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Peter Lorre

Mostly Credited As: Peter Lorre
Birth Name: László Löwenstein
Date Of Birth: June 26, 1904 (Age 59)
Country Of Birth: Slovakia (Slovak Republic)
Birth Place: Rózsahegy, Austria-Hungary [now Ruzomberok, Slovak
Date Of Death: March 23, 1964
Cause Of Death: Stroke (Los Angeles, California)
Height: 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Peter Lorre


Few screen actors have ever had as powerful a first film as Peter Lorre's M (1931), made in Germany by Fritz Lang. He is positively mesmerizing as the pathetic child murderer, delivering an unforgettable performance that made him an internationally recognized personality if not a major star. He was a peculiar little man, almost gnomelike, with moon face, bulging eyes, and gapped teeth, and as good a character actor as ever worked in Hollywood. He fled Germany in the early 1930s, appearing in both British and American films, including two directed by Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and Secret Agent (1936).

With his florid portrayal of a mad doctor in the Grand Guignol-like Mad Love (1935), Lorre took Hollywood-then in the midst of its first talkie horror cycle-by storm. That same year he played Raskolnikov in von Sternberg's uneven Crime and Punishment-and he was off and running. At 20th Century-Fox, Lorre was cast as Japanese sleuth Mr. Moto in eight B films made from 1937 to 1939, of which Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937) was the best. He also had memorable roles in bottom-of-the-bill pictures, some of which were little gems: 1940's The Stranger on the Third Floor for example, was an excellent short thriller with more than a touch of German Expressionism in its visual style. But Lorre's real breakthrough with American audiences came with his oily performance as sinister but fastidious Joel Cairo in John Huston's adaptation of The Maltese Falcon (1941). (He shared other memorable moments with Falcon star Humphrey Bogart in 1942's Casablanca

Lorre and Falcon menace Sydney Greenstreet were seen as a great screen team, and they subsequently appeared together in several films such as 1944's The Mask of Dimitrios and 1946's The Verdict and Three Strangers (He became, during this period, arguably the most mimicked and caricatured actor in movies.) As his career in character roles progressed, he began to show his comic talents more, sending up his sinister persona in the likes of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and My Favorite Brunette (1947). And he was a droll delight in Huston's parodic Beat the Devil (1954). In 1951 he returned to Germany to write, direct, and act in the rarely seen but highly regarded Die Verlorene (The Lost One a drama of betrayal set in World War 2. Lorre aged poorly during the 1950s; he grew puffy and tiredlooking, and he seemed increasingly to be walking through films such as Congo Crossing (1956) and The Big Circus (1959). A frequent television guest star (whose credits ranged from a live dramatic production of Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale" in 1954 to a famous "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episode opposite Steve McQueen), he rounded out his film career teamed with Boris Karloff and Vincent Price in both The Raven (1963) and The Comedy of Terrors (1964), in which he was very funny indeed. In fact, his performance as the half-man, halfraven endeared Lorre to a whole new generation of fans.

OTHER FILMS INCLUDE: 1937: Lancer Spy 1941: The Face Behind the Mask 1942: The Boogie Man Will Get You 1943: Background to Danger 1944: Passage to Marseille 1945: Confidential Agent 1946: Black Angel, The Beast With Five Fingers 1948: Casbah 1954: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1956: Around the World in Eighty Days 1957: Silk Stockings 1961: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea 1964: The Patsy (his last).

Copyright © 1994 Leonard Maltin

TV Appearances

Episode Cast Credits 

Kraft Suspense Theatre (1963) 
  The End of the World, Baby 01x03: (Oct/24/1963) As Frederick Bergen 

77 Sunset Strip (1958) 
  5 (5) 06x05: (Oct/18/1963) As Gypsy 
  5 (4) 06x04: (Oct/11/1963) As Gypsy 
  5 (3) 06x03: (Oct/04/1963) As Gypsy 
  5 (2) 06x02: (Sep/27/1963) As Gypsy 
  5 (1) 06x01: (Sep/20/1963) As Gypsy 

