'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


One of the comments I’ve most often heard from fans and the actor’s own friends, family and co-workers is how different Peter Lorre looked in each of his many pictures. From his pubescent fleshiness in M to his spare leanness in Stranger on the Third Floor and silkily menacing form in The Maltese Falcon, he kept audiences guessing: Was this indeed the same man? While he often trademarked many of his roles with the same delicately strung balance of humor and terror, physically he rarely repeated himself.

Close friends remembered that he was very unhappy with his appearance, which he felt limited, not his range, but the roles offered him. In this sense, he regretted the typecasting constraints imposed by his physical features.

Fans, however, feel differently. In looking back on a rich body of work in which he was often the best thing in a bad situation, what is most remarkable is how well he used his physiognomy to complement his roles. Without that harmony of part and player, what of the irony of casting a boyishly cherubic actor as a child murderer? Or of seeing a svelt Lorre balletically skimming down a stairway? However his appearance changed over the years, Lorre made it work for him.

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.

Kaaren Verne, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, William Demarest and Jimmy Durante, 1942.

Between scenes on You’re in the Army Now (1941) at the Warners studio, Jimmy Durante seranades the cast of All Through the Night on the set of Marty Callahan’s (Barton MacLane) nightclub, the Duchess Club. Left to right are Kaaren Verne, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and William Demarest.

Karen Verne, Peter Lorre and Judith Anderson, 1942

Peter Lorre, Karen Verne and Judith Anderson take a break while filming All Through the Night (1942). During the making of The Maltese Falcon, Lorre used to exit Mary Astor’s dressing room zipping up his fly. When he pulled the same trick on Anderson, she chased him with a hairbrush.

Peter Lorre and Priscilla Lane, 1942

Peter Lorre shows actress Priscilla Lane some of his “villain moves” during her visit to the set of All Through the Night (1942). Lorre and Lane would soon be working together on Arsenic and Old Lace – Lane in the female lead and Lorre as a menace. A “thank you!” to Barbara Morris for helping us identify the actress.

Raymond Massey, Frank Capra, George Tobias, Peter Lorre and Cary Grant, 1941

George Tobias joins the principals of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) – Raymond Massey, director Frank Capra, Peter Lorre, and Cary Grant – during a lunch break in the Warner Bros. commissary, fall of 1941.

'Arsenic and Old Lace' cast, 1941

The cast of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) poses with their director for a photo on the “cemetery” set, just outside the infamous Brewster mansion. Left to right: John Ridgely, Vaughan Glaser, Peter Lorre, Jean Adair, John Alexander, Josephine Hull, Cary Grant, director Frank Capra, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, James Gleason, Edward Everett Horton, Jack Carson, Edward McNamara, and Garry Owen. Each member of the cast was given an 11x14 print of the photo. This is Lorre’s personal copy.

Peter Lorre and Paul Lukas, 1943

Peter Lorre enthusiastically tells Paul Lukas a story during lunch in the Warner Bros. commissary, 1943. Peter was filming Passage to Marseille (1944), while Lukas was working on Uncertain Glory (1944). According to the Chicago Daily Tribune (“Prize Movie Art,” Jan. 16, 1944), this particular still won “Best Candid Shot” at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ third annual still photography show.

Peter Lorre and George Tobias, 1944

In costume and on the set of The Mask of Dimtrios (Warners, 1944), Peter Lorre and George Tobias go over a scene later cut from the final print. Tobias played “Fedor Muishkin”, who translates Abdul Dhris’ murder trial testimony from Greek to English for mystery writer Cornelius Leyden (Lorre).

Peter Lorre and Victor Francen, 1945

Lorre and actor Victor Francen share a table at the Warner Bros. studio commissary. Lorre and Francen appeared in five films together: Passage to Marseille (1944), The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), The Conspirators (1944), Confidential Agent (1945), and The Beast with Five Fingers (1946). Peter stressed their friendship with his antics during the making of The Beast with Five Fingers, his last at the studio.

Peter Lorre and two cats, 1944

Lorre had a long on- and off-screen association with cats. In the Moto movies, he kept Chungkina and Chin-chin. A few years later he pulled a Siamese kitten out of his overcoat pocket in The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942). Two more Siamese (not Lorre’s own) showed up in The Mask of Dimitrios (1944). Hostile in both the novel and the final script (“arching their backs and spitting”), the cats in the movie are quite friendly. Here, Lorre poses with them for a publicity photo. Only in Tales of Terror (1962) did his on-screen relationship with his feline friends turn sour. As Monstressor Herringbone in “The Black Cat” segment, he drunkenly threatens to tear Pluto’s head off.

