Born László Löwenstein in 1904 in what was then Rózsahegy, Hungary, versatile character actor Peter Lorre rose from humble beginnings to stand among the brightest lights of old Hollywood’s celebrity aristocracy! You need look no further than Mr. Lorre’s impressive IMDb page to appreciate the amazing accomplishments of his storied career.
Stephen D. Youngkin’s wonderful The Lost One : A Life Of Peter Lorre details the actor’s sometimes tumultuous professional and personal life. Typecast early as a brooding psychopath, Mr. Lorre played the effete criminal Joel Cairo in the film adaptation of Dashiell Hammet’s Maltese Falcon. A year later, in 1942, he played a small, but important part as the thief Ugarte in the classic romance Casablanca. He did get to play the hero a few times, including opposite Sidney Greenstreet in the criminally under appreciated The Mask of Dimitrios, a 1944 film that the Carnegie Library system only has available on VHS at a couple of our suburban partner libraries. Tedd Sennet writes about this unlikely pair in his amazing book, Masters Of Menace : Greenstreet And Lorre.
Mr. Lorre died on March 24, 1964, and was by all accounts a kind and gentle man whose uneven career ultimately fell prey to his own success. We should remember him on his birthday as a diligent worker and a consummate professional. Now I think it’s time to watch the Maltese Falcon again!
5 responses to “Happy Birthday, Peter Lorre!”
Or Arsenic and Old Lace.
For a lighter side of Lorre, catch him in My Favorite Brunette, with Dorothy Lamour & Bob Hope!
Peter Lorre, one of my favorites!
I remember seeing “M” at a film revival some years back. He was also a great Bad Guy – but luckily, never had to reprise that role.
Way back When, when comedians used to do impressions, one of the lines they used was “I didn’t want to kill him, I just wanted to hide my knife ,
He also paired with Vincent Price: The Raven (1963), Tales of Terror (1962), The Comedy of Terrors (1963), maybe more. That was definitely an “odd couple”. I remember one scene (but not the movie) where Price and Lorre have a contest to see who can identify some wines. Price goes through the whole wine-tasting routine – little silver spoon, sniffing, sipping, concentrating hard, getting it right. Then Lorre puts the next wine in a water glass, downs it in one gulp, then identifies it down to which side of the vineyard the grapes came from.
Those were the days.
How about the “Man From the South” episode of Twilight Zone with Steve McQueen? Lorre makes a wager with McQueen over the reliability of his lighter. If it fails, Lorre cuts off one of McQueen’s fingers. Love it!