrying away the film’s leading lady, Lil Dagover, has been used in various forms of art, as well as book and musical recording covers, posters, and a variety of other products.

Perhaps the most recognizable and memorable,for most, being a single version of legendary goth band Bauhaus’ most famous track, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” Interestingly, in 1920 Veidt starred as Dr. Warren/Mr. O’Connor in the lost FW Murnau film, ‘The Head of Janus’ (Der Januskopf). The story was adapted from the famous Robert Louis Stevenson novel, ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’ In the film, Bela Lugosi actually played the butler of Dr. Warren.

The same year that Bela was fetching Conrad’s slippers (or, “Connie” as his closest friends would often refer to him), the now, world-famous German went on to form his own production company–something rather unheard of in those days. This not only allowed him to star in his films, but also the occasional opportunity to direct as well.

Paul Orlac

In 1924, Veidt once again teamed-up with Robert Wiene and starred as concert pianist, Paul Orlac in ‘The Hands of Orlac.’ After losing his hands in a train accident, they are replaced with those of a cadaver, who in life just happened to be a murderer. Orlac’s frankenstein-esque hands take on a life of their own, as well as inspired a slew of other films with the same concept. Not only has this film become a horror classic, but it also spawned two other remakes, which also included two other kings of horror. In 1935, Peter Lorre stepped into the role and the title was changed to ‘Mad Love.’ In 1960, the original film title was kept and with Christopher Lee cast as the evil, Nero the Magician. Alongside Lee, Mel Ferrer stepped into the role of the melancholy pianist with the out-of-control hands.

Gwynplaine and Universal Studios

In 1926, and at the insistence of John Barrymore, Veidt left Germany and went to Hollywood where he would co-star with Barrymore in ‘The Beloved Rogue.’ Conrad would remain in Hollywood for two more years under contract to Universal studios. In 1928, he returned to Germany, but not before being directed by the famous, Universal Studios German expressionist director ( and one of Laemmle’s favorites), Paul Leni. ‘The Man Who Laughs’, is sometimes referred to as a romantic melodrama. However, with Gwynplaine’s permanent smile as well as a number of other creepy visuals, one can see why it’s also considered a horror classic. This big-budget film also starred two of horror’s favorite leading ladies. Mary Philbin, who co-starred alongside Lon Chaney in ‘The Phantom of The Opera,’ and Russian bombshell Olga Baclanova, who later went on to star as Tod Browning’s “Chickenlady” in 1932’s ‘Freaks.’

Fleeing From the Nazis

Even though not of Jewish descent, Conrad Veidt, like any other decent human being, was a staunch anti-Nazi. So much so that he donated a large portion of his salary to the British War Effort. It has been rumoured that a decision by the Gestapo to have him assassinated, due to his public ridicule of the Nazis, is what led him to flee from Germany with his third, and Jewish, wife Lily Prager. Beginning a new life and becoming a British citizen in 1938, Veidt continued with his acting career. Given his German accent, many of his roles were, strangely enough, that of Nazis. However, due to the war in London, Veidt’s current film ‘The Thief of Baghdad’ finished it’s filming back in Hollywood. This film cast him in the role of the Grand Vizier. Veidt remained in Hollywood where in 1942 he was cast alongside the great Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as the Nazi, Major Strausser, in the classic ‘Casablanca.’

April 3, 1943

On this day, while playing golf at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, the world lost Hans Walter Conrad Veidt to a massive heart attack at the eighth hole. His remains were sent back to England where his ashes were scattered at the Golders Green Crematorium. He was survived by his third wife Ilona “Lily” Prager. As well as his daughter Vera Viola Maria, from his second marriage to wife Felicitas Radke.

Recommended Reading: ‘Conrad Veidt On Screen’ by John T. Soister. Published by McFarland and Company 2002. Details each of the actor’s films and contains an extensive bibliography as well.

Copyright Kelly Brown

Read more at Suite101: Conrad Veidt: Caligari’s Cesare and Uncrowned King of Horror | Suite101 http://suite101.com/article/conrad-veidt-a-short-biography-part1-a250840#ixzz2IhBm7zI3
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Conrad Veidt is an actor unmatched, his commitment to his performance has never been matched, and will never be matched. – Rosalind Hulse

Two photos by Francy van Lierop

IMG002 conradveidt2

14 thoughts on “120 years of Conrad Veidt

  1. I have been a fan of Conrad Veidt’s for over 30 years. His screen presence was so magnetic. Thank you for providing this wonderful website tribute to him!

    I love especially his two films with Valerie Hobson: The Spy in Black and Blackout. But my ultimate favorite of his is The Thief of Bagdad.

