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Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine from 1928’s ‘The Man Who Laughs,’ the Inspiration for Joker

Conrad Veidt is the O.G. Joker.

Conrad Veidt as Gwynplain in The Man Who Laughs
Conrad Veidt as Gwynplain in The Man Who Laughs

Conrad Veidt is a certified gangster in both film and life.

You may know him from the quintessential German Expressionist film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920), or “The Man Who Laughs” (1928), or “Casablanca” (1942).

In real life, the Berlin-born actor openly denounced Nazism when the party took over, self-identified as Jewish even though he wasn’t, and eventually got banned from acting by none other than Hermann Goering himself.

His legacy continues to live on not only through his work, but serving as the original inspiration for the character of the Joker.

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As Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson began creating characters for the Batman No. 1 comic book, Robinson produced a joker playing card, suggesting it be turned into a villainous persona. Finger then produced a book with still photos of Veidt as Gwynplaine. They combined the two, and the rest is history.

Go ahead and admire the photo of this great man and for bonus material, check out a short but compelling documentary on 1928’s “The Man Who Laughs” below.