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Conrad Veidt

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Who in the world you ask, is Conrad Veidt? As I was watching Casablancaon TCM for maybe the 40th time, I was reminded of the interesting story of Veidt, who plays the ruthless Major Strasser in the movie. If you don't already know his story this makes a fun bit of trivia to add to your repertoire. Incidentially, although not the star, he was the highest paid cast member, beating out Bogey, Bergman and Claude Rains, to take home the not inconsiderable salary of $5000 per week.

From 1916 until his death, he appeared in well over 100 movies. He starred in two of the most well-known films of the silent era: as a murderous somnambulist in director Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and as a disfigured circus performer in The Man Who Laughs (1928). Very versatile in the silent movies, when talkies came out he became limited in his roles because of his German accent. Well known and popular at home, he was also known in German theatrical circles as a staunch anti-Nazi. So much so that as his activities came under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, a decision was made by Hitler to assassinate him (1933). Veidt found out about the plot and managed to escape Germany just ahead of the Nazi death squad sent to kill him. When Britain went to war, Veidt by then a British citizen, gave most of his estate to the war effort. He also donated a large portion of the salary from each of his new movies to the British war relief. Money he made portraying Nazi's !

He is wonderful as Strasser and Casablanca should be seen by everyone, if not 40 times, at least once.


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