26 February 2017

Isabelle Huppert

Tonight is the 89th Oscars show. Nominated for the Best Actress in a leading role award is French actress Isabelle Huppert (1953) for her amazing turn in Elle (2016). Huppert plays a top exec for a video-game company who turns the tables after being raped in her own home. The versatile and brave actress appeared in more than 90 film and television productions since 1971. She won 89 awards for her work, but the Oscar nomination for Elle is her first.

Isabelle Huppert in Elle (2016)
Austrian promotion card by Gartenbaukino, Wien. Photo; publicity still for Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016).

Isabelle Huppert
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Isabelle Huppert
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Isabelle Huppert
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Casually Poisoning Her Parents

Isabelle Anne Madeleine Huppert was born in Paris in 1953 (some sources say 1955). She is the youngest of five daughters of Annick Beau, a teacher of English, and Raymond Huppert, a safe manufacturer.

At age 13, she announced her intention to be an actor, and was encouraged by her mother. She studied at the Versailles Conservatoire and later attended the CNSAD (National Conservatory of Dramatic Art of Paris).

Huppert made her film debut in Faustine et le bel été/Faustine and the Beautiful Summer (Nina Companeez, 1972). Five years later, she already had appeared in 15 films and had worked with major directors. She played Romy Schneider's younger sister in César et Rosalie/Cesar and Rosalie (Claude Sautet, 1972).

In Bertrand Blier’s road movie Les valseuses/Going Places (1974), she played a bored teenager who runs off with three young vagabonds (Gérard Depardieu, Patrick Dewaere and Miou-Miou). For director Otto Preminger, Huppert made her English-language debut in Rosebud (1975) starring Peter O’Toole.

Her international breakthrough came with her guileless performance as a simple, provincial girl destroyed by a summer romance with a middle-class student in La Dentelliere/The Lacemaker (Claude Goretta, 1977). For this unforgettable portrayal she was awarded with both a BAFTA award (British Academy Award) and a David di Donatello (the Italian Oscar).

At the next Cannes film festival, she won the Best Actress award for Violette Nozière (Claude Chabrol, 1978). In this true story, she portrayed a woman who scandalized France in 1933 by casually poisoning her parents. She tied the award with Jill Clayburgh.

Marie-France Pisier, Isabelle Huppert and Isabelle Adjani in Les soeurs Brontë
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: publicity still for Les soeurs Brontë/The Bronte Sisters (André Téchniné, 1979) with Marie-France Pisier as Charlotte Bronte, Isabelle Huppert as Anne Bronte, and Isabelle Adjani as Emily Brontë.

Dominique Sanda, Isabelle Huppert
Dominique Sanda and Isabelle Huppert. Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Publicity still for Les ailes de la colombe/The Wings of the Dove (Benoît Jacquot, 1981).

Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Loulou
French postcard by Editions La Malibran, Nancy, in the collection Cinéma Couleur, no. MC 39. Publicity still for Loulou (Maurice Pialat, 1979) with Gérard Depardieu.

Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Dépardieu in Loulou (1980)
French card. Photo: publicity still for Loulou (Maurice Pialat, 1980).

Legendary Disaster

Isabelle Huppert made her American film debut in the blockbuster Heaven's Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980), which proved to be a legendary disaster at the box office.

In France she continued to explore enigmatic and emotionally distant characters, such as an upper-class woman who is physically attracted by a young vagabond (Gérard Depardieu) in Loulou (Maurice Pialat, 1980), a prostitute in Sauve qui peut (la vie)/Slow Motion (Jean-Luc Godard, 1980), the mistress of Philippe Noiret’s character in Coup de torchon/Clean Slate (Bertrand Tavernier, 1981) and a Jewish refugee in Coup de foudre/Entre nous (Diane Kurys, 1983).

She used her influence to help non-commercial projects get off the ground, like Joseph Losey's La Truite/The Trout (1982) and sister Caroline Huppert's Signé Charlotte/Sincerely, Charlotte (1984).

For her role in Une Affaire de Femmes/Story of Women (Claude Chabrol, 1988), she received the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice film festival. This time, she tied with Shirley MacLaine. She won the Volpi Cup again for her role in La Cérémonie (Claude Chabrol, 1995) as a shy but manic and homicidal post-office mistress in a French village. This time she tied the award with her co-star in that film, Sandrine Bonnaire. For La Cérémonie, she also won her only César award.

