Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt


Also Known As
Hans Walter Konrad Veidt
Birth Place
January 22, 1893
April 03, 1943
Cause of Death
Heart Attack


One of the premiere actors of the German stage and silent screen, Conrad Veidt went on to become a prominent film star in Great Britain prior to his exodus to Hollywood during World War II, where, ironically, he was most often cast as a Nazi. Amidst the turmoil of World War I, Veidt trained with the renowned Max Reinhardt at the Deutches Theater in Berlin, where he grew from bit player t...

Photos & Videos

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - Lobby Cards
Dark Journey - Movie Poster
All Through the Night - Scene Stills

Family & Companions

Gussy Hall
Music-hall artiste. Divorced; later married Emil Jannings.
Felicitas Radke


One of the premiere actors of the German stage and silent screen, Conrad Veidt went on to become a prominent film star in Great Britain prior to his exodus to Hollywood during World War II, where, ironically, he was most often cast as a Nazi. Amidst the turmoil of World War I, Veidt trained with the renowned Max Reinhardt at the Deutches Theater in Berlin, where he grew from bit player to prominent leading man. With his mesmerizing portrayal of the sleepwalking killer in "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920), Veidt achieved true lasting stardom as he continued to work with the greatest directors of the day, including Robert Wiene and F.W. Murnau. John Barrymore lured him out to Hollywood for "The Beloved Rogue" (1927) and director Paul Leni gave him one of his most iconic roles in "The Man Who Laughs" (1928), before the advent of sound prompted the German-speaking actor to return home. Soon, however, the rise of Nazism led Veidt and his Jewish wife to immigrate to England, where he mastered the language and continued his success in such works as "I Was a Spy" (1932) and "Dark Journey" (1937). Having relocated to Hollywood after the Blitz of London, the actor continued to work throughout the war, most memorably as the icy Nazi, Major Strasser in "Casablanca" (1942). Remembered for roles at each end of his professional timeline, Veidt maintained a prolific career in both theater and film on three continents for more than 25 years.

Born Walter Hans Conrad Veidt on Jan. 22, 1893 in Berlin, Germany, he was the son of working class parents Amalie and Phillip, the latter a civil servant. As an adolescent, Conrad attended Hollenzollern secondary school and began harboring dreams of an actor's life while attending performances at the famed Deutches Theater in Berlin. It was there he began studying acting under the legendary German stage director Max Reinhardt until he was drafted into service with the outbreak of World War I soon after his apprenticeship had begun in 1914. After several months of active duty, Veidt was taken ill with jaundice and pneumonia and pulled out of combat duty. Stationed in the city of Libau, near the Baltic Sea, he found acting work entertaining the frontline troops at theaters organized by Lucie Mannheim, an actress with whom he had begun an intensely romantic relationship back in Berlin. Eventually deemed unfit for service, Veidt was discharged from the Army and returned to Berlin and the Deutches Theater in 1916, where he immediately resumed his acting career.

Having achieved star status on stage at the Deutches Theater under Reinhardt, it came as no surprise when Veidt was inevitably courted by directors and producers in the nascent motion picture industry. Early silent films "Der Weg des Todes" (1916), "Furcht" (1917) and "Der Spion" ("The Spy") (1917), as well as a brief marriage to cabaret performer Augusta Hall soon followed. As he had on the stage, Veidt quickly set about establishing himself as a talented, dependable screen actor in a variety of roles. He essayed composer Frederic Chopin in "Nocturno der Leibe" (1919), Jules Verne's Phineas Fogg in "Around the World in 80 Days" (1919) and as one of the first explicitly gay characters ever written for the screen in "Different from the Others" (1919). All of these films, directed by the likes of the great F.W. Murnau, were merely a prelude to his career-making turn as Cesare, the murderous somnambulist in director Robert Wiene's expressionistic silent horror masterpiece, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920). As successful as his professional life was, the extended periods apart had taken its toll on his marriage, leading to his amicable divorce from Hall. As he continued to work at a furious pace, Veidt married for a second time to Felicitas Radke, prior to reteaming with Wiene for the thriller "The Hands of Orlac" (1924) and portraying Ivan the Terrible in "Waxworks" (1924).

