Movies from the Weimar era are not rarely fascinating. Think of Metropolis
or Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler from Fritz Lang. Some have expressionistic and
beautiful decors such as Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari (1920)
directed by Robert Wiene. In the last movie, the pacifistic ideas from
scriptwriters Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer are reflected in the figure of
Caligari. He is a symbol of the emerging fascism and the crowd who is
uncritically following a strong leader. The call for a strong leader is very
One of the main actors of Das Kabinett Des Doktor Caligari is CONRAD
VEIDT (1893 - 1943). His personalization of the physically handicapped
Gwynplaine in Theman who laughs (Paul Leni, 1928) would write history.
The film isbased on the novel L'homme qui rit by Victor Hugo.
Gwynplaine has a permanent grin smile, brought to him by Comprachicos.
These nomads, invented by Victor Hugo, deformed children physically
from a young age to let them work at freak shows. The grinning
Gwynplaine would later be a key inspiration for comic bookwriter Bill
Finger and artists Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson in creating Batman's
biggest enemy, The Joker.
Conrad Veidt has another special role in his name: Anders als die Andern (1919) by Magnus Hirschfeld in which he plays
the role of gay violinist Paul Körner. This is one of the first films in which homosexuality is positively portrayed, despite it's bad ending. The story was in fact a charge against the Legislative Act, Paragraph 175, which deals with the prohibition of sex between men.
In 1933, he and his Jewish wife Ilona Prager went to Britain, fleeing the Nazi regime. In 1941, they moved to Hollywood where he played in a number of movies. Ironically, he was often typecast as a Nazi agent. His best-known role was that of the sinister Major Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca (1942). He died of a heart attack in 1943 at the age of 50.