BIOGRAPHY, friends & co-stars, general biography, Relationships
Comments 68

Friends & Co-stars: Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt


This is a re-style of an earlier post (hence the 45 already extant comments). It’s being re-issued and extended as the first of an occasional series I’ll be doing about the people in Basil’s life who weren’t family, lovers or wives. People he worked with, people he loved or was close to or who impacted his existence in some kind of meaningful way, good or bad. I’m doing this partly because it helps to throw light upon Ratbone to know how he interacted with those around him. Partly because as a lifelong movie buff I”m keen to include as many aspects of Vintage Hollywood as I an in this blog.

Why I’m starting with Conrad Veidt I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because I am slightly haunted by him, or because he happens to be in some of the great old films I most enjoy.

But for whatever reason, we are starting with Conrad Veidt. “Connie” as his friends called him.

The Soundbite Life Story

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1893 to a fairly wealthy middle class family, Veidt became an actor after being invalided out of the army following the Battle of Warsaw in 1916. He joined a theatre company in order to entertain the troops, and found his calling. After appearing in the amazing and seminal silent film THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI, in 1920, he became a major star in Europe. He followed this with equally notable THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1924), THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE (1926), and THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928). He was – according to IMDB – first choice to play Dracula in the 1931 Universal classic, but – as we all know if we haven’t been living in a cave on Mars with our fingers in our ears – the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi eventually secured the role.

Veidt was a passionate anti-Nazi and he and his Jewish wife fled Germany after the 1933 coup that put Hitler in power. They initially settled in the UK and (according to IMDB) even took British citizenship. While there Connie made several films with the great Powell and Pressburger team, notably THE SPY IN BLACK (1939).

In 1941 he moved out to Hollywood. He only made a few films there, most of them fairly unremarkable, but the fact that one of them was CASABLANCA (1942) has secured his position in the Pantheon of the Hollywood Golden Age. He died of a heart attack, tragically early, aged just 50, in 1943.

The Baz Connection

Connie’s last film was ABOVE SUSPICION, which also featured Rathbone himself. This was the only time I am aware of that they worked together, but according to Veidt’s biography the men were friends…

“One of Conrad’s best friends in Hollywood in the early 1940s was the noted actor Basil Rathbone. Conrad and Basil had met in England a few years earlier and when Conrad came to Hollywood in 1940, they renewed their friendship. Conrad and Basil would often get together on weekends and try their hands at writing short stories and novels. They (and their wives) would take turns visiting each other’s homes. Conrad and Basil would then sit down in the den, with a tall, cold drink for each, and wrestle verbally with different story plots and ideas. Conrad often jokingly began his novels with the standard introductory sentence made famous by the British novelist, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in his Gothic novels: “It was a dark and stormy night”. […] Since Conrad and Basil both excelled in villainous cinema roles, they tried jokingly to outdo each other in writing the most vile and unsavory characters they could imagine into the stories they authored.”

I wish we knew more about this apparently close and valuable friendship. I wonder if Ouida approved of CV or if he was one of the “undesirable chums.” If anyone has any additional information about the Veidt/Rathbone connection then do please contact me.

The Work

Here I’ll try and offer you examples of Veidt’s best movie work, but even though ABOVE SUSPICION can’t by any stretch be called that, we’ll start with it. Can’t find a complete version, but here is a collection of Veidt’s scenes. Look out for Basil’s fantastic German accent and also for Fred MacMurray’s fake moustache (which should probably have had its own cast credit as it easily acts ol’ Fred off the screen)…

And from the slightly ridiculous to the fairly sublime, THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI (1920)…


And here is a film of Connie’s I absolutely love, for all kinds of hard-to-define reasons — THE PASSING OF THE THIRD FLOOR BACK (1935). Just watch it and love its curious beauty…

DARK JOURNEY (1937) with Vivien Leigh…


The ConnieVeidt Youtube channel
Conrad Veidt on WordPress
Conrad Veidt on IMDB


    • Absolutely – happy turkey eating everyone! Hope you all have lots of family to irritate you and lots of booze to make them all more bearable 🙂


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  3. Ellen Foley says

    Too bad Weedy didn’t sit in w/Baz & CV to write down some of their stories and to publish them in difficult times ahead due to her near bankrupting of Baz.Maybe there might have been an interesting play in some of those stories both men exchanged.


