'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


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.

The Slide Area – Film Book Reviews and Notes by Anthony Slide
Peter Lorre, 1935

Another portrait of Peter Lorre in a series of photos taken for the Columbia Studios character study, 1935.

Stephen D. Youngkin has made something of a career out of Peter Lorre. Back in 1982, along with James Bigwood and Raymond J. Cabana, Jr., he published The Films of Peter Lorre, and in 1998, he was responsible, along with Felix Hoffman, for a German study of the actor. Now, he has produced what is, unquestionably, the definitive work on his subject, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre (University Press of Kentucky, $39.95).

Peter Lorre is probably best known to American audiences for his performances in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, and, to a lesser extent, for the 1931 German Classic, M, directed by Fritz Lang. Youngkin takes the title of his book from the 1951 German production of Der Verlorene, a dark vision of the country's Nazi past, which Lorre co-wrote, directed and starred in. The film failed to gain an immediate American release, and Peter Lorre was doomed for the rest of his career to portray slightly "campy" characters, often villains, in films such as Beat the Devil, The Raven and The Comedy of Terrors. He even played the Emperor Nero in the ghastly The Story of Mankind.

In a book that is over 600 pages in length, Stephen D. Youngkin chronicles in perhaps at times too much detail the life and career of Peter Lorre, from his 1904 birth as Laszlo Lowenstein in Hungary to semi-stardom and certainly celebrity status in Hollywood. (The early, pre-film years are the only one discussed and dismissed relatively briefly.) Youngkin had tremendous admiration for his subject, but he cannot be faulted in terms of coming to terms with and pointing out the more unpleasant sides to Lorre's character (most notably drug addiction and ill-treatment of women). There may have been a pixie-like quality to many of Lorre's American performances, but at times in his private life he seems closer to his German characterization in M. For this reader, at least, he is not likeable. Yes, Lorre is an intellectual, but he is also vulgar and crude. As an example, at one point he takes a high colonic, and when Humphrey Bogart comments, "Jesus, it stinks in here," Lorre responds, "It's a lot of those Warner Bros. scripts I'm getting rid of."

The Lost One is a curious mix of text that can sometimes be amusing and sometimes ponderous. Lorre's relationship with Brecht, as documented here, is particularly fascinating. At the same time, there is nothing that the author seems willing to leave out. As a result, he needs two sets of endnotes, one providing information as to the origins of quotes and the other providing basic documentation as to sources. There are also detailed listings of Lorre's stage, screen, radio, and television performances, both in the United States and in Europe.

To his credit, Stephen D. Youngkin does discuss individual films, with some attempt at analysis. In that sense, this is not a film buff publication – although it will undoubtedly appeal to that group. In many ways, The Lost One is a remarkable record of a remarkable, if flawed, life and career. —   Reviewed by Anthony Slide; Issue #3; February 2006

Objectif Cin�ma:
Peter Lorre, 1937

A publicity portrait of Peter Lorre for Crack-Up (20th Century-Fox, 1937).

ABOUT THE BOOK: This is the story of a nice little man torn between his deep errant artist�s soul and his public image. The story of a stranger in some strange lands, in the strangest of all: Hollywoodland. The story of an eternal �migr� lost forever under the shadow of a single letter, a letter bigger than him: a M.

This is the story of a man of many lives searching a place where he could belong. The story of his hits and misses. This is the story of Peter Lorre, the Lost One.

. . . The Lost One – A life of Peter Lorre by Stephen D. Youngkin (The University Press of Kentucky, $39,95) is much more than a magnificent biography of a fascinating actor (completed by an impressive appendix and a consequent amount of notes), it�s almost a novel about what makes a Man: his dreams, his hopes, his misadventures, his choices . . . The Lost One is the definite book about Cinema, from the beginning of the era of speaking movies in Europe to the golden age of Hollywood, with illustrious protagonists: Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Humphrey Bogart or John Huston – to name only a few.

The book of Stephen D. Youngkin is inspired, interesting, intelligent, entertaining and moving. This contribution to the History of Cinema should be adapted, not for a prime-time spring biopic but for a classy feature film. Cinephiles or not, should you buy only one book about movies or actors this year it must be The Lost One – A life of Peter Lorre.  —   Reviewed by Thierry Attard; very special thanks to Hap Houlihan; April 2006

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Arts & Books section, "What I'm Reading":

What I read most of the time are biographies. I don't read fiction because I feel I get enough fiction from the movies I see. I'm reading a new Katharine Hepburn biography by James Robert Parish [Katharine Hepburn: The Untold Story]. There's also a wonderful one out now on Peter Lorre: The Lost One by Stephen D. Youngkin.  —   Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies and official red carpet greeter at the 2006 Academy Awards; March 12, 2006

MovieMaker, "Mixed Reviews":

Revisiting Film History and Exploring Today's Technology

Peter Lorre, mid-1930s

Peter Lorre, 20th Century-Fox, mid-1930s.

. . . Peter Lorre is undoubtedly one of the most famous character actors in film history. His voice, face and gestures have all been mimicked in a variety of genres (most recently in Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, which features a Lorre-inspired maggot).

As the very first biography of Lorre, The Lost One does not disappoint. Author Stephen Youngkin has written several books on the actor and has appeared in various documentaries on Lorre, making him a leading expert on the late thespian's life and work. Because of his obvious familiarity and high regard for his subject, the book succeeds in painting a portrait of a man who has long been a mystery.

Youngkin peppers his book with hilarious anecdotes of Lorre and his relationships with other actors (Lorre would often begin introductions with one of his favorite expressions "I can feel it in my urine"), Hollywood and the studio system. He also goes into detail about Lorre's tragic battle with drug addiction and his consequent struggle to stay afloat in the last years of his life.

If you've ever wondered what was going on behind one of the most memorable voices – and faces – in cinema, then The Lost One is a welcome revelation indeed.  —   Reviewed by Lily Percy & Jennifer M. Wood; Spring 2006

National Post, Canada:

"Red-Hot Summer Reading (Part 2)"

OK, we admit it: We're not just curious about what people are reading – we're downright nosy. So we asked writers to tell us their favourite beach reads

. . . The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre by Stephen D. Youngkin (Kentucky). The quirky, melancholy, star-studded biography that this superb film actor deserved.  —   Comment by Frank Moher, Canadian playwright and editor; July 8, 2006

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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