'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


A Photographic Essay:
Peter Lorre in
Nancy Steele is Missing!

By Karen Halstrøm

A journalist having lunch with Peter Lorre in 1935 noted that “His face is amazing in its changing lights and shadows. It is, in the space of a second or two, pleasant, amused, sinister and sad. Interesting, clever, kind and smiling, that face. . . obviously cannot be cataloged with any other face in the world.”

She also noticed that a haircut was Lorre’s only concession to makeup for the role he was to play. For Lorre, wigs and false noses did not make an actor.

“Acting comes from the inside. As you think, so you look, and so you appear,” he told a studio publicist (The Lost One, p.147).

Portrait of Peter Lorre Portrait of Peter Lorre Portrait of Peter Lorre
Portrait of Peter Lorre Portrait of Peter Lorre Portrait of Peter Lorre

In a 1936 series of portraits made during the filming of Nancy Steele Is Missing, a studio photographer captured Lorre’s outstanding ability to reveal psychological complexity as the varying emotions chase each other across those extraordinarily mobile features.

Portrait of Peter Lorre Portrait of Peter Lorre Portrait of Peter Lorre

Conman, extortionist, and self-confessed murderer, Lorre’s “Professor Sturm” is hardly an appealing character. The killing he shrugs off with dismissive blandness; what else could he do? His only regret is that he got so little money out of his victim. All variations of the conman’s insinuating craftiness are subtly suggested in the portraits – even to the quite repellent.

Portrait of Peter Lorre Portrait of Peter Lorre

But there are others where he surely has left “Professor Sturm” behind. With the prison bars as indistinct, looming shadows on the wall behind him, Lorre is seen in shots composed as squarely and compactly as an ancient Egyptian block statue, but with a weary, resigned sadness showing in both his expression and his body language with the slumped shoulders and clasped hands. In some shots the powerlessness of the prisoner is emphasized as the grid of the bars themselves is interposed solidly between viewer and subject.

Peter Lorre in a prison cell Peter Lorre in a prison cell Peter Lorre in a prison cell Peter Lorre in a prison cell

The last portrait of the series stands out, transcending as it does the harsh reality of the prison surroundings. The iron bars dissolve into a luminous, insubstantial frame for the actor’s face, and the slightly tilted head, the unfocused gaze and dreamy, far-away expression lend a curious quality of vulnerable boyish innocence to the smooth, round face of the thirty-two year old Peter Lorre.

All photos from the collection of Karen Halstrøm.

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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