• 22 January 1893
  •  Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany

Conrad Veidt


Conrad Veidt attended the Sophiengymnasium (secondary school) in the Schoeneberg district of Berlin, and graduated without a diploma in 1912, last in his class of 13. Conrad liked animals, theater, cinema, fast cars, pastries, thunderstorms, gardening, swimming and golfing. He disliked heights, flying, the number 17, wearing ties, pudding and interviews. A star of early German cinema, he became a sensation in 1920 with his role as the murderous somnambulist Cesare in Robert Wiene's masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). Other prominent roles in German silent films included Différent des autres (1919) and Waxworks (1924). His third wife, Ilona (nicknamed Lily), was Jewish, although he himself wasn't. However, whenever he had to state his ethnic background on forms to get a job, he wrote: "Jude" (Jew). He and Lily fled Germany in 1933 after the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, and he became a British citizen in 1939. Universal Pictures head Carl Laemmle personally chose Veidt to play Dracula in a film to be directed by Paul Leni based on a successful New York stage play: "Dracula". Ultimately, Bela Lugosi got the role, and Tod Browning directed the film, Dracula (1931). In his last German film, F.P.1 Doesn't Answer (1932), Veidt sang a song called "Where the Lighthouse Shines Across the Bay." Although the record was considered a flop in 1933, the song became a hit almost 50 years later, when, in 1980, DJ Terry Wogan played it as a request on the Radio 2 breakfast show. That single playing generated numerous phone calls, and shortly thereafter the song appeared on a British compilation album called "Movie Star Memories" - a collection of songs from 1930s-era films compiled from EMI archives. The album was released by World Records Ltd., and is now out of print but can still be ordered online ("Where the Lighthouse Shines Across the Bay" is track 4 on side 2). Veidt appeared in Germany's first talking picture, Bride 68 (1929), and made only one color picture, The Thief of Bagdad (1940), filmed in England and Hollywood. His most famous role was as Gestapo Maj. Strasser in the classic Casablanca (1942); although he was not the star of the picture, he was the highest paid actor. He died while playing golf, and on the death certificate his name is misspelled as "Hanz Walter Conrad Veidt". Because he had been blacklisted in Nazi Germany, there was no official announcement there of his death. His ex-wife, Felicitas, and daughter Viola, in Switzerland, heard about it on the radio.