The offspring of her cinematic relationship with director Claude Chabrol also includes the widely acclaimed literary adaptation Madame Bovary (1991), the crime comedy Rien ne va plus/The Swindle (1997), and the thriller Merci pour le chocolat/Thanks for the Chocolate (2000).

Stuart Jeffries in The Observer about their cooperation: “Huppert has excelled in the spiteful, the nasty, the unpleasant and - regularly - the murderous. More than that, she carries herself with imperious intelligence, and thus seems to be self-conscious about her own wickedness. No doubt that is why Chabrol has cast her so often. He's interested in guilt, manipulativeness and shame - all of which she loves portraying.”

Isabelle Huppert
French collectors card in the series 'Portrait de Stars; L'encyclopédie du Cinéma' by Edito Service, 1994. Photo: Harcourt. Caption: France, 1975.

Isabelle Huppert
French postcard, no. 222.

Isabelle Huppert
French postcard by Editions F. Nugeron in the Signes Zodiaque series, no 8, Isabelle Huppert - Poissons (Pisces).

Isabelle Huppert
French postcard by Humour a la Carte, Paris, no. ST-159.

Greeted With A Mixture Of Boos And Applause

In 2001, Isabelle Huppert started a new interesting collaboration with Austrian film director Michael Haneke. In La Pianiste/The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001), an adaptation of the novel by Nobel prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, she played a sexually repressed and self-destructive piano teacher, who embarks on a dark journey into sadomasochism. Regarded as one of her most impressive turns, her performance won the 2001 acting prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The film also took the Grand Prix (second prize) and was greeted with a mixture of boos and applause, provoking the main debate of the festival.

Huppert continued to work hard. In 2002, the entire cast of the popular black comedy 8 femmes/8 Women (François Ozon, 2002), also including Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux and Fanny Ardant, was voted Best Actress at the European Film Awards. The same cast won a Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution, at the 2002 Berlin film festival.

Then Huppert was back at the set with Haneke for the disturbing Le temps du loup/The Time of the Wolf (Michael Haneke, 2003) with Béatrice Dalle. In Ma mere/My Mother (Christophe Honoré, 2004) based on a novel by George Bataille, Huppert starred as an attractive middle-aged mother who has an incestuous relationship with her teenage son (Louis Garrel).

Since Heaven's Gate, Huppert only made a few more American movies. In The Bedroom Window (Curtis Hanson, 1987) she played Steve Guttenberg’s mistress, and in Amateur (Hal Hartley, 1994) a former nun writing porn. In I [Heart] Huckabees (David O. Russell, 2004) she portrayed author Catherine Vauban, nemesis of existential detectives Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin.

At the 2005 Venice film festival, Huppert received a special Lion for her role in Gabrielle (Patrice Chéreau, 2005). The following year, she reunited with Claude Chabrol for L'ivresse du pouvoir/The Comedy of Power (2006). On the Paris stage, she appeared as the suicidal Hedda Gabler, in Henrik Ibsen's play.

In 1994 she was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Ordre national du Mérite and in 2005 she was promoted to Officier (Officer). She was also made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur in 1999 and was promoted to Officier (Officer) in 2009. With her spouse, director Ronnie Chammah, she has three children: actress Lolita Chammah (1983), Lorenzo Chammah (1986) and Angelo Chammah (1997). Huppert likes to keep her private life private though. Her work is her main issue in interviews.

In 2012, two of her films competed for the Palme d'Or in Cannes: Amour/Love (Michael Haneke, 2012) and the South-Korean production Da-reun na-ra-e-seo/In Another Country (Sang-soo Hong, 2012). Her part as the daughter of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in Amour also got her another César nomination.

In Valley of Love (Guillaume Nicloux, 2015, she reunited with Gérard Depardieu. They play two famous actors who used to be a couple and had a son 25 years ago. They reunite after the son's death, and receive a letter asking them to visit five places at Death Valley, which will make the son reappear. Valley of Love was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

But Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016) was the real sensation lately. This provocative and disturbing comedy-thriller divided many film fans, as a Verhoeven picture should. Elle got rave reviews in leading newspapers but was snubbed by the jury of the Cannes Film Festival and by the Academy in the 2016 Best Foreign Language Film Category. To me it's one of the wildest and most disturbing films of this century in the disguise of a stylish thriller. The core of the film is one of the most daring and sexy performances of a 50-plus actress ever. With each new view, Elle and Huppert get more interesting.

