"The Last Performance" (1929)

A Universal Picture
Directed by Paul Fejos
New York premiere on October 13, 1929.
It was made in two versions - a silent version and a Movietone version with a musical score, sound effects and talking sequences. The sound version was 6, 171 feet, and the silent version was 5,999 feet in length. The silent version was reviewed by Variety at the Little Carnegie Theater in New York City during November, 1929.

Cast: Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin, Leslie Fenton, Fred Mackaye, Gustav Partos, William H. Turner, Anders Randolf, Sam De Grasse, and George Irving.

Erik (Conrad Veidt), a foreign magician, loves Julie (Mary Philbin), his assistant, although he is more than 20 years her senior. HE keeps Buffo, another assistant, under his hypnotic power. Mark Royce, a vagrant and starving youth caught stealing in
Erik's apartment, is taken in at the suggestion of Julie, and he becomes Erik's protege.

Preparing at a New York hotel for a tour, Erik gives a birthday party for Julie planning to announce their engagement. Julie conceals her love for Mark. Erik's assistant, the wildly jealous Buffo, who also loves Julie, shows Erik a meeting of Julie and Mark embracing in a garden.

During the opening performance in which Mark does a sword trick, Buffo is killed and Mark becomes the logical suspect . . .

The movie received mixed reviews.

The New York Times, November 8, 1929: " After a swarm of more or less noble song-and-dance men who have appeared on the screen since the launching of those plays, 'Broadway' and 'Burlesque,' it is somewhat of a relief to find that the dominant figure of 'The Last Performance,' a silent film now at the Little Carnegie Playhouse, is not a hoofer, but a sinister magician and hypnotist. The production which was made some time ago by Dr. Paul Fejos at the Universal studio, was probably Conrad Veidt's last performance in Hollywood before returning to work in Germany. Dr. Fejos has handled his scenes with no small degree of imagination. Mr. Veidt's clever acting and Mary Philbin's captivating charm, this picture holds one's attention. Moreover, the narrative is developed with a certain force and skill. While some of the straight camera work is not up to scratch, there are a number of photographic feats that are quite effective. It is a picture that looks older than it really is, especially in the tinted portions where one goes from an amber interior scene to an azure blue night in the open."

Variety, November 22, 1929: "This is Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin's swan song for Universal, contracts for neither being renewed. This picture was produced as a part talker with dialog in the last reel only, but is released at the Little Carnegie (Artie) in the silent version, dialog reel apparently not standing up in opinion with Universal's heads. 'Last Performance' is one of the draggiest pictures ever made with the photography of the poorest. Apparently, Paul Fejos was up against handicaps at the start, and with a story that is more foreign than domestic in brand, he sought to give it the German touch. Photography of the subdued type as in 'Sunrise' and 'Street Angel' (both Fox) was one of the results, another the deliberate manner in which the picture moves. 'Last Performance' opens in Europe and ends in America, but all of it in every way looks like Europe and its picture product."

Photoplay, 1929: "Conrad Veidt as a magician in a much over-acted and over-directed film. Part talkie. "

"The Last Performance" was the last American silent film for Conrad Veidt who had decided to return to Germany with a few other Hollywood actors with the coming of sound. Veidt had been under contract with Universal at a salary of $2,000 per week, and Carl Laemmle, Sr., the head of Universal Studios, was unable to change Veidt's mind. Laemmle, in an attempt to hold on to Veidt, promised him various roles including the role of Dracula, which eventually went to Bela Lugosi. "The Last Performance" was shot on the sets that were used for "The Phantom Of The Opera," and the film contains an early zoom effect when the camera rushes down to Eric's cabinet just as it is opened after the sword trick.

Although the quality of the print leaves a lot to be desired it is the
best print that I have seen.

Conrad Veidt by Jerry C. Allen
The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films, 1921-1930

copyright 2002 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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