Veidt was enjoying great success as one of Germany's most popular screen actors, in addition to experiencing the joys of fatherhood, with the arrival of his only child, Viola, when he received an offer he could not refuse. Invited to Hollywood by John Barrymore, Veidt made his U.S. film debut as King Louis XI in "The Beloved Rogue" (1927), starring Barrymore in the title role. Veidt remained in Hollywood for several pictures, including his eponymous turn in "The Man Who Laughs" (1928), a character with a rictus grin, said to have inspired the design of the comic book villain The Joker, more than a decade later. Unfortunately, with his limited English and thick accent, the advent of sound in motion pictures soon led to Veidt's return to Germany, where his commanding voice only enhanced his stature and popularity. Unfortunately, personal history repeated itself for the actor, when just as his career was once more on the upswing his marriage to his second wife began to crumble. Thankful for any excuse to get away and rethink his situation, Veidt accepted an offer to travel to England, where he made several more films and quickly learned English. The German actor made his English-language debut with "The Congress Dances" (1932), quickly followed by an appearance in "Rome Express" (1932).

Having ended his marriage to Felicitas, Veidt chose to remain in England, where he continued to work in such popular films as "I Was a Spy" (1933) and "Jew Süss" ("Power") (1934). It was also at this time that he met and married his third wife, Ilona "Lily" Präeger, with whom he stayed for the remainder of his life. Within weeks of his marriage to Lily, who was Jewish, Veidt wisely chose to immigrate to the U.K. as the Nazi party rose to prominence in his homeland. Although not Jewish himself, the actor reportedly scrawled the word "Jude" on his race identification card in a show of solidarity for his beloved new wife. Happier than ever before, Veidt remained in England and eventually became a British citizen in 1938. Films of the period include "Dark Journey" (1937), co-starring Vivien Leigh, and "The Devil is an Empress" (1938). He made his final two British productions under the direction of Michael Powell in "The Spy in Black" (1939) and "Contraband" (1940), before the escalation of World War II prompted the studio to send their star to the relatively safer environs of the United States. And so, in 1940, Veidt made his return to Hollywood.

Veidt quickly made his first Hollywood talkie with the Norma Shearer-Robert Taylor wartime drama "Escape" (1940), cast as a menacing Nazi officer. Regrettably, despite his own personal loathing of the fascist party and all it stood for, Veidt found himself cast almost exclusively as a Nazi throughout the remainder of his career in Hollywood. One notable early exception was the Technicolor fantasy classic "The Thief of Baghdad" (1940). Although production had initially begun in London, it was moved - along with Veidt - to Hollywood for completion after the Blitz. Veidt's inspired performance as the evil Jaffar proved so influential that it clearly served as an inspiration for the Disney animated adaptation of the tale some 50 years later. Working on such films as "A Woman's Face" (1941) and the Humphrey Bogart comedic-caper "All Through the Night" (1941), Veidt did his part by sending large portions of his salary back to his adopted country to aid in the British war efforts. He made two more films the following year. The first, "Nazi Agent" (1942), provided Veidt with the rare opportunity to play identical twins - one a calculating Nazi spy, the other, a German expatriate - while the second film would arguably feature the role he would be most widely remembered for by American audiences.

That second feature was "Casablanca" (1942), one of the quintessential films in all of American cinema; it boasted a stellar cast that included Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains, Ingrid Bergman, and Bogart as the owner of a nightclub in Vichy-controlled Morocco. Supremely sinister as the calculating Major Strasser, it was ironic that the avowed anti-Nazi would be primarily remembered for a portraying a character whose very raison d'être stood for everything the actor loathed in his former homeland. To his credit, Strasser went on to be regarded as one of film's all-time classic villains. Veidt took part in one more film after "Casablanca," the middling espionage thriller "Above Suspicion" (1943), which paired him for the final time with Joan Crawford, as well as Fred MacMurry and Basil Rathbone. Safely away from the wartime dangers of Europe, happy, at last in his third marriage and enjoying a respectable career in American film, Veidt's life was quite possibly as good as it had ever been - making it all the more tragic when the 50-year-old actor died of a sudden heart attack while playing golf in Los Angeles on April 3, 1943.

By Bryce Coleman

Life Events


Stage acting debut with Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theatre Berlin)


Called up for the army during WWI; sent to front in 1915 but jaundice sent him to rear; joined Lucie Mannheim's front-line theater


German film acting debut with "Der Spion/The Spy"


Founded own film company and directed first film, "Wahnsinn"


US film debut, "The Beloved Rogue"


Returned to Germany


Moved to England during Nazi rise to power (third wife was half-Jewish)


First English-speaking film (not dubbed) "Rome Express"


Became British citizen


Moved to Hollywood


First Hollywood sound film, "Escape"

Photo Collections

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from the 1921 American release by Goldwyn of the German film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), starring Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Dark Journey - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Dark Journey (1937), starring Vivien Leigh and Conrad Veidt. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
All Through the Night - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from Warner Bros' All Through the Night (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, and Jane Darwell.