Xan Brooks at The Guardian: "Turn off the lights and let the horror begin. Paul Verhoeven’s new film, Elle, is an outrageous black comedy, volatile and deadly; a film that opens up with a sexual assault and then cleans off the blood ahead of a posh restaurant dinner. (...) Huppert gives a performance of imperious fury, holding the audience at bay, almost goading us to disown her. Audaciously, Elle presents her not so much as a victim but as the casualty of a world she is very much a part of; maybe (still more troublingly) an accessory to."

Since Cannes, Elle and its lead actress did win 41 international awards, including Golden Globes for both Best foreign film and Best leading actress. Tonight (or tomorrow in Europe) we will know if Isabelle Huppert adds her first Oscar to this list.

Trailer Coup de torchon/Clean Slate (1981). Source: WorleyClarence (YouTube).

Trailer Amour/Love (2012). Source: MovieclipsTrailers (YouTube).

French trailer Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016). Source: cinémaniak (YouTube).

Sources: Stuart Jeffries (The Observer), Xan Brooks (The Guardian) Rebecca Flint Marx (AllMovie), Yahoo! Movies, Wikipedia and IMDb.

25 February 2017

Imported from the USA: Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt (1963) is executive producer of Barry Jenkins' masterpiece Moonlight (2016), nominated for eight 2017 Oscars, which will be presented tomorrow 26 February. The attractive and intelligent American actor and producer is one the most successful film makers of his era. He has received multiple awards and nominations including an Academy Award as producer under his own company Plan B Entertainment. As an actor, Pitt wildly varies his film choices, appearing in everything from high-concept popcorn flicks such as Troy (2004) to adventurous critic-bait like Inglourious Basterds (2009) and The Tree of Life (2011). He has received Best Actor Oscar nominations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and Moneyball (2011). Will the astonishing successes keep on coming? 

Brad Pitt
British postcard by Heroes Publishing LTD., London, no. SPC2617.

Brad Pitt
British postcard by Box Office, no. BO 034.

Brad Pitt
British postcard by Heroes Publishing LTD., London, no. SPC2569.

A wickedly sexy hitchhiker

William Bradley ‘Brad’ Pitt was born in 1963 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and brought up in a strict Baptist household. His parents were William Alvin Pitt, who ran a trucking company, and Jane Etta (née Hillhouse), a school counsellor. He has a younger brother, Douglas (Doug) Pitt, and a younger sister, Julie Neal Pitt.

Following his graduation from high school, Pitt enrolled in the University of Missouri in 1982, majoring in journalism. Two weeks before earning his degree, he left the university and moved to Los Angeles, where he took acting lessons and worked odd jobs. Reportedly he chauffeured strippers to private parties, waited tables, and wore a giant chicken suit for a local restaurant chain. Pitt's acting career began with uncredited parts in such films as Less Than Zero (Marek Kanievska, 1987).

His television debut came in May 1987 with a two-episode role on the soap opera Another World. In November of the same year Pitt had a guest appearance on the sitcom Growing Pains. He appeared in four episodes of the legendary prime time soap opera Dallas (1987-1988). In 1989 he made his film debut with a featured role in the slasher Cutting Class (Rospo Pallenberg, 1989) with Donovan Leitch.

Pitt first gained recognition as a wickedly sexy hitchhiker in the road movie Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991), who seduces Thelma (Geena Davis) and robs her blind. “Pitt's combination of charming bad boy charisma and sensual playfulness—particularly in a fiery love scene with Geena Davis—made him a genuine sex symbol (and wore out the rewind button on many a VCR).“

His first leading roles in big-budget productions came with the dramas A River Runs Through It (Robert Redford, 1992) and Legends of the Fall (Edward Zwick, 1994), for which Pitt received his first Golden Globe Award nomination, in the Best Actor category. Both films gave the actor a much-needed chance to prove that he had talent in addition to his handsome looks. He then starred opposite Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas as the brooding, gothic vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac in the romantic horror film Interview with the Vampire (Neil Jordan, 1994), based on the novel by Anne Rice.

