Conrad Veidt appeared in such classic German expressionist films as Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920), in which he played somnambulist Cesare; Orlacs Hände (The Hands of Orlac, 1924); and Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague, 1926). In Caligari, Veidt's androgynous sleepwalker elicits fear and dread from everyone else in the film while being both the instrument and victim of Dr. Caligari (Emil Jannings). Some have seen Veidt as a forerunner of later movie monsters that elicit some degree of sympathy, such as Boris Karloff's creature in Frankenstein (1933).
A star of silent film who was strongly linked to the German expressionist movement in the initial phases of his career, Veidt went on to play evil Nazi characters in later sound films such as Escape (1940). He was typecast in sinister, creepy, or just plain monstrous roles, often representing the ''bad German'' partly as a result of the historical and cultural context in which he was working, and partly because of his own looks and acting style. The role of Major Strasser in the classic cult film Casablanca (1942) was one of Veidt's final Hollywood roles, coming after he had taken a break from working in the United States to act in Britain from 1932 to 1940. Veidt's performances were frequently highly stylized, in line with the calculated distortions typical of German expressionism.
Being an unusual star, and given his appearances in classic and cult films such as Casablanca and Caligari, Veidt himself has been embraced as a cult icon, particularly by cinephiles who have an awareness of film history. The Conrad Veidt Society was formed in 1990 by James Rathlesberger, and its members commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Veidt's death (and the one hundredth anniversary of his birth) in 1993. According to its Internet homepage, the society is dedicated to promoting "classic" films, working to place "Veidt in the context of his times—Germany during the fame of the Expressionist film, England after the rise of Hitler, and America gearing up to fight WWII.'' Its members particularly value Veidt for his anti-Nazi humanism and his career-long fight against intolerance and prejudice. Onscreen, though, Veidt ended his career playing a Nazi in the escapist Above Suspicion (1943), his last film.
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