Thursday, January 27, 2011

Conrad Veidt in The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935)

Conrad Veidt appeared in an unusual allegorical fantasy, The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935), just after moving to Great Britain in the 1930s from his native Germany. This interesting film is the topic of this week's Movie Morlocks blog posting on the TCM website. An exploration of this remarkable actor's life and his role in this film begins below:

“What are you?,” asks the blunt landlady when a new guest arrives unexpectedly on the doorstep of her boarding house in The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935). Filmgoers and filmmakers had been attempting to answer that question since they first spied this tall enigma in front of a camera, starting from the moment when Cesare the somnambulist opened his extraordinary eyes in the expressionist horror classic, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919).  “I am a wanderer,” Conrad Veidt’s nameless character replies quietly, reminding the viewer of his role as The Wandering Jew in an earlier Gaumont-British film, which marked what was roughly Veidt‘s one hundredth appearance on screen. “I live so out of the world,” he explains, further unsettling the chattering woman.

In truth, the cosmopolitan, German-born actor, whose birthday falls on Saturday, January 22nd, was very much “of the world,” involved in the tumult of his era, but able to hone his gifts to such a point of transcendence, he achieved an international stardom. He could illuminate humanity’s sinister side, but made viewers recognize the human being inside the often troubling characters he brought to life with such exquisite understanding. Ultimately, as Veidt’s friend and contemporary, producer Eric Pommer, once commented, “It is hard to say what was more to be admired in him, his artistry or his humanity.”
More on the TCM Movie Morlocks...

Below is a sequence marking the arrival of The Stranger (Conrad Veidt) in the quarrelsome boarding house in Bloomsbury Square, London:


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