German Actor. He is best remembered for his role of Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser in "Casablanca" (1942), his next to last role. He was born Hans Walter Conrad Veidt in a working class district of Berlin, Germany, where he completed secondary school (Sophiengymnasium) in 1912, graduating without a diploma. He reportedly loved animals, the theater, cinema, swimming and golfing. Veidt began working as an actor in 1916, in the German silent film "Der Weg des Todes" ("The Road of Death." 1916). He would make 75 German films and appear in over 119 films in his lifetime. He appeared in mostly German films of the silent period, including two of the most famous of that period, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920) and as Gwynplaine, a disfigured circus performer in "The Man Who Laughs" (1928), taken from a Victor Hugo novel about King Louis XVI's punishment on the son for his father's disrespect to the monarch by having his face carved into a permanent grin; this character would be later used by comic book writer Bob Kane for the character of the Joker, Batman's arch enemy. He would marry three times, having a daughter, Viola Vera Veidt, with his second wife, Felicitas Radke. During the 1920s and early 1930s, he was a staunch anti-Nazi, and when the Nazis came to power in 1933, the Gestapo placed him under watch. When the German government required racial and ethnic backgrounds on various government forms and work permits, he would often write in "Jewish" as a personal protest against the Nazis, even though he was not of Jewish descent. On April 6, 1933, and one week after marrying his third (and last) wife, Ilona "Lily" Prager, a German Jewish woman, he suddenly immigrated to Britain. It was rumored that his activities in Germany had led to a Gestapo decision to assassinate him, and that Veidt had found out about the plot, which led to his sudden emigration. He would become a British citizen in 1938. He continued making films in Britain, and during the war years, naturally played Nazis in films. During the war, Veidt gave much of his estate to the war effort, and donated a large portion of his salary to British war relief. In 1940, Veidt moved to Hollywood, where he continued to make films. Veidt appears in only one color picture, "The Thief of Baghdad" (1940). Veidt's last film was "Above Suspicion" (1943); he died of a sudden heart attack while on the golf course at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. His ashes were apparently kept in storage until the early 1960s, when his widow had them interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. After Lily's death in 1980, her cremains were mixed with his and the common urn given to Veidt's nephew, who later passed it on to the founder of the Conrad Veidt Society. Despite an offer from the German government for an honor burial in Berlin, Veidt was finally laid to rest at Golders Green Crematorium in London in 1997. On another note, he had recorded a song, "Where the Lighthouse Shines Across the Bay" for his first British film, "FP1" (1933), and although the song flopped at the time, it became a hit in 1980 when it was reintroduced over the radio.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
Viola Vera Veidt