The Lost One:
Critics Are Saying . . . . .
A selection of reviews of The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre (University Press of Kentucky, Sept. 2005), available in bookstores and through on-line merchants everywhere.
Drawing on more than 300 interviews, Youngkin (coauthor, The Films of Peter Lorre) offers the first major biography of a genuine but eccentric talent. Peter Lorre electrified the international film world in 1931 with his portrayal of a pathetic child killer in Fritz Lang's M. Born Laszlo Loewenstein in Hungary, Lorre fled Nazi anti-Semitism to join a growing colony of expatriates in Hollywood. Unlike many other foreign actors, Lorre enthusiastically embraced American culture but soon found himself stereotyped, and after key appearances in films like Casablanca, he ended his career a caricature of himself in low-budget horror films. Youngkin recounts Lorre's early years, the distinctive screen persona that eventually became something of a curse, his carelessness with money, and his addiction to morphine. Friends also remember his offbeat sense of humor and capacity for friendship, which extended to ex-wives, Humphrey Bogart, and famed German playwright Bertolt Brecht. This well-researched book illuminates both Lorre's strengths and his flaws, tantalizes the reader with lost possibilities in his career, and covers little-known chapters in his life. Recommended for large public and academic film history and biography collections. — Reviewed by Stephen Rees, Levittown Library, PA; August, 2005
On the occasion of Stephen D. Youngkin's definitive biography, it's time for a reconsideration of the life (and not-so-dulcet tones) of Peter Lorre.
The genius of expressionistic acting was born L�szl� Loewenstein, 101 years ago, to a middle-class Jewish family in the provincial Hapsburg city of Arad (for six months in 1849 the capital of Hungary, now part of Romania). As detailed in Stephen D. Youngkin's massively researched and surely definitive biography, 30 years in the works, young Laszlo ran away to Vienna . . .
"Lorre has returned to us an almost totally forgotten one," a Munich daily reported, nearly anticipating the title of Der Verlorene (The Lost One) the self-directed, fascinatingly noirish vehicle that Lorre was able to will into existance in 1951 – to the hostile indifference of his erstwhile countrymen. That Youngkin has taken the movie for his biography's title suggests that this wartime story of a doctor turned Totmacher (killer) was the project in which Lorre most invested himself. Perhaps he should have rejoined Brecht in the Eastern Zone – the playwright was still interested in casting Lorre in a version of The Overcoat and even directing him as Hamlet . . .
That hiss still haunts us. Filtered through Youngkin's meticulously appendixed biography, Lorre emerges as an actor of tragic originality and one of the 20th Century's most radically displaced persons. He was meant to inhabit the Castle and hang out on Alexanderplatz, join the Radetzsky March and play Little Hans or the Good Soldier Svejk. Well, at least he didn't wind up in Theresienstadt like his old colleague Kurt Gerron. Some years after leaving Germany, Lorre encountered another displaced Berlin comrade, Lotte Lenya, in New York. To her question as to what he did in Hollywood, he replied, "Nothing. I make faces." Listen. You can hear his little snicker as he says it. — J. Hoberman, senior film critic for The Village Voice ; November-December, 2005
Born Laszlo Loewenstein, Hungarian Lorre (1904-1964) transformed himself from minor stage presence to Hollywood character actor through pivotal professional relationships and one breakthrough role. Portraying a child murderer in 1931's M , Lorre conveyed his unique blend of pathos and complexity so acutely that his career blossomed – with hits like 1935's Crime and Punishment; 1941's The Maltese Falcon; and 1942's Casablanca – even as his personal life unraveled with drug addiction, romantic turmoil and personal insecurity. Youngkin, coauthor of two previous books on Lorre, examines his subject with striking rigor. Through interviews with hundreds of Lorre's friends and associates – including Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder – and frequent dips into film and media archives, Youngkin peels back the layers of Lorre's life to reveal a fascinating, nuanced individual who struggled with intellectual issues in the midst of glamour and fame. As a parallel to Lorre's struggles with typecasting, Youngkin details the rise and fall of the studio star system, giving a strong backdrop to the actor's professional as well as personal dramas. Agent, Adam Chromy. (Sept.) — Reviewed: July 11, 2005
The Courier and Post; Charleston, SC:
In his heyday as an actor, principally the 1940s, the on-screen Peter Lorre was a walking definition of the words "creepy," "sniveling," "effete" and "corrupt." Behind his trademark timid demeanor and bug-eyed gaze, however, was an Hungarian-born star character actor of considerable range and humor, albeit one who seldom broke free of the typecasting imposed on his career.
In The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre, biographer Stephen D. Youngkin, also co-author of The Films of Peter Lorre, reminds of the contributions of a performer who did much distinctive work in such films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942) and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944).
As often happens, his greatest success also proved to be an image-maker he never shook. His portrait of the grisly child murderer in Fritz Lang's masterful M (1931) propelled him to international fame. While generally regarded as one of film history's finest performances, the movie – and Lorre's small stature (though his weight vacillated alarmingly in later years) – placed limitations on the roles he was offered in years to come.
The new biography draws upon more than 300 interviews, including conversations with Lang and fellow directors Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Frank Capra and Rouben Mamoulian. Youngkin further examines Lorre's pivotal relationship with German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, his experience as an emigre from Hitler's Germany, his duel with drug addiction, and his struggle "with the choice between celebrity and intellectual respectability." — Bill Thompson, of the Post and Courier Staff; July 14, 2005
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.
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