Conrad Veidt is Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under the Stars” performer of the day. An international star since the silent era, Veidt worked in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Hollywood – twice. (See TCM’s Conrad Veidt movie schedule below.)
In the late 1920s, Veidt was the star of unusual Hollywood fare such as Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928), in the title role as a man with a grin-like scar where his mouth should be, and Paul Fejos’ The Last Performance (1929), as a magician in love with pretty Mary Philbin – a Universal star who also happened to be Veidt’s leading lady in The Man Who Laughs.
With the arrival of talking pictures, Veidt returned to Germany, but with the ascent of the Nazis he fled first to England and later to the United States. In the Hollywood of the early ’40s, Veidt became everybody’s favorite Nazi in movies such as Nazi Agent, Escape, and Casablanca.
TCM is now showing for the first time Robert Wiene’s The Hands of Orlac (1925), in which Veidt plays a pianist using the amputated hands of a murderer. No good can come out of that, as Peter Lorre and Colin Clive would later learn in Mad Love (1935) as well.
Wiene and Veidt had previously worked together in the epoch-making The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), the expressionistic classic that has influenced hundreds of movies, novels, plays, television shows, and drug-induced dreams in the last nine decades. Werner Krauss stars as a carnival performer, Dr. Caligari, who uses his hypnotized sleepwalker, Cesare (Conrad Veidt), to commit murder. Lil Dagover is the beautiful woman abducted by the somnambulist. But are they all what they seem to be?
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a must-see, both as a bizarre work of art and as an exemplar of an early 20th-century cultural phenomenon. Screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer; cinematography by Willy Hameister; and production design by Walter Reimann, Walter Röhrig, and Hermann Warm.
Directed by Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, and Tim Whelan, the Alexander Korda-produced The Thief of Bagdad (1940) is considered by many to be the best film version of any Arabian Nights tale. John Justin and June Duprez are the romantic leads, though the film’s reputation rests on the presence of Veidt, Sabu, and Rex Ingram (the actor, not the silent era filmmaker), and on Georges Périnal’s color cinematography, Vincent Korda’s production design, and Lawrence W. Butler’s visual effects. Périnal, Korda, and Butler (along with sound effects creator Jack Whitney) won Academy Awards in their respective categories.
There isn’t much that can be said about Michael Curtiz’s Oscar-winning Casablanca (1942) that hasn’t been said already. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid, the film has die-hard fans, die-hard detractors, and those in-between. I belong to the last group: There’s much about the movie that works (e.g., Claude Rains’ performance, Arthur Edeson’s cinematography, Max Steiner’s music), but I can’t understand why of all romantic movies churned out by Hollywood studios in those days, Casablanca is considered the supreme example of the genre. Perhaps, if it had starred Ronald Colman and Madeleine Carroll, or Colman and Greer Garson, or Melvyn Douglas and Joan Crawford, or Herbert Marshall and Ann Sheridan, or Sheridan and Errol Flynn…
In Jules Dassin’s Nazi Agent (1942), Veidt has a double role: good pro-democracy twin, bad Nazi twin. Sounds like a must-see; I’m sure I’ll be rooting for the Nazi. Villains are always much more interesting in those kinds of flicks. And finally, Victor Saville’s World War I spy drama Dark Journey (1937) is of interest chiefly as an early Vivien Leigh vehicle. Leigh’s acting abilities aren’t put to good use in this one, but she does look pretty.
Conrad Veidt movies on TCM
Schedule (EDT) and synopses from the TCM website:
6:00 AM ABOVE SUSPICION (1943) A honeymooning couple are asked to spy on the Nazis in pre-war Europe. Director: Richard Thorpe. Cast: Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Conrad Veidt. Black and white. 91 min.
7:45 AM CONTRABAND (1940) While held up in a British port, a Danish sea captain tussles with German spies. Director: Michael Powell. Cast: Conrad Veidt, Valerie Hobson, Hay Petrie. Black and white. 87 min.
9:30 AM ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT (1942) A criminal gang turns patriotic to track down a Nazi spy ring. Director: Vincent Sherman. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Conrad Veidt, Kaaren Verne. Black and white. 107 min.
11:30 AM JEW SUSS (1934) A Jewish businessman using his wealth to benefit his people discovers he’s not Jewish. Director: Lothar Mendes. Cast: Conrad Veidt, Frank Vosper, Cedric Hardwicke. Black and white. 104 min.
1:15 PM THE SPY IN BLACK (1939) A German sub tries to sink the British fleet during World War I. Director: Michael Powell. Cast: Conrad Veidt, Sebastian Shaw, Valerie Hobson. Black and white. 77 min.
2:45 PM WHISTLING IN THE DARK (1941) A radio detective is kidnapped and forced to plan the perfect murder. Director: S. Sylvan Simon. Cast: Red Skelton, Conrad Veidt, Ann Rutherford. Black and white. 78 min.
4:15 PM ESCAPE (1940) A Nazi officer’s mistress helps an American free his mother from a concentration camp. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Cast: Norma Shearer, Robert Taylor, Conrad Veidt, Alla Nazimova. Black and white. 98 min.
6:00 PM A WOMAN’S FACE (1941) Plastic surgery gives a scarred female criminal a new outlook on life. Director: George Cukor. Cast: Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas, Conrad Veidt. Black and white. 107 min.
8:00 PM THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1925) An experimental graft gives an injured concert pianist the hands of a murderer. Director: Robert Wiene. Cast: Conrad Veidt, Alexandra Sorina, Fritz Kortner. Black and white. 110 min.
9:45 PM THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) A young thief faces amazing monsters to return Bagdad’s deposed king to the throne. Director: Ludwig Berger. Cast: Conrad Veidt, Sabu, June Duprez, John Justin. Color. 106 min.
12:00 AM CASABLANCA (1942) An American saloon owner in North Africa is drawn into World War II when his lost love turns up. Director: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre. Black and white. 103 min.
1:45 AM NAZI AGENT (1942) An Allied sympathizer discovers his twin brother is a Nazi spy. Director: Jules Dassin. Cast: Conrad Veidt, Ann Ayars, Frank Reicher. Black and white. 84 min.
3:15 AM THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920) A carnival performer uses a hypnotized sleepwalker to murder his enemies. Director: Robert Wiene. Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover, Friedrich Feher. Black and white. 72 min.
4:30 AM DARK JOURNEY (1937) Rival spies fall in love during World War I. Director: Victor Saville. Cast: Conrad Veidt, Vivien Leigh, Joan Gardner. Black and white. 79 min.
Conrad Veidt movie schedule via Turner Classic Movies