Pitt also garnered attention for a brief appearance in the cult hit True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993) as a stoner named Floyd, providing comic relief to the action film written by Quentin Tarantino. Pitt gave critically acclaimed performances as an emotionally tortured detective investigating a series of gruesome crimes in the horror-thriller Se7en (David Fincher, 1995) and as visionary mental patient Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995). This latter role got him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and an Academy Award nomination. Seven earned $327 million at the international box office. He also starred in the legal drama Sleepers (Barry Levinson, 1996).

Pitt then played Tyler Durden, the mysterious and anti-materialistic soap salesman in Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999) about a bloody diversion for young professional males. This unglamorous, disturbing role was an interesting but odd choice for a man voted 'Most Sexy Actor Alive' by virtually every entertainment publication currently in circulation, but the film became a cult.

Jason Clark in his review at AllMovie: "A definitive case of a movie that has yet to find its time, David Fincher's unnerving and cataclysmic look at the male psyche takes no prisoners and makes no apologies, which is precisely why the film is so powerful. A kind of stepchild to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in terms of its thematic relevancy and misunderstood nature, Fight Club looks and feels like almost nothing that has preceded it. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter all successfully subvert their onscreen personas, and give fully committed portrayals that never get buried in the film's dazzling set pieces."

Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise (1991)
British postcard by Heroes Publishing Ltd, London, no. SPC2506. Publicity still for Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991).

Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire (1994)
British Exclusive Collectors' Artcard. Photo: Geffen Pictures. Publicity still for Interview with the Vampire (Neil Jordan, 1994). Caption: Louis de Pointe Du Lac (Brad Pitt) is a broken man, devastated by the loss of his beloved wife and infant daughter. Becoming a vampire is his only relief.

Male chemistry

Brad Pitt was cast as an Irish Gypsy boxer with a barely intelligible accent in the British gangster film Snatch (2000), Guy Ritchie's eagerly anticipated follow-up to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He then played Rusty Ryan in Ocean's Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001) with George Clooney. It was a remake of the Rat Pack classic about a group of criminals who plot to rob a string of casinos.

Well received by critics, Ocean's Eleven was highly successful at the box office, earning $450 million worldwide. The heist film had two sequels, Ocean's Twelve (Steven Soderbergh, 2004) and Ocean's Thirteen (Steven Soderbergh, 2007). Ocean's Twelve earned $362 million worldwide, and the third sequel earned $311 million at the international box office. CNN's Paul Clinton:  "Plus, Clooney and Pitt have the best male chemistry since Paul Newman and Robert Redford."

Another commercial success was Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004), based on The Iliad by Homer. For his part as Achilles, Pitt spent six months sword training and it helped establish his appeal as action star. Troy was the first film produced by Plan B Entertainment, a film production company he had founded two years earlier with Jennifer Aniston and Brad Grey, CEO of Paramount Pictures.

Pitt then had a hit with the stylish action comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Doug Liman, 2005), opposite Angela Jolie. Mr. & Mrs. Smith earned $478 million worldwide, making it one of the biggest hits of 2005. Pitt starred opposite Cate Blanchett in Alejandro González Iñárritu's multi-narrative drama Babel (2006). His performance was critically well-received. Babel received seven Academy and Golden Globe award nominations, winning the Best Drama Golden Globe, and earned Pitt a nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe.

Pitt then appeared in the black comedy Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008), his first collaboration with the Coen brothers. The film and Pitt's supporting role received a positive reception from critics. Andrew Pulver at The Guardian: "Clocking in at a crisp 95 minutes, Burn After Reading is a tightly wound, slickly plotted spy comedy (...) Pitt, in fact, gets the best of the funny stuff, but has by some way the least screen time of all the principal cast."

The actor received his second Academy Award nomination for his leading performances in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008). Pitt played the title character, who is born as a 70-year-old man and ages in reverse. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button received thirteen Academy Award nominations in total, and grossed $329 million at the box office worldwide.

Pitt's next leading role came in the blistering war film Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Pitt played Lieutenant Aldo Raine, an American resistance fighter battling Nazis in German-occupied France. The film was a box office hit, taking $311 million worldwide, and garnered generally favourable reviews. Perry Seibert at AllMovie: "Tarantino has always cast his films to perfection, and the performers here know how to get the most out of the ornate language. Brad Pitt uses a hilarious Southern drawl, and his attempts at speaking Italian are a comic highlight."