The Jack Benny Program (1950) 
  Peter Lorre/Joanie Sommers Show 13x17: (Jan/22/1963) As Himself, [Special Guest Stars]

Route 66 (1960) (1960) 
  Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing 03x06: (Oct/26/1962) As Himself 

The Gertrude Berg Show (1961) 
  The First Test 01x02: (Oct/11/1961) As Dr. Kestner 

Checkmate (1960) 
  The Human Touch 01x15: (Jan/14/1961) As Alonzo Pace Graham 

Rawhide (1959) 
  Incident of the Slavemaster 03x05: (Nov/11/1960) As Victor Laurier, [Special Guest Stars]

Wagon Train (1957) 
  The Alexander Portlass Story 03x23: (Mar/16/1960) As Alexander Portlass, [Special Guest Stars]

Playhouse 90 (1956) 
  The Cruel Day 04x11: (Feb/24/1960) As Cafe Owner 
  Turn Left at Mount Everest 02x29: (Mar/27/1958) As Tenzig 
  The Jet Propelled Couch 02x10: (Nov/14/1957) As Dr. Ostrow 
  The Last Tycoon 01x24: (Mar/14/1957) As Pete Zavras 
  Sizeman and Son 01x03: (Oct/18/1956) As Karp 

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) (1955) 
  Man from the South 05x15: (Jan/03/1960) As Carlos 
  The Diplomatic Corpse 03x10: (Dec/08/1957) As Tomas Salgado 

Kraft Music Hall (1958) 
  Peter Lorre / Janis Paige / George Arnold Ice Revue 01x11: (Dec/24/1958) As Himself 

Climax! (1954) 
  A Taste for Crime 03x36: (Jun/20/1957) As Benny Kellerman 
  The Man Who Lost His Head 02x40: (Jul/26/1956) As Ho 
  The Fifth Wheel 02x20: (Feb/09/1956) As Normie 
  A Promise to Murder 02x10: (Nov/17/1955) As Vorhees 
  Casino Royale 01x03: (Oct/21/1954) As Le Chiffre 

The 20th Century-Fox Hour (1955) 
  Operation Cicero 02x07: (Dec/26/1956) As Moyzisch 

The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) 
  John Huston Tribute 09x41: (Jul/01/1956) As Himself 

Studio 57 (1954) 
  The Finishers 02x22: (Jan/28/1956) As Heitzer 

The Best Of Broadway (1954) 
  Arsenic and Old Lace 01x05: (Jan/05/1955) As Dr. Einstein 

Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1951) 
  The Pipe 04x03: (Sep/24/1954) As guest star 

Suspense (US) (1949) 
  The Tortured Hand 05x15: (Dec/16/1952) As guest star 

The Lux Video Theatre (1950) 
  Taste 02x32: (Mar/31/1952) As Richard Pratt 

The Milton Berle Show (1948) 
  Season 4, Episode 27 04x27: (Mar/18/1952) As Himself 
  Season 1, Episode 41 01x41: (Mar/15/1949) As Himself 
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Trivia

Was close friends with famed German playwright Berthold Brecht.

Suffered from diabetes and morphine addiction.

On the date of his death in 1964, Lorre was scheduled to appear at a divorce hearing from his third wife.

Appeared briefly as a character in J. D. Salinger's classic novel Catcher in the Rye.

Close friends with fellow Warner Brothers star Humphrey Bogart.

George Raft reportedly punched Lorre out on the set once because he felt the diminutive actor was deliberately trying to steal a scene from him.

In the 1970's daughter Catharine narrowly escaped death at the hands of serial killers Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi--the Night Stalkers.

First English language film was Alfred Hitchcock's 1934 suspense classic The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Final film was The Patsy, released in 1964, in which he co-starred with Jerry Lewis.

The trademark of Lorre's child murderer in M was his whistle but in real life Lorre couldn't whistle so director Fritz Lang did the deed instead.

More Trivia
Peter Lorre Quotes
Lorre: (about his daughter Catharine) She looks just like me only on her it looks good.

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