statement precedes the articles published over four weeks from October
14th to November 4th, 1933, in the Sunday Dispatch, and is
signed by Conrad Veidt:
I have agreed at last to publish my "confession".
This is a most sober and important occasion for me. I do
want everyone to realise that my story has nothing to do with any kind
of so-called publicity.
I have had many offers for the publication of the usual "life
story", and I have always had to refuse. This story is as I have told it
privately to a personal friend, and I have agreed to allow her to set it
down. There is no question of payment. It would be impossible for me to
sell the feelings of the man Conrad Veidt.
The story appears once and will appear in no other form..
These are my reasons for allowing the publication: I wish, naturally
to prevent the possibility that someone may write an accidental, superficial,
incomplete and perhaps untrue picture of me. But the main reason for my
consent is a feeling of sincerest gratitude.
Recently so many people have paid me tribute for my work, have
given me their sympathy and even their friendship - and with it their feelings
- that in grateful exchange I dare now speak about myself.
Statement by "Sunday Dispatch":
Conrad Veidt, one of the truly great actors of the screen, tells
his story. He has allowed a personal friend to set it down as he
told it, privately. He will hear of no payment. All he demands now that
at long last he is allowing his story to be told, is that he shall read
every word of it to make sure that it is accurate. Every word is
carefully scrutinised by Conrad Veidt, to make sure the story is accurate
in fact and in spirit.
THE STORY OF CONRAD VEIDT
SUNDAY DISPATCH, OCTOBER 1934
I was not born with a monocle in my eye. I am not anything you may have
imagined after seeing my pictures. Believe me, I am the ordinary
human being, the usual complex, insulated, mysterious, many-sided bewildered
mixture that is each of us. The years and much experience of living
have helped me to acquire a simple philosophy. I am indifferent if
my spinach is leaf or creamed; if I work to fatiguing point or spend
days doing nothing; if I smoke fifty cigarettes a day or none at all;
if it rains or shines; if the dentist hurts, or the shoe pinches,
or I secure a bargain......
I could go on like this for a long time, but these stray sentences selected
at random from my thoughts will show that I have learned to accept all
as it comes, discarding the bad, garnering the good with the same kind
of outlook. Other men have hobbies. They collect stamps, pictures,
china, play golf or bridge or go to the movies. I am not like this.
I specialise in no branch of life, and I have few preferences, few active
dislikes. If you were to ask me at this moment what gets under my
skin and annoys me, I don't think I should be able to tell you.
The one thing I look for
everywhere is beauty. I find it everywhere, and in almost every person.
A lovely painting, a good book, or music moves me. It has a life
of its own. But I get just as satisfying a thrill when I look at
streets wet with rain or see a typist's quick fingers traveling with precision
over her keyboard. I am told so often that I have come to believe
it - almost - that I am regarded as a screen lover. Why, I wonder
? I have not specialised in this either. But for the admiration
I get from women, I am grateful. I feel diffident when they write
to me in terms of deepest affection. But the diffidence is submerged
by a deeper feeling of pleasure and humility. Women don't do this
just because you are a film star whom they imagine to be a great lover.
It is because in some small way you have been privileged to bring, perhaps
for just a moment, some spark of romance or glamour into their lives.
I receive letters which say something like this: 'Before I saw your shadow
performances I was unhappy. There seemed nothing in life for me.
In some way you have given me something to live for.' Nobody could
help being humble before such a confession. A screen actor gets no
immediate applause and public acclaim. The critics and his fan mail
are the barometer by which he sets the weather of his popularity.
My fan letters are perhaps the usual illuminating collection of every actor.
But I am grateful for any letter and I am proud of the letters of constructive
criticism and suggestion which are in the mail every day and which are
handled personally by me and by the most important person in the world
who is secretary, counsellor, friend, mother and lover. in other words,
Lili Veidt, my wife.
Looking back across the years, so many pictures
flash on the screen of my memory that just as I begin to see one clearly,
another slides in, blotting out the first, itself to be pushed aside by
the next and the next and the next. So that I am left with a confused
piece of tapestry where the design should be really bold and vivid.
For my life has been like that, straightforward, steady, myself moving
against the simplest, most direct background. For I refuse to take
any credit for my success. I have been exceptionally fortunate in
four respects. I had burning ambition; which takes you a quarter
of the way. I had a will to succeed so highly developed that it became
stronger than myself. I have been exceptionally lucky. I never
had to go on tour or struggle for a job, or starve in a garret, or wait
for the lucky break, or serve any other apprenticeship than in one of the
finest schools of acting in the world, the Deutsches Theatre, owned and
run by Max Reinhardt, whom I regard as the greatest stage genius of our
time. I learned the technique of my job among the really great German
actors and personalities - Krauss, Lubitsch, Jannings, Murnau, and others
like them. And finally - perhaps in seeking the reasons for my acting
success I should have named this first - there is a strange power which
comes into me, magically, it seems, and transmutes not only my inner but
my physical being when I am called upon to express myself on the stage
or before the camera. It is difficult to speak of this. Yet
it is the most authentic thing I have experienced. It is precisely
as though I were possessed by some other spirit when I enter on a new task
of acting, as though something within me presses a switch and my own consciousness
merges into some other, greater, more vital being.
The most prosaic of us
have our articles of faith, some of us call them fetishes or superstitions.
This transmutation of my own spirit is my paramount article of faith.
In many actors the man and the actor are so indistinguishable that you
can hardly tell where the man begins and the actor leaves off. Not
so with me. Perhaps because of this quality I have tried to describe
the man in me is sharply divided from the actor. And here, looking
back at the picture taking shape in my mind, the pattern becomes even more
blurred. I see that my own nature has woven its own curious curves
and colours into the austerity of the design. Four women and one
child have been the dominating influences in my life.
But let me begin the story as it started in
a little house in North Berlin on January 22, 1893.
My birth neither shook the German Empire nor
caused much of an upheaval in the home. It pleased mother, caused
father a certain amount of pride and my elder brother the usual fraternal
jealousy of a hitherto only son. My father was the equivalent of
a Civil Servant in this country. The typical father and husband of the
middle class believing in two things - God and his country. He adored
his wife and family. His ambition was to give us the best education
he could afford and a good start in life. Like many fathers, he was
affectionately autocratic in his home life, strict, idealistic. He was
almost fanatically conservative. It was one of the greatest sorrows
of his life when I became an actor.
Of my mother it is not so easy to write.
Although she died many years ago, I cannot think of her for a fleeting
second without the deepest emotion. She was everything in the world
to me. From the time that my elder brother died at nine years old
she poured out on me all her love and exquisite understanding. She
was protective inspiring, helpful, tolerant, friendly and loving.
Our relationship was perfect. Her influence on my life had been incalculable.
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Midi file: "En bâteau" (32k) from the "Petite Suite" by Debussy
performed by Shinichiro Iida
Page uploaded by Gilda Tabarez
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