Brad Pitt in Troy (2004)
Italian postcard by EdiBas S.r.l., Torino, no. Pc 1.338. Photo: Grazia Neri. Publicity still for Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004).

Brad Pitt
British postcard by Heroes Publishing Ltd, London, no. SPC 2742.

Brad Pitt
British postcard by A Bigger Splash, Manchester, no. X743, 1997.


Brad Pitt had another commercial success with World War Z (Marc Forster, 2013), a thriller about a zombie apocalypse. Pitt produced the film which grossed $540 million against a production budget of $190 million. He also produced The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006) and 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013), both of which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Another success as a producer and as an actor was The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2009), based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup. In this experimental drama, he gave one of the best performances of his career, playing a disciplinarian father. At AllMovie, Rebecca Flint Marx describes The Tree of Life as "a sprawling, cerebral phantasmorgia on the meaning of life and death". The film became one of the critical sensations of the year."

Pitt's list of successes seems endless. His productions Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011) and the comedy-drama The Big Short (Adam McKay, 2015), garnered Best Picture nominations too. Moneyball received six Academy Award nominations including Best Actor for Pitt. Besides this Oscar nomination, his role as Billy Beane in Moneyball also earned him Best Actor nominations from the BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Association, the Golden Globes, and won him the New York Film Critics Circle award (the award was also for his role in Tree of Life).

Not only his work, his personal life is also the subject of wide publicity. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Pitt was involved in successive relationships with several of his co-stars, including Robin Givens, Jill Schoelen and Juliette Lewis. In addition, Pitt had a much-publicized romance and engagement to his Seven co-star Gwyneth Paltrow, whom he dated from 1994 to 1997.

From 2000 till 2005, he was married to actress Jennifer Aniston. During their divorce, he fell in love with actress Angelina Jolie on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The entertainment media dubbed the couple 'Brangelina' and they married in 2014. They have six children together, three of whom were adopted internationally. In 2015, Pitt starred opposite Jolie, in her third directorial effort, By the Sea, a romantic drama about a marriage in crisis, based on her screenplay. In September 2016, Angelina Jolie filed in real life for divorce from Pitt.

Pitt’s most recent film is the World War II romantic thriller Allied (Robert Zemeckis, 2016) in which he and Marion Cotillard play an intelligence officer and resistance fighter, respectively, who fall in love during a mission to kill a German official. In 2017 Brad Pitt can be seen with Tilda Swinton in War Machine (David Michôd, 2017), a satire of America's war with Afghanistan with a focus on the people running the campaign. Announced is also World War Z 2 (2017), with David Fincher rumoured as director.

As an executive producer, Brad Pitt has another amazingly huge success with Moonlight (2016), directed by Barry Jenkins. The film about the life of a young black and gay man struggling to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami, is nominated for eight Academy Awards. The film gets our vote!

Trailer 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995). Source: Movieclips (YouTube).

Trailer Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000). Source: Juliana Mendes Mendonça (YouTube).

Trailer Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009), Source: Movieclips Trailer Vault (YouTube).

Sources: Rebecca Flint Marx (AllMovie), Jason Clark (AllMovie), Perry Seibert (AllMovie), Paul Clinton (CNN), Andrew Pulver (The Guardian),, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

24 February 2017

Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt (1893–1943) was the 'most highly strung and romantically handsome of the German expressionist actors'. From 1916 until his death, he appeared in over 100 films, including such classics as Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari (1920) as the sleep-walking killer Cesare, and Casablanca (1942) as Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser. He played in the 'first gay film', Anders als die Andern (1919) and his starring role in The Man Who Laughs (1928) was the inspiration for Batman's greatest enemy, The Joker.

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1426/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Vaida M. Pál, Budapest.

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 272/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 564/1, 1919-1924. Photo: R Film. Publicity still for Lady Hamilton (Richard Oswald, 1921).

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 564/3, 1919-1924. Photo: Conrad Veidt Film. Publicity still for Paganini (Heinz Goldberg, 1923).

Conrad Veidt
Russian postcard, no. 6, 1928.

A creature from Poe's nightmares

Hans Walter Conrad Veidt was born in 1893, in Potsdam, Germany. He attended the Sophiengymnasium (a secondary school) in the Schoeneberg district of Berlin, and graduated without a diploma in 1912.