    Thank you Connie for many wonderful hours of screen viewing!

  2. “The Man Who Laughs” always give me joy to watch, as does “Caligari” and “The Hands of Orlac”. Happy 120th Connie – you still look fab!

    1. thee hee hee so do I, I just have seen those three movies, and I think Orlac, Cesare and Gwynplaine are adorable!! I loved all Connie Characters… I dont know why but they’re so cute… so expressive, tender… and…. I dont know XD … just love this characters

  3. Que magnífico actor y que hombre guapísimo era Conrad Veidt. Es uno de mis actores favoritos y considero que nadie como él ha encarado tantos distintos personajes en el cine mudo como en el parlante con tanta solvencia y creatividad. Mis películas favoritas son “Las manos de Orlac”, “Dark Journey”, Spy in black” y “El ladrón de Bagdad”, ¡esos ojos grises!.

    1. Vi un trailer del ladrón de Bagdad.. y no lo vi aunque he visto varias fotos, no se si me he equivocado de versión o sale poco.. No tiene mucho que comencé a buscar sobre él, y aun no encuentro donde ver subtituladas al español sus películas, pero apenas con las tres que vi ¡me he enamorado! (y eso que es muy difícil que alguien real logre enamorarme con tanta fuerza) ya es uno de mis actores favoritos, me encantó la forma en que desarrollo sus personajes, tan sentimentales y expresivos… Lo amé!

  4. 120 anni fa nasceva Conrad Veidt. Un attore perfetto, un essere umano magnifico che troppo presto volò in cielo. Ma grazie alla sua grande eredita di interviste, foto e film magnifici (con personaggi interpretati in modo eccelso, copiati dopo la sua morte senza ritegno in film animati o meno senza neanche menzionarlo) possiamo quasi sentire vicino questo straordinario attore.

    Conrad Veidt was born 120 years ago. A perfect actor, a wonderful human being who flew too early to heaven. But thanks to its great heritage of interviews, photos and wonderful film (with characters played so sublime, copied after his death without restraint in animated films or less without even mentioning it), we can almost feel close this extraordinary actor.

    Conrad Veidt nació hace 120 años. Un actor perfecto, un ser humano maravilloso que voló demasiado pronto al cielo. Pero gracias a su gran herencia de entrevistas, fotos y películas maravilloso (con caracteres jugado tan sublime, copiado después de su muerte, sin limitaciones en las películas de animación o menos sin siquiera mencionarlo), casi podemos sentir cerca a este actor extraordinario.

  5. This is my favorite site for Conrad Veidt. Here Mr. Veidt is treated respectfully as a human being not a fantasy. Monica has truly fought for Connie and I think he would be very pleased to know he is still remembered with love and respect after all these years.

  6. Happy Birthday, Connie! I love everything you have done. My special favourites are your silents, The Man who Laughs, Nächte am Bosphorus, The Passing of the Third Floor Back and Contraband/Blackout, but you were incomparable in every role you took. I just wtached the Rome Express and what a wonderful villain you make. You live on in our minds and hearts and in your work. Cheers!

  7. Dear Connie,

    A very happy 120th earthly birthday and soon to be celebrating your 70th anniversary of your spiritual birthday. You were only a short time in this world but while you were here – wow!

    You have been there for every major development the Motion Picture Industry ever knew. You were there (in your childhood) for a world where motion pictures had yet to exist. You were there when the industry was literally “moving pictures” all sight and no sound. You were there when the breakthrough of adding sound was made. With each one of these changes, many actors and actresses saw their careers evaporate before their eyes. For you, it was just one more step up!

    Really, what a fabulous speaker you would have made to any group studying cinematic history! Of all the losses April 3, 1943 brought to us, that one, in my opinion, was the greatest. History can be read in a book but to hear the same set of facts as expressed first hand by someone who actually lived through it – there is no comparison.

    As we used to say on the Peter Lorre forum, when I make it to that great Palm Springs Resort in the sky, that is something I look keenly forward to is to sit down with you, Lillie and a quiet little initmate gathering of a couple of million friends to listen to your war stories.

    Happy Birthday, Connie! Thank you ever so much for everything!

  8. I appreciate very much this site in which I find deep love and respect for my favourite actor of all times ..Conrad Veidt , a beautiful, sensitive,passionate actor and a great soul. Since I saw him in Dark Journey with my dearest Vivien Leigh, I feel He would be the man I could love forever. And all his performances on screen are great!Thank you very much Monique for your job!

  9. I’m a brand new fan of Conrad Veidt… I just watched “The Man Who Laughs”! He is amazing in conveying the feelings of poor Gwynplaine. I will be looking up the rest of his movies!

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