'The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre' by Stephen D. Youngkin

The Lost One:
A Life of
Peter Lorre



Chapter 3

Peter Lorre's
(A Sample)

Critics Are
Saying . . .

The Author

What's New!


Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre:
The Man,
The Actor


Photo Album

Poster Art



Radio Programs


Sitting for publicity photos was a common enough chore for film actors. Admittedly, starring players earned the greatest number of close-ups. As Lorre moved from featured player to character actor, he spent less time in the stills gallery. Portraits from the Columbia and Fox years are relatively common.

However, those from the Warner Bros. period, where he played mostly character roles (because of “lack of height and good looks,” according to studio head Jack Warner), are much rarer. Lorre didn’t mind being overlooked by studio publicists. In fact, he hated having his picture taken and felt that such exposure should be reserved for the “beautiful” people.

Except where noted, all photos are from the collection of Stephen Youngkin.
For a larger image, click on the thumbnail. A new window will open.

Celia Lovsky, Peter Lorre and Berthold Viertel, 1936

Celia Lovsky, Peter Lorre and German screenwriter and film director Berthold Viertel arrive in New York aboard the S.S. Washington on April 29, 1936. Lorre had recently finished work on Secret Agent (1936) with Alfred Hitchcock at Gaumont-British in London.

Peter Lorre and Celia Lovsky, July 1936

In April 1936, after Peter wrapped work on Alfred Hitchcock’s Secret Agent, he and Celia returned to the United States aboard the S.S. Washington. Several weeks later, they found themselves pictured (along with radio singer Morton Downey, actor Douglas Fairbanks, and Princess Helga of Lowenstein) on the “Who’s Who on American Liners” page of The Ocean Ferry (June 1936), published monthly by the International Mercantile Marine Company – Roosevelt Steamship Co.

Peter Lorre, mid-1930s

20th Century-Fox confined Lorre to featured and supporting roles. However, at least one studio photographer explored his possibilities as a leading man, a side destined to remain hidden.

Peter Lorre, 1937

Another in the series of 20th Century-Fox character studies exploring other sides of the actor.

Peter Lorre, mid-1930s

Although Peter Lorre felt he didn’t belong in movie magazines, studio photographers often put him there in publicity stills that captured a likeable, even debonair, portrait.

Peter Lorre, 1937

Lorre told people he thought he looked like a frog. Little wonder, then, that he hated going to the stills gallery and sitting for photos. However many (and creative) his excuses, he played the publicity game, albeit reluctantly. As he explained it, he just wasn’t the glamorous type.

Lorre, McLaglen, and Mr. and Mrs. 
        Dean, 1937

After learning that Lorre was an avid wrestling fan, a Fox publicist got out a press release stating that when “Man Mountain” Dean wrestles, the actor is on hand in Dean’s corner and acts as his “unofficial second.” Here, Dean, with his wife, visits the set of Nancy Steele is Missing! (1937) to act as Lorre’s second when he sees action against Victor McLaglen. Said Lorre to Dean: “I go to the wrestling matches to learn about acting. I hope you didn’t come to the studio for the opposite reason.”

Peter Lorre and Victor McLaglen, 1937

At odds in Nancy Steele is Missing! (1937), Peter Lorre and Victor McLaglen share a friendly moment off-camera. After cancellation of the stage play Napoleon the First, in which Lorre was set to star, the actor suffered a ruptured eardrum during his flight from New York to Los Angeles and reportedly had to depend on lip-reading to get his cues the first several days of production.

Peter Lorre and Aaron Rosenberg, 1937

In make-up and costume as “Major Sigfried Gruning” behind the cameras for Lancer Spy (20th Century-Fox, 1937), Peter Lorre consults with Aaron Rosenberg, Assistant Director on the film. A “thank you” goes out to Janet Fuentes for identifying Mr. Rosenberg for us.

Peter Lorre, Dolores Del Rio and George Sanders, 1937

Behind-the-scenes on Lancer Spy (1937) with Peter Lorre, Dolores Del Rio, and George Sanders in costume on the “hotel suite” set.

Peter Lorre, 1937

Lorre’s thumbs-up nicely captures his attitude toward the popular Japanese sleuth early in the Mr. Moto series. For the pursued to become the pursuer, he told the press, was just the kind of role reversal he was looking for. However, growing disenchantment with typecasting turned to outright hostility over the years – so much so that anyone who brought up Mr. Moto soon regretted it.

Peter Lorre, 1937

If the Swedish-born Warner Oland could convincingly portray the Chinese Charlie Chan, why not a Hungarian actor in the role of Japanese detective Mr. Moto? What mattered less to producer Sol Wurtzel than the country cross-over was the fact that Lorre’s mysterious screen image tallied nicely with the cryptic nature of the Moto character. The publicity department quickly fell in line, capturing a side of the movie-made persona that hinted at things better left unknown.

Peter Lorre and Delmar Costello, 1937

Peter Lorre and his stand-in, Delmar Costello, take a break while working on Thank You, Mr. Moto (Fox, 1937), the third Moto film for both men. According to a press release, the diminutive Costello, who was of Mexican descent and born in New Mexico, was “exactly” Lorre’s height – five feet, five inches – but three pounds lighter than Lorre's 139.

Norman Foster, Peter Lorre and Thomas Beck, 1937

Norman Foster (sitting beside the Director’s chair) supervises Thomas Beck tending to the unconscious Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) on the “Tchernov mansion” set, in a scene from Thank You, Mr. Moto (Fox, 1937), filmed as the third entry in the detective series but released second.

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The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre (2005) by Stephen Youngkin – now in its third printing and winner of the Rondo Award for "Best Book of 2005" – is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as these on-line merchants.

The Films of Peter Lorre (1982), also by Youngkin, is out of print, but copies may be purchased through Amazon and Barnes & Noble below. Interested in Lorre's radio and television performances? Check out Radio Showcase and Movies Unlimited. Netflix has Lorre movies for rent.

U.S. Amazon – Soft-bound
Amazon U.S. – Hard-Cover

Amazon Canada – Hard-Cover
Amazon Canada – Soft-bound

Amazon U.K. – Soft-bound
Amazon U.K. – Hard-Cover

University Press of Kentucky
Barnes & Noble – Nook and Hard-bound