Veidt received his basic acting training and stage experience from Max Reinhardt, and appeared at the age of 20 — just before World War I — at Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater in Berlin. In 1914, he met actress Lucie Mannheim, with whom he began a relationship.

Later in the year he was drafted into the German Army during World War I. In 1915, Veidt was sent to the Eastern Front as a noncommissioned officer and took part in the Battle of Warsaw. He contracted jaundice and pneumonia, and had to be evacuated to a hospital on the Baltic Sea.

While recuperating, he received a letter from Lucie Mannheim informing him that she had found work at a front theatre.  Intrigued, Veidt applied for the theatre as well. As his condition had not improved, the army allowed him to join the theatre so that he could entertain the troops. It was also during this time that his relationship with Mannheim ended. In late 1916, he was reexamined by the Army and deemed unfit for service; he was given a full discharge in January 1917. Veidt then returned to Berlin to pursue his acting career.

Director Richard Oswald encouraged him to go into films. He was seen in such silent films as Der Weg des Todes/The Road of Death (Robert Reinert, 1917) with Maria Carmi, Furcht/Fear (Robert Wiene, 1917), Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen/The Diary of a Lost Woman (Richard Oswald, 1918) with Erna Morena, Opium (Robert Reinert, 1919) with Werner Krauss, and as Lucifer in Satanas/Satan (F.W. Murnau, 1920) starring Fritz Kortner.

The anonymous biographer at Lenin Imports writes: "Veidt was the most highly strung and romantically handsome of German expressionist actors. He was a creature from Poe's nightmares - tall, gaunt, glowing with a mixture of illness and ecstatic anxiety. Amid so many overweight actors, Veidt was an attenuated, hypersensitive figure, the aesthete or artist tormented by dark forces and driven to violence. His movements were deliberately slowed and prolonged".

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 272/4, 1919-1924. Photo: Becker & Maass.

Conrad Veidt in Das indische Grabmal
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 539/1. Photo: May Film. Conrad Veidt as the proud and cruel Maharajah of Eschnapur in the two-part monumental film Das indische Grabmal/The Indian Tomb (Joe May, 1921-1922).

Conrad Veidt
German postcard. Photo: Richard Oswald Film. Perhaps a publicity still for Lucrezia Borgia (Richard Oswald, 1922).

Dagny Servaes and Conrad Veidt in Carlos und Elisabeth (1924)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 674/5. Photo: Krabbe. Publicity still for Carlos und Elisabeth/Carlos and Elisabeth (Richard Oswald, 1924) with Dagny Servaes.

Conrad Veidt in Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (1924)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 933/1, 1925-1926. Publicity still for Das Wachsfigurenkabinett/Waxworks (Leo Birinsky, Paul Leni, 1924).

Conrad Veidt in Graf Kostja/Le Comte Kostia
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 934/1, 1925-1926. Conrad Veidt starring in the Franco-German coproduction Le Comte Kostia/ Graf Kostja (Jacques Robert, 1925).

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1561/2, 1927-1928. Photo: ?


With his impressive height, handsomely gaunt face, high cheekbones and wide, thin-lipped mouth, Conrad Veidt seemed a natural to play sinister, tortured roles. To many silent film fans, he is primarily known for his Cesare, the sleep-walking killer in Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari/The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920). His first close-up of Cesare was riveting: a pale face and harrowed eyes, awakened from sleep. Unforgettable was also the rhythmic, boldly diagonal way he crept along a wall to kidnap Lil Dagover. Cesare became one of the most influential performances in the history of the fantasy and horror film.

Veidt did a brave appearance in Magnus Hirschfeld's pioneering homosexual rights film Anders als die Andern/Different from the Others (Richard Oswald, 1919). It is credited as being the first gay film: it argued for reform of the harsh German laws regarding homosexuality. The film had a very short run in Germany before being pulled, and people who attended it were, according to the reviewer on IMDb, harassed.

Veidt then worked in the full range of the German cinema: the Jekyll and Hyde film Der Januskopf/The Two-Faced Man (F. W. Murnau, 1920) with Béla Lugosi, the exotic adventure epic Das Indische Grabmal/The Indian Tomb (Joe May, 1921) starring Olaf Fønss and Mia May, the melodrama Der Gang in die Nacht/Journey Into the Night (F.W. Murnau, 1921), the historic film Danton (Dmitri Buchowetzki, 1922) starring Emil Jannings, and the drama Die Brüder Schellenberg/The Brothers Schellenberg (Karl Grune, 1926).

