Birthday: January 22, 1893
Nationality: British, German
Died At Age: 50
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Hans Walter Conrad Veidt
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Berlin, Germany
Famous as: Actor
Spouse/Ex-: Felicitas Radke (m. 1923 – div. 1932), Gussy Holl (m. 1918 – div. 1922), Ilona Prager (m. 1933 – div. 1943)
father: Phillip Heinrich Veidt
mother: Amalie Marie Veidt
children: Vera Viola Maria Veidt
Died on: April 3, 1943
place of death: Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States
City: Berlin, Germany
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Who was Conrad Veidt?
Conrad Veidt was a German actor, known for his powerful performances both in silent films and talkies. Beginning his acting career on stage, he debuted in films at the age of 24 and quickly gained international attention for his performances in silent films like ‘Different from the Others’, ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’, and ‘The Man Who Laughs’. Later, he began acting in talkies and became equally successful in them. But, when the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, he abandoned his flourishing career to move to England, unwilling to leave his recently married Jewish wife to her destiny. For the next nine years, he acted in number of British productions including ‘Jew Süss' and ‘The Thief of Baghdad’. He received British citizenship at the age of 45. At the age of 48, he moved to the USA, where he lived for two years only and died of a massive heart attack at the age of fifty.
Childhood & Early Life
Hans Walter Conrad Veidt was born on January 22, 1893, in Berlin, to Phillip Heinrich Veidt and Amalie Marie.
He spent his youth in Berlin, where he attended the Sophiengymnasium. While there, he became interested in dramas, queuing up in front of theatres every day after school. Consequently, he did poorly in academics.
In 1912, Conrad Veidt completed his education without diploma, ranking last in his class of 13. Thereafter, he started studying drama with Albert Blumenreich and was eventually hired as an extra by Max Reinhardt at Deutsches Theater, bagging a small part in ‘Der Arzt am Scheideweg’ in the following year.
In December 1914, he was drafted into the army and sent to fight in the Battle of Warsaw. But very soon, he was hospitalized with jaundice. When he improved a little, he began to act in theatres with the permission of the army.
In 1916, he was certified unfit to serve and discharged from army. Thereafter, he returned to Berlin and began to perform on stage, very soon earning fame for his unique presence.
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In 1917,Conrad Veidt debuted in films with the German silent drama movie, ‘The Path of Death’ (Der Weg des Todes), appearing in it in the star role of Rolf. Later in the same year, he had ‘When the Dead Speak’, ‘Fear’, ‘The Sea Battle’ and ‘The Spy’ released.
Continuing to star, he appeared in ten films in 1918 and eleven in 1919. Most significant among them is ‘Different from the Others’ (Anders als die Andern), possibly the first film to treat homosexuality with sympathy.
In 1920, he gained international fame with ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari), appearing in it in the role of the murderous somnambulist Cesare. His creepy performances in the film landed him with a string of negative roles and he receiving praise for each of them.
Sometime in 1926, he moved to California on the invitation of John Barrymore to star in silent drama films like ‘The Beloved Rogue’ (1927). Eventually he also starred in three others silent films; ‘A Man’s Past’ (1927), ‘The Man Who Laughs’ (1928), and ‘The Last Performance’ (1929).
Although he was quite successful in Hollywood, the talkie films were more in demand and his inability to speak in English became a hindrance. In 1929, he returned to Germany to star in the first German-speaking talkie film, ‘Land Without Women’.
In 1933, as the Nazi Party came to power, he moved to England, where he perfected his English, eventually starring in ‘I Was a Spy’ and ‘The Wandering Jew’. His last German films were ‘The Empress and I’ and ‘F.P.1 Doesn't Answer’, both were released in the same year.
Veidt remained in England till 1940, starring in films like ‘Jew Süss' (1934), 'The King of the Damned' (1935), ‘The Dark Journey’ (1937), ‘Storm over Asia’ (1938) etc. They were followed by three of his best-known films; ‘The Spy in Black’ (1939), ‘Contraband’ (1940) and ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ (1940).
In 1941, he moved to the USA and before he did that he donated his life’s savings for the British war effort. His intention was to make such films that would persuade the USA to join the war against the Nazis.
Realizing that he might be typecast as a Nazi, he made sure that his characters should always be villains, beginning his second innings in the Hollywood with ‘A Woman's Face’ (1941). Thereafter, he did only six films, most significant among them being ‘Nazi Agent’ and ‘Casablanca’.
Among his silent era films, the most notable was ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’. Considered a turning point of his life, the film not only established him as a legendry actor throughout Europe, but also created a whole new cinematic language, which continued to be emulated for a long period.
Family & Personal Life
On 18 June, 1918, Conrad Veidt married actress Gussy Holl. The union was dissolved in 1922.
On 18 April, 1923, he married Felicitas Radke, with whom he had a daughter named Vera Viola Maria Veidt, born in 1925. The couple divorced in 1932.
On 30 March, 1933, he married Ilona (Lily) Prager with whom he remained married until his death in 1943.
On 3 April 1943, Veidt suffered a massive heart attack while playing golf in Los Angeles and died instantly. His remains were cremated and his ashes are now kept in the Golders Green Crematorium in north London.