Movie Clip

Casablanca (1942) -- (Movie Clip) You Are A Subject Of The German Reich Czech resistance hero Lazlo (Paul Henreid) and consort Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) arrive at Rick's Cafe, surprising Sam (Dooley Wilson), meeting Norwegian Berger (John Qualen), French Renault (Claude Rains) and German Strasser (Conrad Veidt), early in Casablanca, 1942.
Woman's Face, A (1941) -- (Movie Clip) This Lady Is Interested In Love Already in flashback, vast plot complexity, Melvyn Douglas as Swedish plastic surgeon Gustav is confronted with Joan Crawford as Anna, who sprained her ankle trying to escape when he interrupted her trying to blackmail his wife (Osa Massen) with love letters, intrigued by her case, in George Cukor’s A Woman’s Face, 1941.
Woman's Face, A -- (Movie Clip) A Most Generous Gesture Deep in the Swedish woods, waiter (Donald Meek) serving Vera (Osa Massen) and the party of playboy Barring (Conrad Veidt) who then meets "proprietor" Anna (Joan Crawford), early in George Cukor's A Woman's Face, 1941.
Thief Of Bagdad, The (1940) -- (Movie Clip) This Is No Dog Plenty of spectacle in the opening scene, introducing the evil magician Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) arriving in Basra, and the not-much-explained "Blind Man" (John Justin), in Alexander Korda's The Thief Of Bagdad, 1940.
Thief Of Bagdad, The (1940) -- (Movie Clip) You Talk In Riddles In Basra, blind Ahmad, King of Bagdad (John Justin), closely observed by sneaky Halima (Mary Morris) and her master Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), reveals his back-story and his dog's too, introducing Sabu as "Abu," early in Alexander Korda's The Thief Of Bagdad, 1940.
Spy In Black, The (a.k.a. U-Boat 29) -- (1939) -- (Movie Clip) Do You Know Him By Sight? German fleet headquarters at Kiel, 1917, Conrad Veidt as Captain Hardt, arriving from 16 days on the sub with aide Schuster (Marius Goring), taking disappointments relayed by the concierge (Bernard Miles) in stride, from the first scene in Michael Powell’s The Spy In Black (a.k.a U-Boat 29), 1939.
Spy In Black, The (a.k.a. U-Boat 29) -- (Movie Clip) A German Spy Would Give His Head Valerie Hobson is a German spy in the Ornkney Islands of Scotland, 1917, posing as the new schoolteacher, as German submarine captain Hardt (Conrad Veidt) approaches by motorbike, together tricking the local constable (Grant Sutherland), in Michael Powell’s The Spy In Black (a.k.a U-Boat 29), 1939.
Spy In Black, The (a.k.a. U-Boat 29) -- (1939) -- (Movie Clip) A Traitor And A Drunkard Scotland, 1917, German submarine captain Hardt (Conrad Veidt) is the guest of Valerie Hobson, a German spy posing as the new schoolmistress, about to introduce him to the traitor Ashington (Sebastian Shaw) and plans to sink the British fleet, in Michael Powell’s The Spy In Black (a.k.a U-Boat 29), 1939.
All Through The Night (1942) -- (Movie Clip) Napoleon Too! Now chasing a maybe-kidnapped singer (Kaaren Verne), Gloves (Humphrey Bogart) and Barney (Frank McHugh) enter a Manhattan auction house where Pepe (Peter Lorre) lurks and nazi-ish "Madame" (Judith Anderson) and Ebbing (Conrad Veidt) are in charge, in All Through The Night, 1942.
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The -- (Movie Clip) Cesare Knows All Secrets The doctor (Werner Krauss) at a carnival, promoting the first appearance of Cesare (Conrad Veidt), who has a nasty prognostication for Alan (Hans von Twardowski) and buddy Francis (Friedrich Feher), in The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, 1919.
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The -- (Movie Clip) Two Time Murderer Caught The doctor (Werner Kraus) is quite happy to let cops examine his snoozing somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt), even as news of the capture of the wrong suspect breaks, in The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, 1919, sets by Herman Warm, Walter Reimann and Walter Rohrig.
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The -- (Movie Clip) Jane Conrad Veidt (as somnambulist "Cesare") in his leotard, sneaking up on sleeping Jane (Lil Dagover) and escaping through some of the film's most spectacular Decla studio sets, in The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, 1919.



Vera-Viola Maria Veidt
Born August, 1925; mother Felicitas Radke.


Gussy Hall
Music-hall artiste. Divorced; later married Emil Jannings.
Felicitas Radke