Peter Lorre

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Peter Lorre, 1946, by Yousuf Karsh

Peter Lorre (June 26, 1904March 23, 1964) was a Hungarian-born actor known both for playing criminals (particularly psychopaths) and comic roles.

He was born Ladislav (László) Löwenstein in Rózsahegy/Rosenberg, Austria-Hungary, which is now Ruzomberok, Slovakia. His parents were Alois and Elvira, and he was the eldest son in their German-speaking Jewish family. He began acting on stage in Vienna, Austria; Breslau, Germany; and Zürich, Switzerland. At age 21 he moved to Berlin and caught the attention of German playwright Bertolt Brecht. Lorre became famous when Fritz Lang cast him as the child killer in his 1931 film M. Scenes from that film were re-used by the Nazi propaganda agencies in the anti-Semitic movie Der ewige Jude. None of his films were in Hungarian.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Lorre moved from Berlin to Paris to London where he played a villainous role in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. Eventually, he went to Hollywood where he played Dr. Gogol in Mad Love and Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment in 1935. Typecast as a villain, he found no shortage of work. As a hero, he starred in a series of Mr. Moto movies, a parallel to the better known Charlie Chan series, in which he played a Japanese detective. He also had significant roles in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1943). In 1941, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Lorre directed a single film, Der Verlorene (The Lost One) (1951), a low-budget film noir. It remains something of a neglected masterwork, filmed on location in the ruins of postwar Germany from Lorre's own novel.

For some years, Lorre suffered severely from gall-bladder problems, for which he was prescribed morphine. During his early career in Hollywood, Lorre was an addict, and he could often be found scurrying away between shoots to satisfy his habit. It was only during the Mr. Moto series that he finally managed to overcome his addiction. There are references, however, to him taking up the addiction again later in life.

After the 1940s, Lorre began to gain weight and played lesser roles, with the exception of Skeeter the clown in the 1959 movie The Big Circus. He was technically the first actor to portray a Bond villain, playing Le Chiffre in the CBS teleplay of Casino Royale. Lorre's caricature was frequently used in Warner Brothers cartoons, and his persona was used as the basis of the character Flat Top in the Dick Tracy cartoons. Even after his death, his distinctive voice has continued to inspire new characters, notably Ren from Ren and Stimpy.

Peter Lorre died in 1964 and was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood.

Lorre has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6619 Hollywood Boulevard.

Lorre is the subject of a new biography by Stephen D. Youngkin titled The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre (

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The Lost One


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Lorre in M (1931)

External links

es:Peter Lorre sv:Peter Lorre fr:Peter Lorre


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