Monday, March 30, 2015

WHAT A CHARACTER: PETER LORRE

I am always announcing who may favorites are, but without a doubt my favorite character actor all time was Peter Lorre. His style and accent made him popular with his fans. Born Laszlo Loewenstein in Rosenberg, Austria-Hungary (now Ruzomberok, Slovakia) on June 26, 1904, his parents were Alois and Elvira Lorre. He was educated in Vienna, but at age 17, he ran away from home, working as a bank clerk in Vienna, and then making his acting debut in Zurich, Switzerland.

He was a virtual unknown for seven years, playing bit parts in numerous films in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, until 1931, when German director Fritz Lang cast him as a psychopathic child killer in "M" (1931). After several more German films, the Nazis came to power, and in 1933, he left for Paris, and in 1935, for Hollywood. He was able to find work immediately, and played Raskolnikov in "Crime and Punishment" (1935).

In the late 1930s, he played Japanese sleuth, Mr. Moto, in a series of eight Mr. Moto B films, and became a Hollywood icon after roles in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) and "Casablanca" (1942). In 1938, the Nazis used images of Peter Lorre from "M" in their propaganda film "Der Ewige Jude" ("The Eternal Jew"), to portray Jews in a negative light.

After the war, he went to Germany, where he wrote, directed and starred in "Der Verlorene" ("The Lost One") (1951), paying homage to his former homeland. After that movie, his roles declined, and his last movie was with Jerry Lewis, in "The Patsy" (1964). He was actually the first James Bond villain, playing the role of Le Chiffre, in "Casino Royale" (1954), long before Sean Connery made 007 a hit star in the 1962 film, "Dr. No." He also was in the original "Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea," where he played Commodore Lucius Emory.

He was married three times, first to Celia Lovsky (1934 to March 1945, divorced), then to Karen Verne (25 May 1945 to 1949), and last to Anne Marie Brenning (21 July 1950 until his death). He had one child, a daughter, Catharine, born in 1950. Catharine was almost abducted by the Hillside Stranglers, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, who let her go when they found out she was Peter Lorre's daughter; she discovered this when they were finally caught.


Sadly his daughter died very young. Catharine suffered from juvenile diabetes- As she grew older, complications from her diabetes took a greater toll until in her final year she was hospitalized at Harbor General. At that point, she was suffering vision and circulation problems. She spent upwards of a year there and died shortly after. She died of sepsis and encephalomalacia, complications from diabetes, on May 7, 1985, at age 32. Sadly, unbeknownst to family and friends, she sat in the morgue for nearly a month before funeral arrangements were made.

Peter's voice style was often imitated in films and cartoons, and he was easily one of the most mimicked and caricatured of the Hollywood stars. Once, while he and Vincent Price went to view Bela Lugosi at Bela's funeral, and upon seeing Bela dressed in his famous Dracula cape, quipped "Do you think we should drive a stake through his heart just in case?". Peter Lorre died in failing health after having a stroke on March 23, 1964...

3 comments:

  1. Peter Lorre is always a pleasure to watch. My first recollection of him is in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". I was a teenager when I fell in love with "The Maltese Falcon". His teaming with Sydney Greenstreet in several pictures was a stroke of genius.

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  2. Great actors should be lauded, no matter what era of films they have helped create. Great, simple post about an amazing German actor that gave so much to the German Film industry. Peter Lorre will always be remembered as a wonderful, versatile actor capable of handling so many characters so beautifully on the silver screen.

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