  4. Mikufan says

    …There’s something about the pic of old Conrad in the bottom left corner of the montage that reminds me of Max Schreck. I don’t know why, he just reminds me of him in that one picture.:3


    • i too like the &#e#80;id8a&22221; of the tradition, but sometimes the practicality and production of it all just overwhelms me!I now have a small core group that I send to, with a brief update on our news for the year.out of interest, do you get your cards printed for you? and where?


  5. Mikufan says

    There seems to be more Benedict fans here than usual. ◕ω◕
    Hello there Benedict fans! *Waves*


  6. Fervent Researcher says

    Did Michael Druxman follow up on the letter from Fitzroy Davis you published? That mentioned Conrad Veidt’s early death did it not?


  7. rosebette says

    Thanks for the more extensive biography and the clips. Dark Journey with Vivien Leigh is one of my favorite films.


  8. It’s funny that CV was always playing Nazis, when he had actually been imprisonned by the Nazis an had to flee for his life!


  9. Pingback: 5 Conrad Veidt Films Every Movie Fan Must See - The Little Jazz Baby

  10. They must have known each other beginning in England.I once read,in another bio (I’m thinking Angela Lansbury or a quote from DeMaurier) about how the stage actors all congregated together,Baz was considered about the handsomest,and many British girls and women adored him,including Daphne when she was a teen,Baz knew Angela’s mother from the London stage.Oh,the stories Miss Angela must have to tell!


  11. Madge's Cat says

    Conrad Veift was passionately anti-nazi and a very decent man, so I’m not surprised he was friends with BR.


  12. Margaret G says

    I was a very big fan of BBC Sherlock, but also of Basil even before that so I don’t think I count?


  13. oh wow! What would I give to have been able to sit in on one of those weekend chats and brainstorms! I can hardly imagine how greatly amazing that would be!

    And what a wonderful pastime! Making up stories with a good friend! I mean really, what fun! I wish people now-a-days were like that!

    Ah well, all I can say is that that quote made my day!


    • Monica says

      I know – only imagine it. Comfy den, nice long glass of something, maybe a fire crackling and the lamplight is soft and flattering, and you can just sit back and listen to these two lovely cultured men talk….sigh!


    • Ok Ladies please share what is the full title and name of the BBC S.H. your all talking about? Us rusitc provincials over here have no idea what BBC series it is? Unless you mean Jeremey[hohum] Brett? If theres a dif I’d like to see if I can get it by iner Lib. loan. Sherlock BBC isnt gona cut the mustard with our libarians.You would have thought I’d ask them to persoaly man a rocket to the moon when I asked for the last season of Foyls War.


      • AnnaPindurka says

        It’s this one, Countess: Its main creator Steven Moffat has said “There are very, very few people who can play Sherlock Holmes, and there have been so many and so few good ones. In truth, you’ve got the mighty Basil Rathbone, the mighty Jeremy Brett and a few others. There are just not that many who transcend the role and change the role.”, which should make you realise the man has good taste.. 🙂


          • Ellen Foley says

            Nicholas Rowe was in “Assasin In Love” with Damian Lewis as one of Damian’s targets as ahitman.Kinda funny exchange while he sits on toilette.Course,Milo (Damian’s character) gets found out by his former colleague asking Nick to disappear,and he shoots Nick and he and Milo fight,leading to Milo going on the run to Wales.I enjoy that movie any time it’s on.Don’t know what happened to Alan ? who played young Watson.Hope they show YSH some day on cable,it WAS GOOD.


