German 43: Exiles and Émigrés
 

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Veit, Conradt

(Berlin 1893–Hollywood 1943)

Actor. Helped by the popularity of the German Expressionism, Veidt's pale face and deep-set eyes made him a perfect match for grotesque, sometimes uncanny roles in film. He is best known for portraying Cesare the somnambulist in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). By 1926, he was seen as the epitome of the Expressionist acting tradition, bringing to life terrifying figures like Ivan the Terrible, Cagliostro, Jekyll/Hyde, and Richard III. He went to Hollywood to star in a few historical costume dramas in 1927 and 1928, but returned to Germany for the coming of sound. He enjoyed success in Berlin, but when Hitler came to power he emigrated to Britain. There he found regular employment in the film industry, often playing spies, ruthless Nazi villains or other bad Germans—an irony of fate which Veidt shared with many enemies of the Reich. Most memorable is his portrayal of the title role in Lothar Mendes's adaptation of Lion Feuchtwanger's novel Jew Süss, a story that Veit Harlan would later remake as Nazi Germany's most anti-Semitic film. Hired by Warner Bros. Veidt continued these performances in Hollywood; especially famous is his role as Major Strasser in Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942) where his embodiment of the grotesque, made famous by silent Weimar features, is used to emphasize the current horrors of the Nazi regime.


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