THE LAST MOVIE of the 20’s for Universal would also be the last performance from German actor, Conrad Veidt for Hollywood when he would return to his home country.
So the title for the film is quite fitting in this respect.
Veidt had already established himself as an actor of his time and has featured in our previous article on The Man Who Laughs, a movie where his facial make-up would bear a fixed grin.
For The Last Performance, Veidt’s portrayal of the sinister magician, Erik the Great is all delivered through the eyes with numerous close-ups to support this.
It’s a stark contrast to the role he played in the afore-mentioned The Man Who Laughs, which is a testament to Veidt’s acting prowess.
In this role, he is a more dominant and commanding figure on the stage, with a level of authority that has come from his abilities as a magician and the magnitude of his success because of it.
So righteous is he, that it seems only natural for him to hold sway over his beautiful assistant, Julie, aptly played by Mary Philbin (The Phantom of the Opera, The Man Who Laughs).
So when a young guy (Mark) enters the scene, trying to steal from Erik, the magician initially takes pity on him and takes him under his wing.
This enrages Erik’s current apprentice, Buffo, who looks to bring down this new protege by any means possible.
Jealousy, love and deception are the names of the game in this film and despite its short running time, packs a lot into the story to make you feel for all the parties involved.
So when Buffo ends up murdered on stage during a magic trick, all eyes are on the new boy in town.
But true love is emboldened as Julie defends her man, leaving Erik to decide who’s fate he should hold power over.
It’s a gem of a movie, held high because of the performance that Veidt brings to every scene that he is in, which is a shame knowing that this was his last in America.
Well worth a watch for any fans of the silent film genre to witness a true master of his craft at work.
- Paul Farrell