Tell me you wouldn't want to invite that dude over for dinner this weekend. This may belong in the "Things You Already Know File", but for those who don't ... Conrad Veidt was a German actor whose role in the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs is said to be one of the main inspirations for the appearance of the Joker. In the film, Veidt plays a character named Gwynplaine whose father offends King James II and is sentenced to death via iron maiden (the torture device, not the metal band). Gwynplaine, because of his father's actions, is then forced to have a surgeon permanently disfigure his face so that -- as a title card states -- he'll be condemned "to laugh forever at his fool of a father." It's a freaky premise, and Roger Ebert once said of the film that it's a "a melodrama, at times even a swashbuckler, but so steeped in Expressionist gloom that it plays like a horror film."
Anyway, as the legend goes, Bill Finger -- co-creator of Batman -- is said to have brought this picture to Bob Kane, and that Veidt's creepy grin -- along with a Joker playing card -- is what kicked the whole thing off. That playing card, however, was given to Kane by Jerry Robinson, who also claims to have created the Joker. Either way, judging from that image of Veidt up above, I think it's pretty obvious that mug had a lot to do with one of the greatest villains of all time, and, honestly, I think it's pretty awesome that all these years later the comic book character is still relevant enough to earn an actor an Oscar. So thanks Mr. Veidt. You sure as hell look creeptacular, but you did good. Real good. Check out more images from the original 1928 film below.