The Conrad Veidt Society
A woman said of him, ''He has wicked eyes. A sinister mouth. Strange hands. His walk
is frightening -
Melvyn Douglas said of him, ''He is a sweet guy, a very gentle gentleman.''
His fan mail is terrific. Mostly from women. Women who find him exciting, and with excitement, say so.
His best friends call him 'Connie.' He lives in a charming, tree-
I told him the things I hear said about him, a confusion of things out of which I
can make no pattern. I said, ''I don't know what to thing -
We made a game of our interview. Mr. Veidt was to pretend to look into a mirror.
The mirror, so to speak, of truth. He was to tell me what he saw there, on the surface
and beneath the surface. He was to speak honestly, without reservations or reticence,
without fear of being misunderstood. The object of the 'game' being that, at the
end, I would be able to determine whether he is 'sadistic' or 'very sweet'; whether
he is 'not quite normal' or 'a very gentle gentleman;' whether there is, in his private
life, or practices, any hint of the demonical quality his roles on the screen suggest;
whether 'something is going on there' -
He looked into the mirror and this is what he saw:
A man six foot, three inches tall, blue eyes, deep socketed, a pale skin, greying hair, an intellectual forehead, an enigmatic mouth, a man built on streamlined, greyhound lines...
He said, smiling, ''It goes back to my eyes, I suppose. Blue eyes, but very deep set. But I think they are two eyes which are quite normal. The shape of the face is long, the nose is long, the mouth is thin. The conformation of the leads to conjecture, no doubt. Perhaps it is the camera that brings to the brain an impression of something not quite normal? But I am to be honest? So I must admit that even in my private life, when people look at me, they are very kind, and say, 'Yes, charming, very nice, but...' There is always a 'but.' There is always a question mark.'
I think the face deceives. I think all faces decieve, I think all faces are masks.
When I look at people myself, I never believe what I see. I do not believe there
is ugliness in any human being -
When I see myself, I see a normal man. I see the soul of a fat, little baby looking at me out of my eyes. Of this, I will tell you later. I see a normal man, because I live my life exactly as other men. A few ywars when I was young that were a bit wild, like other young men. So, that too is normal. I am married. that is normal. I have been divorced. That, too is normal in these times. I have a daughter by my previous marriage, Viola. She is sixteen. She is now at school in Switzerland. Like every father, I am very proud.
I see a man who is without fear -
I see a man who worries. But not about himself. I do not worry about myself at all.
People I have to care for, that's my daughter, her mother; my wife, her parents,
I worry about them. But that, again, is normalcy. All men worry about those they
have in their care. I worry, too, about little children I do not know. And women.
CHildren and women who are the very innocent victims of what is going on -
I see a man -
There are two different kinds of men. There are the men men, what do you call them,
the man's man, who likes men around, who prefers to talk with men, who says the female
can never be impersonal, who takes the female lightly, as playthings. I do not see
a man like that in my mirror. Perhaps, it is because I think the female and the male
attract better than two men, that I prefer to talk with females. I do. I find it
quite as stimulating and distinctly more comfortable. I have a theory about this
I see a man who is a Romanticist, given by nature to excessive sentimentalism. In
the tole of the lover, it is of my nature to be extravagant. When I send flowers,
I would not send one dozen floers, two dozen floers, but SIX! It was my wife who
stopped that. She said, 'We cannot affort that in these times -
For myself, my demands are simple. I don't care how I am dressed. Only for my profession
do I care how I am dressed. I am not one of those men who say, 'I must have 40 suits,
30 pairs of shoes, 20 ties.' I am terrible -
I do not see in this mirror a man who is driving, tyrannical or sadistic. I am afraid
I must disappoint you. I do not see myself as the so-
I see a man who once had a demoniac temper, yes, also. But I have learned to control
it. Or Life has learned that lesson for me. I drive Mrs. Veidt MAD -
It is the same with the frantic attempt to save time. I hate fast driving, because I was once in an accident. When anyone drives me too fast for an appointment, saying, 'but we must step on the gas or you will be late,' I say, 'If you go to fast, how much time do you save? two minutes...three minutes...so what is that?
I must tell you something that will disappoint you...far from being one engaged in
strangle rituals of thought or action, what I like best to do is sit in this small
garden, on this terrace, and -
'But,' people say, 'Life makes its marks on faces'....how then, account for this
face in the mirror which is believed strange? Perhaps, this is so, that Life makes
its mark on our faces. But I say the marks are only on the faces, they are not inward
marks. When I was born -
So, I see a man who learned a lesson -
But to prove my point that such marks are outward, not inward, all that is 'going
on' is that I am now modest, content to be grateful with what God gives me, content
with the simple faith of that fat baby who had not learned to dare -
When I was very young, perhaps sixteen, I wanted to become a doctor. I see that young man too, wanting to be one of the men who fight Life against Death. I admire that young man, and I agree with him. He knew this is a grim fight, and the most gallant men make. He thought so then; he thinks so now. This, too, may have set its mark upon my face. Since the face is bitten, often, I think, with the things men men might have done and might have been, as well as with the things they have done and have been...a dream cuts with a deeper blade than a deed....
Then I became an actor. A free life, the actor's life. I had no responsibility. I
had an easy success. I lived, then, the life of blue champagne and extravagances
and adventures and amours. I became, for a little time, the Great I Am, with the
Normalcy, I think, depends greatly uon the dates on a calendar and -
There is another idea I have...it is true, I think, that, after a while in every
life, there is something very like a circle. The circle is, I think, the Symbol.
And perhaps the Certainty. My first part on the screen as I have said, was a so-
These are the smaller things, small things in the shape of circles, which, I believe, all men find in their lives. But there are also the larger aspects...I began life as a fat baby. There is nothing very sinister in that. I have told you what I am now, in my private life, how I like to sit in the sun and just sit...how I read, play golf, go to the films, control my temper, worry as other men worry...so now I will show you how the circle completes itself; my ideal has always been a farm. Since childhood I have wanted a farm, not too big, a few cows, a few chickens, things growing, barnyard sounds. That is what, one day now, I shall have. So now I look in the mirror and I see...the fat baby, who became the man with the wicked eyes, who became the fat baby again, now a farmer!''
Mr. Veidt laughed. ''That's completing the circle,'' he said. ''and in the completing
of the circle the face in the mirror is, I submit, accounted for -
Conrad Veidt Looks in the Mirror
by Gladys Hall
Silver Screen, Septamber, 1941