On the Set with Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt (1893-1943) was a legendary German film star who first gained attention as Cesare, the somnambulist killer in THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919):
Conrad Veidt as "Cesare" in the film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". Photograph. 1921

Today Conny seems best remembered for one of his last films, CASABLANCA (1942). As the Nazi villain Major Strasser, Conny was fourth billed behind Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henried, and Claude Rains, but he was the highest paid actor on the film:
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Visiting film star Constance Talmadge seems to strike the same pose as Conny on the set of THE BELOVED ROGUE (1927), Veidt’s first American film. He played France’s King Louis XI to John Barrymore’s Francois Villon:
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Conny starred in several films for Universal in the closing days of the silent film era. Here makeup artist extraordinaire Jack Pierce, who later made up Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster and Lon Chaney, Jr., as the Wolfman, applies finishing touches to Veidt for THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928):
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Back in Germany by 1930, Conny effortlessly transitioned to sound films speaking in his native language:
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By 1933, Conny was making films in Britain as well as Germany and worked hard to master English. Here Veidt sits with pal Peter Lorre as they work on F.P.1 (Floating Platform 1), a science-fiction tale that anticipated aircraft carriers. Filmed in three languages, Conny played the hero in the English-language version, but not in the German or French versions. Lorre appeared only in the German version:
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Conny poses for his bust by sculptor Felix Weiss in Germany, circa 1935. With the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, Germany became an “unhealthy” place for Veidt to live. He listed himself as a Jew although he wasn’t. However, his wife Lily was Jewish so they decided to relocate to Britain in the mid 1930s:
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THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) would be Conny’s only Technicolor film but he looks terrific in it. Here he examines an ornate dagger and its scabbard:
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Conny as the villainous vizir Jaffar, commands the sky and wind in THE THIEF OF BAGDAD:
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This production photo from THE THIEF OF BAGDAD shows Conny on the left on the floor. The massive Technicolor camera holds three rolls of film that were photographed simultaneously through one lens. A prism split the image into three that was photographed on each of the three rolls sensitive to red, blue and yellow respectively:
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Filming the same scene from a back angle view. The camera is mounted on a crane to create a moving dolly shot:
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A stunning portrait of the evil Jaffar:
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Back in America by 1940, Conny donates much of his salary to the British and U.S. war effort, and adds radio broadcasting to his activities. Here on April 19, 1942, he reenacts his role in the 1941 MGM film, A WOMAN’S FACE on Screen Guild Theater. The stars who appeared on this show donated their fee to the Motion Picture Relief Fund:
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Listen to Conny on the actual live broadcast of April 19, 1942, with co-stars Bette Davis and Warren William:

American audiences weren’t too sure how to pronounce Conny’s last name so someone at one of the studios thought up this helpful rhyme: “Women Fight for Conrad Veidt.”
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Conrad Veidt would be surprised to know that his films are popular with new generations of the 21st century. Most of his top films are available on DVD, and a growing number on Blu-ray including THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS (a pioneering film on homosexuality), WAXWORKS, THE BELOVED ROGUE, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, ESCAPE, A WOMAN’S FACEand CASABLANCA. But Conny held no exalted view of himself: when invited to write his autobiography, he dismissed the suggestion by stating, “Who would be interested in my life? I’m just an actor.”

Your Official 2014 Old Hollywood in Color Calendar Collection!

Start the New Year off right with a gift from OLD HOLLYWOOD IN COLOR. Take your pick from any of these – or all of ’em. Simply download and print out just as you would do with a photo. If you prefer a larger size or higher quality than home printers can provide, let me suggest that you copy the image to a thumb drive and take it to you local digital print retailer such as Kinko’s. With this in mind, let’s tour the 2014 collection.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, with Jean Harlow, in one of their last silent films LIBERTY (1929):
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La Swanson, Gloria that is, in ZAZA (1923):
Gloria Swanson Calendar

Ronald Colman in a fan photo circa 1929:
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Buster Keaton circa 1930:
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Clara Bow, who was dubbed “The It Girl,” meaning that she had “it.” Circa 1928:
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A debonair-looking Al Jolson in 1935:
Al jolson calendar

Greta Garbo with Nils Asther in WILD ORCHIDS (1929), one of her last silents:
Garbo Calendar

Mary Astor in ROSE OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1927):
Mary Astor Calendar 2014_Final

A calendar from a 1934 UK movie magazine highlighting Conrad Veidt:
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Jean Harlow with Clark Gable in RED DUST (1932):
Jean Harlow Calendar

Lon Chaney Sr. as himself and as his character in THE MIRACLE MAN (1919), a lost film:
Lon Chaney Calendar

Rin Tin Tin and his mate Nanette in HERO OF THE BIG SNOWS (1926), another lost film:
Rin Tin Tin Calendar

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Silent Screen Stars on Radio: Part 2