He starred in three classic horror films, in Das Wachsfigurenkabinett/The Three Wax Works (Paul Leni, Leo Birinsky, 1924) as Ivan the Terrible, in Orlacs Hände/The Hands of Orlac (Robert Wiene, 1924) as Orlac, and in Der Student von Prag/The Student of Prague (Henrik Galeen, 1926) as the student and his doppelganger. In addition he directed also films himself, including Wahnsinn/Madness (1919) with Reinhold Schünzel, and Die Nacht auf Goldenhall/The Night at Goldenhall (1920) with his then-wife Gussy Holl.

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1682/2, 1927-1928. Conrad Veidt preparing for his first trip to the United States. Caption: his most precious luggage item. The child is his daughter, Viola Veidt.

Conrad Veidt before going to Hollywood
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1682/3, 1927-1928. Conrad Veidt and his wife Felicitas Radke preparing for his first trip to the United States. Caption:"Do you think, Conny, one can wear such a coat in Hollywood?"

Conrad Veidt, Harry Liedtke
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1719/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Arthur Ziehm, Berlin. Publicity still for Kreuzzug des Weibes/The Wife's Crusade (Martin Berger, 1926) with Harry Liedtke.

Conrad Veidt in The Beloved Rogue (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1670/1, 1927-1928. Photo: United Artists. Publicity still for The Beloved Rogue (Alan Crosland, 1927).

Conrad Veidt in The Beloved Rogue
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1670/2, 1927-1928. Photo: United Artists. Publicity still for The Beloved Rogue (Alan Crosland, 1927). Conrad Veidt plays a cruel and superstitious French king Louis XI.

Conrad Veidt in Der Student von Prag (1926)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1692/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Sokal Film. Publicity still for Der Student von Prag/The Student of Prague (Henrik Galeen, 1926).

Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin in The Man Who Laughs (1928)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 105/1. Photo: Universal Pictures Corp. Publicity still for The Man Who Laughs (Paul Leni, 1928) with Mary Philbin.

The Joker

Conrad Veidt worked briefly in Sweden – Ingmarsarvet/The Ingmar Inheritance (Gustaf Molander, 1925) with Lars Hanson, and in Italy - the Luigi Pirandello adaptation Enrico I/The Flight in the Night (Amleto Palermi, 1926).

Then he took up an offer to play Louis XI to John Barrymore's Francois Villon in The Beloved Rogue (Alan Crosland, 1927). Veidt stayed in Hollywood for A Man's Past (George Melford, 1927), and The Last Performance (Paul Fejos, 1927).

In The Man Who Laughs (Paul Leni, 1928) he played a disfigured circus performer, one of his most sublime performances. His grotesque grin was achieved with a prosthesis. Comic book artist and Batman creator Bob Kane, writer Bill Finger and artist Jerry Robinson used stills of Veidt in The Man Who Laughs as inspiration for the iconic supervillain The Joker.

Back in Germany, Veidt made Germany's first talking picture Das Land ohne Frauen/The Land Without Women (Carmine Gallone, 1929) about Australia in the days when the search for gold fused together men of all nations. His beautiful speaking voice consolidated his star position.

He was cast as Count Metternich in the immensely popular operetta Der Kongress Tanzt (Erik Charell, 1931) with Lilian Harvey, both in the original and in the English-language version, The Congress Dances (Erik Charell, 1931).

He also appeared oppposite Elza Temary in Rasputin (Adolph Trotz, 1932) as the legendary mystic who ruled the czarist court in its last years, as the czarina hoped he could heal her son's haemophilia. In 1916 Rasputin was murdered by a number of aristocrats, but not before predicting the downfall of the regime.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 135/2, 1929-1933. Photo: Lichtenstein / Gottschalk-Tonfilm. Publicity still for Rasputin (Adolph Trotz, 1931) with Elza Temary.

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 3919/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Roman Freulich.

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 943/2, 1925-1926. Photo: Alex Binder.

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 943/5, 1925-1926. Photo: Alex Binder.