  14. AnnaPindurka says

    There are some amazing photos of Veidt in his 1920 horror silent The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, like this one:
    Not too far behind the Baz in looks, I’d say.
    Apparently the film is highly revered as a seminal horror film. Mark Gatiss talked about it in his Horror Europa documentary. (Anyone here due to Sherlock BBC, by the way? 🙂 )


    • Good to hear these gentlemen were prob friends,OR approved or not,he was an adult and prob cherished his close friends.They didn’t have many scenes together in Above Suspicion,but both were outstanding in their parts.


    • Hally says

      Me! I was a gigantic fan of Sherlock and then I watched Jeremy Brett and was a bit meh, though he can be cool, and then I watched Baz and I was totally blown away!


    • Wendy says

      Me too! I was an avid follower of BBC Sherlock, not because of Benedict as most people, but just because I loved the programme. When it ended I went looking for more Holmes fixes and discovered the magic of Basil as Holmes! By far the best portrayal in terms if charcterization IMO, and so very attractive too,


    • Reagan says

      Yes, add my name there. Basil is now my favorite Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch second, though the BBC drama was of a very high standard, much better than the scripts Basil had to handle.


      • Amomwholovesbasil says

        I often imagine how marvellous it would be if Basil had the chance to do literate adaptations like Brett’s, or lovely fantasy versions like The Seven Percent Solution! That film would have been unforgettable with a really good Holmes. Nicole Williamson was just awful, completely wrong physically and making no effort to “be” Holmes. I read a commenter saying when they watch another actor playing Holmes they mentally switch him out for Rathbone. I most definitely do that when watching The Seven Percent Solution. Scene by scene I envisage Basil, and it’s marvellous! But then I do that in Gaslight too!


        • Add almost ANY swashbuckler type movie,to my list of I could see Basil do that.Of course my fave ‘wish it were Basil’ is.. dont throw tomatos…Camalot.And yes I do like his singing voice.


      • Monica says

        I made the same journey. What I love is finding the Basil/Sherlock references in Benedict/Sherlock, and there are quite a lot of them! I believe the writers are major Basil fans too.I wonder if thy have dropped in here.


    • Patricia the Seal says

      I would never have discovered Basil as Sherlock were it not for BBC Sherlock. The hiatus until the next series is so long I have been searching for other SH fixes, and so discovered Mr Rathbone in Th HOund of the Baskervilles. I was a bit bowled over both by his performance and his loveliness, and the daring of that last line “Watson – the needle!” – in 1939!!


    • Granma Topgun says

      Isn’t it a coincidence by the way that Benedict was also in a drama about WWI.


    • Yep I got to this point thanks to the BBC series too, and watching the whole Rathbone Holmes series is like watching an alternate series of the BBC’s (or more like the other way around), due to the many references to the Rathbone series. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are total Rathbone Holmes fanboys 🙂


  15. Georgiana says

    Oh, I love this quote! I am a fan of Conrad Veidt’s as well as Basil’s (he was very handsome in his youth in quite a similar way to Basil) and am happy to think they were friends


  16. I know nothing about Conrad Veidt.But that photo was not taken in the 1940s I dont belive they were still useing the cdv format that late.Unless it was old stock.It’s nice to think Basil had a few “unaproved” of friends though.


  17. roesbette says

    Apparently, Veidt was German, but passionately anti-
    Nazi, and he became a British citizen and allegedly gave some of his earnings to Allied charitable causes. His last wife was Jewish, and he identified as Jewish either in protest or was a Jewish convert. He ironically ended up playing characters like those Nazis he despised, and he died tragically of a sudden heart attack in 1943.


  18. I remember Conrad Veidt for his “nasty Nazi” roles. I played a nasty neo-nazi in “Medical Center” segment “The Heel of the Tyrant”. Some of the dialog was really ripe and dated and I talked to director Earl Bellamy about it. I said, “This stuff is right out of a Conrad Veidt movie.” Earl said “No strain. Just underplay it”. When I looked at it recently I should have mumbled it like a lot of today’s actors do.

    Basil’s last big role in a big movie, “The Court Jester” is on this Sunday on TCM. It is a very good movie. Is it , The vessel with the pestal or does The Flagon with the Dragon hold the brew that is true?”


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