Some months ago your blogmeister posted a thread called “Silent Screen Stars on Radio” that proved very popular. I promised a possible sequel so here it is. Radio during the 1930s became a veritable haven for silent screen stars, regardless of whether they were successful in talkies. Let’s start our tour with one the most popular stars of the silent screen, Norma Talmadge. Norma made only two talkies then decided to retire from the screen in 1930 with her wealth intact. Here is Norma in her final film, DUBARRY, WOMAN OF PASSION (1930):
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She was married to George Jessel for several years during the ’30s and appeared with him on his weekly variety show, “Thirty Minutes in Hollywood.” Legend claims that Norma left sound films because of a pronounced Brooklyn accent but fortunately her radio work vindicates her vocally. Here Norma co-stars with Gilbert Roland in her first talkie, NEW YORK NIGHTS (1929):
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Let’s listen to an excerpt from the March 6, 1938 broadcast with Jessel and a ten-year singing prodigy, Josephine, who asks Norma about her film career:

Gloria Swanson was one of the greatest stars of the 1920s and her transition to talkies was not only successful but revealed her excellent singing voice. However, times were changing quickly in the early 1930s and the fickle public shifted its attention to newer attractions. La Swanson produced her own films and by 1934 she realized it was time to move on to other pursuits. But she was never gone from the public scene for very long, which may explain her spectacular return to films in SUNSET BLVD. in 1950. Here is Gloria making a very early broadcast circa 1928:
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Let’s join Gloria as guest on Eddie Cantor’s show on March 9, 1938. This being a live broadcast, the performers keep rolling, mistakes and all:

Now for something completely different. Conrad Veidt was one of the most popular international stars during the silent film era, first gaining notice in the groundbreaking THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919). Connie, as he was called, traveled from Germany to Hollywood in 1926 at the request of John Barrymore, who wanted him to play the crafty King Louis XI in Barrymore’s new epic, THE BELOVED ROGUE (1927). Here is an original autographed portrait of Connie taken about the same time:
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Veidt returned to his native Germany in 1929 where he continued his career, by then starring in sound films, until he fled his homeland in 1933 with the rise of Hitler. His career continued uninterrupted in Britain, though he struggled mightily to learn English, and eventually returned to Hollywood in 1940 where he donated most of his earnings to the American and British war effort. One of his most impressive films at that time was A WOMAN’S FACE (1941) with Joan Crawford in the title role:
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Connie said that this film was his favorite, even more so than CALIGARI, and described his role as “Satan in a tuxedo.” The public agreed because he was asked to recreate his film role not once but twice on radio. Here is the first broadcast, a half-hour version from April 19, 1942, with Bette Davis playing the Joan Crawford role, and Bette’s old co-star from her early days at Warner Bros., Warren William. All three stars donated their salaries to the Motion Picture Relief Fund:

The great director D.W. Griffith was rarely heard on radio but made an exception when another great director, Cecil B. DeMille, asked him to appear on DeMille’s show, Lux Radio Theater. The 1930s were a difficult time for Griffith although he was regarded by the film industry as the most influential of the pioneer filmmakers. He was given a special Academy Award but would have much preferred to be given a film to direct instead. No doubt he would have been pleased with this commemorative stamp issued in his honor decades later:
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Let’s join D.W. on June 29, 1936 as Cecil B. DeMille welcomes him:

Marion Davies is remembered today as the mistress of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and as the inspiration for the character of Susan Alexander, the untalented mistress of Orson Welles’ CITIZEN KANE (1941). Welles would spend his later years explaining that he felt Marion Davies was one of the most talented stars of Hollywood, in both silent and sound films, and he made the Susan Alexander character untalented so nobody could claim that she was suppose to be Marion, but alas, it didn’t work out that way.
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Let’s hear Cecil B. DeMille again as he converses with Marion Davies and Brian Aherne at the conclusion of the November 29, 1937 Lux broadcast of PEG O’ MY HEART that Marion had made as a film in 1931. I believe this broadcast turned out to be her last professional appearance, after having made what proved to be her final film earlier in the year. Also, it was said that Marion spoke with a stammer, something that was never heard in any of her sound films. However, you can hear that she is having some difficulty getting through her scripted remarks:

Finally, we have not one but two Barrymores, John and Lionel. The brothers started making films back in 1912 and possibly earlier, to supplement their theater earnings. By the 1920s, the Barrymore Brothers were starring on the New York stage and in big budget films too, although they worked separately during the silent era. Here is one of their joint stage appearances in 1919 in THE JEST, which F. Scott Fitzgerald immortalized in his first novel, This Side of Paradise.
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John in one of his spectacular swashbucklers of the silent screen:
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The talkies held no fear for either Lionel or John, in fact Lionel directed as well as starred in them. Alas, this talkie comedy from 1930, with John and a very young Loretta Young, is lost:
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By the early 1940s each of the Barrymore Brothers had his own weekly radio show but Lionel also made guest appearances on John’s Sealtest Show, which headlined Rudy Vallee, who was responsible for hiring John for the show:
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The Sealtest Show was a slapstick comedy series where the stars and guests were satirized. But just to let listeners know it was all in fun, John and Lionel took time out to perform a scene from Shakespeare’s RICHARD III. Here Rudy Vallee introduces the scene on the May 1, 1941 broadcast:

I passed over shows with all-but-forgotten silent screen stars such as Bert Lytell and Aileen Pringle but just let your ol’ blogmeister know of any requests. And thanks for stopping by.

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