Conrad Veidt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 4200/2, 1929-1930. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in Der Kongress tanzt
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 131/7. Photo: Ufa. Still with Conrad Veidt (Count Metternich) and Lil Dagover (Countess) in Der Kongress tanzt/The Congress dances (Erik Charell, 1931).

The Wandering Jew

Conrad Veidt then moved to England for the thriller Express Rome (Walter Forde, 1932) and The Wandering Jew (Maurice Elvey, 1933), the fantasy of the Jew who cursed Christ and found himself stuck on earth till the Second Coming.

Back in Germany he was in F.P.I. Antwortet Nicht/F. P. 1 Doesn't Answer (Karl Hartl, 1933). Veidt sang the title song Where the Lighthouse Shines Across the Bay. It was a flop at the time, but became a hit in the United Kingdom in 1980. BBC presenter Terry Wogan had played it as a request on his breakfast show and was flooded afterwards with letters asking for a repeat.

Veidt fervently opposed the Nazi regime. His activities came under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, and a decision was made to assassinate him. Veidt found out about the plot, and managed to escape Germany in 1933 a week after marrying a half-Jewish woman, Illona Prager. He was married twice before, and reportedly he was bisexual. He was first married to actress Gussy Holl (1919-1922) and in 1923 he married Felicitas Radke, a woman from an aristocratic German family. They divorced in 1932. Their daughter, Viola Veidt, was born in 1925.

Her father settled in the United Kingdom and continued making films. In England, Veidt played in Jew Suss (Lothar Mendes, 1934), a satire of Nazi anti-Semitism, based on the novel by Lion Feuchtwanger. Although it was not a success with audiences, it did succeed in angering Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels who banned all of Veidt's films from Germany.

Veidt became a British citizen in 1938. His most interesting British pictures were two films directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Spy in Black (1939) and Contraband (1940). When the war started, producer Alexander Korda shipped Veidt to the United States to play the Vizier in The Thief of Baghdad (Michael Powell, Tim Whelan, Ludwig Berger, 1940)

TCM notes that Veidt added "immeasurably to his role as the demonic magician and grand vizier Jaffar. He spent his last years playing Germans in such Hollywood films as Escape (Mervyn Le Roy, 1940) - in which he and Norma Shearer made a dynamic pair as a German general and his American mistress, A Woman's Face (George Cukor, 1941) as the lover and onetime partner in crime of Joan Crawford, and Nazi Agent (Jules Dassin, 1942) - in which he had a dual role as a Nazi and as the Nazi's twin brother.

But he is best known for playing the Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) opposite Humphrey Bogart. When Britain went to war, Veidt gave most of his estate to the war effort. He also donated a large portion of the salary from each of his films to the British war relief, as well - he was the highest paid actor in Casablanca.

His last film was Above Suspicion (Richard Thorpe, 1943), in which he played an Austrian undercover agent.

In 1943, Conrad Veidt suddenly died of a heart attack during a game of golf in Los Angeles. He was playing with Arthur Field of MGM and his personal physician, Dr. Bergman, who pronounced him dead at the scene. His death at just 50 was possibly a result of his heavy smoking. 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.

Conrad Veidt in Ich und die Kaiserin (1933)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 7621/2, 1932-1933. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Ich und die Kaiserin/The Empress and I (Friedrich Hollaender, 1933)

Conrad Veidt
Vintage postcard. Photo: Paramount.

Conrad Veidt
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 1365. Photo: British National. Publicity still for Contraband (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1940).

Conrad Veidt
British postcard by Real Photograph, no. 167. Photo: Gaumont-British Pictures.

Conrad Veidt
Dutch postcard, no. 142. Photo: Universal.

Conrad Veidt in Jew Süss (1934)
British postcard by De Reszke Cigarettes, no. 33. Photo: Gaumont-British. Publicity still for Jew Süss (Lothar Mendes, 1934).

Trailer for Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari/The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920). Source: _ XYZT (YouTube).

DVD Trailer of Orlacs Hände/The Hands of Orlac (Robert Wiene, 1924). Source: Kino International (YouTube).

Conrad Veidt sings There's a lighthouse shines across the bay (1933). Source: Allanh53 (YouTube).

Sources: Peter Jacobs (Gay For Today), Roger Manvell (Film Reference), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Doug Sederberg (IMDb), Lenin Imports, (German), Wikipedia, and IMDb.