downloadOver the years there have been many stars in Hollywood’s parade of stars. Some were fleeting and have long been forgotten. Others shone so bright that it is doubtful that their light will ever be extinguished. In the town of Potsdam, near Berlin, there was a babe born who was destined to fall between these two cosmic stars of the silver screen. Even his name is that which will cause some to shake their heads in a struggle to remember and ultimately fail. Still, there are those who will lick their lips and roll their eyes around for a second before the name clicks.

His name was Conrad Veidt and he was born January 22, 1893. It was an important year. The world’s fair opened in Chicago that year and Germany put her best foot forward to show the world that she was friendly to all people. Too bad that feeling of good will toward men didn’t last longer. But for the Veidt house this year was a joyous one.

Young Conrad grew up fast and at the age of twenty entered that long exalted line of men and women who brought dramatizations to the world. He stepped upon the stage in 1913 but he didn’t remain there long. In 1917 he took his career forward with the times and entered the German cinema. The expressionist movement was growing stronger and stronger and Veidt became a master.

German cinema at the time was morbid and strange and Veidt’s portrayals of morbid characters were always memorable. In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari he played a demented somnambulist controlled by an evil doctor. To this day it’s considered a masterpiece of German cinema. The combination of hard angle camera work and Veidt’s own performance make it a unique experience.

His star was rising with each film he did but when he played the title role in The Student of Prague he’d reached the top. He now was world famous. Hollywood wanted a piece of the action and they came calling in 1927. He did a series of films for the US before returning to Germany when sound hit the airways.

When the Nazi’s took hold of Germany Veidt left his home for the safety of England. There was no place for him in a world that despised Jews and he found himself and his family under attack. He’d done the unspeakable and married a Jewish woman.

Still in 1930 he returned to his homeland on a visit and soon found himself in trouble. They wouldn’t let him leave. Under the pretext that he was too ill to travel they hindered his leaving. With the aid of the British studio Gaumont, he was able to escape when they sent doctors to prove his blooming health. It’s no surprise that he became British citizen in 1939.

In 1940 Veidt once again went to America to make films for the country who partially liked to take credit for his notoriety. Ironically this roles now were those of a Nazi and for those who don’t remember him before he turned into a German devil once more, he will always remain one. For it was his second to last film that would keep him in the stars column. He played Major Strassaer in Casablanca. He Was the newest man we Loved to Hate! – Sorry Erich Von Stroheim. Someone had to take the reigns into the talkies.

Sadly Conrad Veidt died of a heart attack that same year and the world was deprived of learning what was next in store for it. What would he have done? Who would he have given us?

A List of His Most Memorable Rolls:

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
  • The Hands of Orlac (1925)
  • The Student of Prague (1926)
  • The Beloved Rogue (1927)
  • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  • Dark Journey (1937)
  • The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
  • Casablanca (1943)