'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


There is a legend in the Lorre family that Peter married all of his wives after he had fallen out of love with them. The “one size fits all” theory is certainly an oversimplification of conjugal circumstances. However complicated Peter and Karen’s relationship became after their marriage in 1945, their first years read very much like a storybook romance. Indeed, Peter later gave the idea that Karen had been the great love of his life.

If Celia were mother and friend, and Annemarie merely a millstone, then Karen was the real thing. Photos bear this out. Whether horseback riding, sunbathing at the beach, or dining out with friends, Peter and Karen exuded the mutual feeling of contentment and closeness.

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.

Vincent Sherman, Peter Lorre and Karen Verne, 1942

Director Vincent Sherman, Peter Lorre and Karen Verne (billed as “Kaaren Verne” in the credits) during filming of All Through the Night, late summer of 1941. Sherman first knew of their affair when Lorre turned up at the studio: “Peter was very nicely dressed. He had a convertible car and he was waiting for Karen and they went away for the weekend to Lake Arrowhead.”

Peter Lorre and Karen Verne, 1942

A publicity photographer catches Karen Verne and Peter Lorre on a break during work on their first and only film together. According to the press release, Karen (“meditating on things unknown between scenes of Warner Bros.’ All through the Night”) was forbidden by her parents to see any of Peter’s movies during her childhood in Germany, because they were “noted for their chilling horror.”

Karen Verne and Peter Lorre, 1942

Peter and Karen stroll hand-in-hand on the Warners backlot between scenes on All Through the Night (Warners, 1942). Studio biographies give Karen’s height at five foot, five and one-half inches. Peter consistently claimed he was five foot, five inches. Despite her platform shoes, the height difference in these photos begs the question – how tall was Lorre and what shoes was he wearing when he was measured?

Peter Lorre and Karen Verne, 1942

Karen Verne and Peter Lorre in costume for the “Duchess Club” sequence in All Through the Night (1942), in which Karen sings and Peter plays piano. Estranged from Celia Lovsky, Peter became involved with Karen during filming in late summer of 1941. This photo, inscribed and sent to a fan, was apparently mailed from Celia’s home address (1531 N. Crescent Heights), which would seem to indicate it was posted after May, 1945 – when Peter and Karen, then newly-married, lived with Celia for a brief time.

Peter Lorre, 1942

Peter catches some rays on the sands of Laguna Beach, a resort town in Orange County, southern California, popular with other Hollywood stars such as Mickey Rooney, Bette Davis, and Judy Garland. Taken in 1942.

Peter Lorre and Karen Verne, 1942

A popular get-away for many celebrities, who kept second homes there, Laguna Beach was out of the reach of the Lorres. On this visit, they were accompanied by Celia Lovsky, Peter’s first wife, and her brother, Zdenko. Taken summer of 1942.

Peter Lorre and Karen Verne, 1943

Peter and Karen at Lake Arrowhead, possibly over the 4th of July weekend, 1943. Living with (and later married to) a woman thirteen years his junior might explain Lorre’s efforts to get in shape. He led an athletic lifestyle that included swimming, riding and tennis. That, along with dietary discretion, put him in peak form during his days at Warner Bros.

Peter Lorre and his beloved gray quarter horse, mid-1940s

An expert rider, Peter Lorre was very comfortable in the saddle. After declaring bankruptcy in 1949, he was forced to give up his Mandeville Canyon ranch home, along with his stables. When asked what he missed most about America after returning to Europe in 1949, he said it was his horses.

Peter Lorre astride his gray quarter horse

Looking every bit the “westerner” in his cowboy regalia, Lorre polished his riding skills during his time in Mandeville Canyon. At his ranch home, he stabled at least three horses and kept countless other animal pets. Although photos of Karen picture her with Nat and Lady, both brown bays, Peter’s gray quarter horse is not identified.

Peter Lorre and Karen Verne riding in the Hollywood Hills

Peter’s father had taught him to ride as a youngster. However, it was many years before he sat a horse again. After renting a three-acre ranch home in Mandeville Canyon in the mid-1940s, he and Karen kept a small stable and often trotted off into the Hollywood Hills together.

Peter Lorre on the courts at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club

In the early 1940s, actor Gilbert Roland shoved a tennis racket into Lorre’s hand and pushed him onto the tennis court. He soon became a fixture at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club, where according to friend Burl Ives, he developed arms of steel.

Don Budge and Peter Lorre

Peter began playing Ping-Pong in the early 1930s, graduated to badminton after emigrating to America in 1934, and later took up tennis while under contract at Warner Bros. Here, Peter poses with tennis pro Don Budge.

Peter Lorre and Karen Verne tie the knot in Las Vegas, 1945.

Peter and Karen lived together for three years before Celia brought them to the altar – after the requisite divorces, Lorre from Lovsky and Verne from Arthur Young. On May 25, 1945, they tied the knot, informally, before witnesses Patricia Shay (actress, in hat) and Paul Mantz (movie stunt pilot on The Face Behind the Mask [1941], with moustache) at a private ceremony in Las Vegas. Afterward, Peter and Karen took Celia on their honeymoon.

Peter and Karen's wedding portrait, May 25, 1945

Peter and Karen on their wedding day, May 25, 1945. Karen’s traditional German dirndl dress begs the question: Was this a fashion statement by someone who had never “gone Hollywood”? Clearly, Karen looked most comfortable at home in denim and flannel, romping with the dogs and feeding the horses. Or was it Peter’s idea, because he wanted to keep her just as he found her – a “clean, sweet, innocent girl”?

Peter and Karen, 1945

Peter and Karen in a relaxed moment at their home in Mandeville Canyon, circa 1945. For a wedding present, Peter rented the three-acre ranch, which they furnished in early American style.

Karen Verne and their dogs, Happy and Bum

In addition to horses, Peter and Karen also maintained a menagerie of smaller animals, including a St. Bernard named Bum and a Boston Terrier called Happy, at their home in Mandeville Canyon.

Peter Lorre, Karen Verne and Mordecai Gorelik, 1947

Peter Lorre, Karen Verne, and Mr. Moto? No, Bertolt Brecht scholar Klaus Voelker thinks the man next to the car is possibly set designer Mordecai (“Max”) Gorelik. Brecht’s mistress/collaborator Ruth Berlau took the photo of Peter and Karen at Lake Arrowhead in the early autumn of 1947.

Peter Lorre, 1947

Peter casts himself as cook and whips up a meal at Lake Arrowhead in fall of 1947. Ruth Berlau, who lived with the Lorres during their stay, snapped the shot.

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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