Peter Lorre and two cats, 1944

Peter Lorre was neither a cat nor a dog person. He loved animals – cats, dogs, horses, ducks, and chickens. Until he left for Europe in 1949, he kept any combination of the above. However, after he returned to the United States in 1952, he put pets behind him. Whether third wife Annemarie objected to housing (and caring for) assorted creatures or their landlords said no to pets is hard to say. What contact he did have with cats was probably limited to those belonging to Celia.

Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart, 1944

Lorre and Bogart became friends on The Maltese Falcon (1941) and worked together on three more movies at Warner Bros. – All Through the Night (1942), Casablanca (1942), and Passage to Marseille (1944). While Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet rarely socialized away from the studio, Peter and Bogie saw a good deal of one another off-screen. Here, they steam the toxins out of their pores over a game of gin rummy at one of their favorite hang-outs – Findlandia Baths on Sunset Boulevard.

Lauren Bacall, Peter Lorre, and Humphrey Bogart, 1945

Peter Lorre was one of Lauren “Betty” Bacall’s biggest supporters. When Bogie told him that he loved Betty, but confessed that the twenty-five year difference in their ages bothered him, Peter dispelled his doubts, saying, “What’s the difference? It’s better to have five good years than none at all.”

Peter Lorre plays trombone to annoy Sydney Greenstreet, 1944

Merry Christmas from Peter and Sydney! In one of several photos publicizing the release of Hollywood Canteen (Warner Bros.) on December 30, 1944, “Screen menace man Peter Lorre goes along with a gag to prove you can take men out of menace but you just can’t take menace out of men while star Sydney Greenstreet sits in for Santa.”

Peter Lorre swings a bat at Sydney 'Santa Claus' Greenstreet, 1944

Another in a series of publicity stills with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet (as Santa) for Hollywood Canteen (Warners, 1944). Although released at Christmas-time, the film does not have a holiday theme. A G.I. (Robert Hutton), on leave in Los Angeles, visits the famed Hollywood Canteen and meets many performers of stage and screen. In their brief scene – which they wrote themselves – Peter and Sydney help singer Patty Andrews escape from a determined but hopeless dance partner (Irish-American actor James Flavin). From the collection of Cheryl Morris.

Peter Lorre, Carol Thurston, and Paul Henreid, 1944

Peter Lorre, Carol Thurston, and Paul Henreid take a walk on the Warners lot during filming of The Conspirators (1944). In his autobiography Ladies Man, Henreid credited Lorre with instigating one of the most famous stories in Hollywood, that of stealing John Barrymore’s body from the mortuary. In fact, of the many versions of this bit of Hollywood apocrypha, this is the only one in which Lorre figures. When questioned about it later, Henreid declined to confirm or deny it, only that he thought it made a good story.

John Garfield and Peter Lorre, 1945

Lorre and actor John Garfield lunch together on the Warner lot. According to the photo blurb, Garfield, obviously hamming it up for the camera, shows Lorre how he’d play the villain. At the time, Garfield was working on Pride of the Marines (1945). Lorre had just finished Three Strangers. April, 1945.

Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Don Siegel, 1946

Peter Lorre sits on director Don Siegel’s knee during a script conference with Siegel and Sydney Greenstreet on The Verdict (Warners, 1946). However much Lorre enjoyed teasing his British-trained acting partner – they appeared in nine films together – he felt that “Greenstreet was not only one of the nicest men and gentlemen that I’ve ever known in my life, I think he was one of the truly great, great actors of our time.”

Don Siegel, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, 1946

Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and director Don Siegel confer on a street set in front of “Scotland Yard” for The Verdict (Warners, 1946). To cover backlot sets that did not fit the film’s Victorian period, dry ice fumes, burning cans of charcoal and vaporizing mineral oil were used to create London fog. The artificial atmosphere played havoc with Lorre’s health, resulting in severe headaches and hay fever, and forcing him to return to narcotic drugs to cope with his “very great pain and misery.”

Prev Page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | Next Page

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