'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


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.

Ralph Clanton, Viola Frayne, Miriam Hopkins and Peter Lorre, 1952

One of Peter Lorre’s greatest dreams was to perform on Broadway. The closest he came was a “pre-Broadway” summer stock engagement in Edwin Justin Mayer’s thriller, A Night at Madame Tussaud’s on the “straw-hat” summer circuit in 1952. He is pictured here with co-stars Ralph Clanton (Marque Lomenie de Brienne), Viola Frayne (Mdm. Tussaud) and Miriam Hopkins (Ninon). According to Clanton, there was no love lost between Hopkins and Lorre: “She hated him and he hated her” – and it showed. Grist Mill Playhouse, Andover, NJ, Sept 1 to 6, 1952.

Miriam Hopkins and Peter Lorre, 1952

Friction came to a head during Madame Tussaud’s curtain calls. Said actor Gerald Hiken: “It was simply that she was overblown and he was understated and made her look silly by his simple motions. . . He knew that he was coming out and taking his time and being flat and real and that she was going to come out and flutter and bow.”

Peter Lorre at Perona Farms, 1952

During the Andover, NJ, run of A Night at Madame Tussaud’s at the Grist Mill Playhouse, Sept. 1-6, 1952, Peter Lorre and the other principal cast members Miriam Hopkins, Ralph Clanton, Viola Frayne, and Rudulph Justice Watson stayed at the historic Perona Farms (family-owned and operated since 1917) in the countryside outside Andover. Here, he is positioned in front of the original Perona Barn (still standing today).

Peter Lorre and Hominy Hill Conquerer at Perona Farms, 1952

In this shot taken from the bull barn, Peter tells “Hominy Hill Conqueror,” Mr. Perona’s prize bull, to look at the camera, early September, 1952. The foundation of the old bull barn is now used for additional parking at Perona Farms, which hosted the many Hollywood celebrities performing at the Grist Mill Playhouse in Andover during the 1950s. A “thank you” to Mark Avondoglio, Vice President of Perona Farms, for his assistance in identifying these photos.

John Huston, Roberto Rossellini and Peter Lorre, 1954

Roberto Rossellini (center) visits John Huston and Peter Lorre at the Palumbo Hotel during filming of Beat the Devil (United Artists, 1954) in Ravello. Rossellini and wife Ingrid Berman were just two of the many celebrities, including William Wyler, George Sanders, and Orson Welles, who dropped by the Italian shoot.

Peter Lorre rides a donkey, Italy, 1954

Peter Lorre and four-legged friend. During filming in the mountainous region of Ravello, Italy, cast and crew of Beat the Devil (1954) often used this preferred mode of transportation.

Cast of 'Beat the Devil', 1954

On a John Huston picture such as Beat the Devil (1954), Lorre enjoyed the best of all worlds. He was set free from the studio star system but still able to revel in the sense of camaraderie he had known at Warner Bros. Despite the tight shooting schedule (most often seven days a week), cast and crew found time to stoke the running poker party, persuade the town band to serenade visitors to the set, and jaunt off to Amalfi or Positano on an available Sunday.

John Huston, Robert Morley, Marco Tulli and Peter Lorre

Backed by Bogart’s Santana Pictures, Huston fostered an atmosphere of chaos behind-the-scenes, knowing it would feed the on-screen fun. In other words, what the day-to-day script development lost in letter, the cast would fill in with spirit. How well it succeeded depends on the viewer. A box-office bomb in 1954, the picture is considered a classic some half-century later, not only because of screenwriter Truman Capote’s oblique sense of humor, but because, in Associate Producer Jack Clayton’s words, “the atmosphere of great comradeship and good humor comes through in the actual film.”

Arnold Stang, Fess Parker and Peter Lorre, 1958

Peter Lorre and the equally-short Arnold Stang stand next to the six-foot five-inch Fess Parker, who achieved fame as “Davy Crockett” on the 1950s television series Disneyland. Lorre was co-starring with Parker in “Turn Left at Mt. Everest” (Playhouse 90, April 3, 1958) as a Nepalese camp aide who helps reunite a soldier and his girlfriend during the Burma-India theater of World War II.

Peter Lorre, 1962

Peter Lorre snacking between scenes on Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962), one of six pictures (and one television show) written by his friend Charles Bennett. Whatever part he played, said the screenwriter, “there was no way to stop Peter’s amiability from coming through.” For the thirty years Bennett knew him, Lorre remained “the nice Peter I knew . . . gentle and friendly” and completely unsusceptible to his star status: “I sometimes wonder if he ever believed that he had achieved it.”

A candid shot of a thoughtful Peter Lorre, 1960.

Peter Lorre in a reflective mood, 1960. Said his close friend Jonas Silverstone, “I think Peter was and remained a very serious man, full of tragedy. I think he was very aware of it.”

Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone, 1964

Lorre sits on Basil Rathbone’s lap between takes on The Comedy of Terrors (1964). The woman on the right is Celia Lovsky. By this point, Lorre had trouble remembering his lines. While his co-workers sometimes grew exasperated with the actor’s extemporizing, he was “so charming as a person,” remembered screenwriter Richard Matheson, “you just couldn’t get angry.”

Stuntman Harvey Parry in a 'Lorre mask'

Stuntman Harvey Parry wears a latex “Lorre mask” while doubling Peter Lorre in the opening “cemetery” sequence of The Comedy of Terrors. Said Parry, “The mask was made for me and was miserable to wear.” One noteworthy difference is the eyebrows – Parry’s own eyebrows were thickened to match Lorre’s and help viewers readily recognize Parry as Lorre in the speeded-up action sequences.

Vincent Price, Tom Steele and Harvey Parry, 1964

Vincent Price, right, gets pointers in dueling from his double Tom Steele (center), seen here vigorously crossing blades with Harvey Parry. Parry’s cigar? He explained it was added to make this practice shot unsuitable for inclusion in the final print – which could happen by accident.

Candid shot of an older and unwell Peter Lorre napping, 1964.

During his last years, Lorre lived in a small apartment in a large red brick building at 7655 Hollywood Boulevard. Unwell and easily fatigued, he spent much of his time sleeping and reading. From the Catharine Lorre Collection. Circa 1964.

The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner announces Peter Lorre’s passing on March 23, 1964.

Before getting its facts straight, the L.A. Herald-Examiner ran an extra stating that Peter Lorre had succumbed to a fatal heart attack on March 23, 1964. The actor actually died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Peter Lorre's Star on the Walk of Fame

On February 8, 1960, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce broke ground on an ambitious project to recognize the contributions of entertainers past and present – a series of coral terrazzo “Stars” set in black terrazzo blocks along a 2-mile section of Hollywood and Vine streets. Peter Lorre was among the first 1,558 artists of film and television, radio and stage to be honored on the Walk of Fame. His Star is located at 6619 Hollywood Blvd, between Cherokee and Whitley avenues, beside silent film comedian Buster Keaton. A “thank you” goes to Jessica E. Berlin for taking and submitting this photo.

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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