The Conrad Veidt Society


March 26, 1998


When Vivienne Phillips was a teenager she fell in love with a movie star called Conrad Veidt.

Now, 55 years after his death, and by a bizarre set of coincidences, the pensioner from Hendon has become responsible for finding him a final resting place in Golders Green Crematorium.

Conrad Veidt made his name playing alongside screen greats like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Joan Crawford in A Woman's Face. His sudden death while playing golf in 1943 shocked the film world, and Vivienne, having just dumped Errol Flynn, was devastated.

''When his wife died in 1980 she willed all her belongings, including Conrad's ashes, to a nephew in California. A biographer got in touch with the nephew and asked if he could have a look and that's when the ashes were discovered,'' Vivienne explained.

From that moment on, Vivienne,now 71, began a collection which is thought to be the largest in Britain. The most significant development, however, came ten years ago when she discovered the Conrad Veidt Society, and with it Conrad's remains.

Last year the Society issued a plea to fans saying the ashes needed a permanent home. Vivienne wrote back suggesting Golders Green Crematorium. The Society loved the idea and the placement will take place next Friday.

For Vivienne, it's a wish come true. ''When I learnt his ashes were stuck in a basement, I thought it was appalling. I must say I'm rather chuffed. He will now be with people he starred with such as Vivien Leigh and his friend, Sir Alexander Korda.''

For more information on Conrad Veidt tap into the Net at:

(Photo not reproduced here: Conrad Veidt and Joan Crawford in A Woman's Face


Friday April 3 1998

The man best remembered as the Nazi villain in Casablanca was, in real life, blacklisted by Hitler. Even stranger, 50 years after his death, his ashes are being laid to rest in Golders Green. Claire Armistead on the rise and fall of Conrad Veidt.

A handful of people will today gather at Golders Green Cemetery to inter an urnful of ashes. Nothing strange in that - except that these ashes have been hanging around for more than half a century and have traveled half way round the world to reach what, even now, may not prove to be their final resting place. They are the remains of the great German film actor Conrad Veidt and his third wife, Lilli. The arrival of the Art Deco urn in London marks the end of an odyssey as bizarre in its way as any of the films in which Veidt starred during his brilliant

Veidt - for those who don't remember his name - was the Nazi villain Major Strasser, in Casablanca, the one Bogart guns down at the airport. In an earlier era, he also starred as the evil sleepwalker Cesare in The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, his gaunt, lop sided form becoming one of the lasting emblems of German expressionism astride its jagged scrap-metal landscape. He made some 100 films in a career that spanned 30 years, sweeping from Germany in the early years of the century, via a stint in London, to Hollywood. George Cukor saluted his talent and Joan Crawford, who co-starred with him twice, claimed him as her inspiration. ''I had never seen an actor with such concentration and purpose,'' she said. The story of Veidt's rise and fall and rise is a strange and sobering one which is beginning to spread beyond the 150-or-so members of the Conrad Veidt society. On one of two Internet sites devoted to him, an American fan asks: ''Did Garbo have a male counterpart? I answer: yes, yes, yes. His name was Hans Walter Conrad Veidt.'' He has a whole chapter devoted to him in a new book of essays about the hidden history of the British film industry in the 1930s.

It's typical of his story that the Conrad Veidt society was only set up eight years ago - 47 years after he died, on a golf-course, of a heart attack. For all his brilliance, Veidt had the misfortune to be born in a nation that was to lose itself for most of his adult life in fascism and war. "When he came to the States, he didn't get the leading men roles that people would have wanted for him," says Jim Rathlesberger, a 50-year-old civil servant from Sacramento, who founded the Conrad Veidt Society in 1990. (Their website: is here)

The Rathlesbergers became fascinated in Veidt after seeing him on television in Dark Journey, with Vivien Leigh. Rathlesberger, who claims not to be a movie buff, recalls his first encounter with Veidt like a teenager reliving love at first sight. ''There's that great scene when he's slapped across the face, and his face changes from pain to shock to recovery and his monocle stays in place without its ribbon. We were attracted because of his suave sophistication and his elegance,'' he says. ''Now we value his courage and integrity. As a civil servant, I see lots of people making compromises they shouldn't. These are small things. Veidt wouldn't compromise, even over big things.''

Connie Comes Home

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