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.
Peter Lorre referred to himself and other actors as �facemakers�. No other actor made faces like the sad-eyed, mischievous Lorre who conveyed menace, comedy, suavity and cowardice in a single close-up. As chronicled in Stephen D. Youngkin�s epic biography, Lorre�s life was a series of different masks cloaking an exceedingly complex personality behind all of the various faces.
Born Lazlo Lowenstein in R�zsahegy, Hungary, Lorre scored a sensational hit playing a child murderer in Fritz Lang�s M (1931). Keeping several steps ahead of the Nazis, the actor immigrated to America and forged one of the most unusual careers in Hollywood history.
Bouncing around in a series of roles that ranged from Crime and Punishment (1934) to a sadist owning the Island of Doomed Men (1940) and a series of 'Mr. Moto' Asian detective films at Fox, Lorre finally found his niche at Warner Brothers during the 1940's.
After creating a unique genre of character actor stardom with Sydney Greenstreet in the classic The Maltese Falcon (1941), Lorre was cast opposite the massive British actor in ten Warner films over the next six years. It would be the most successful and happiest period of Lorre�s life. Lorre dubbed Greenstreet, 'The Old Man' and Lorre was 'Puck'. The two performers were completely different actors and personalities, but perfectly melded as akin to rote opposites in a successful marriage.
After the Warner years, it was a slow decline into lesser roles, nascent television and AIP horror movie spoofs until Lorre�s untimely death in 1964 at the age of 59.
Author Stephen Youngkin spent a considerable portion of his life researching, writing and ruminating about Peter Lorre. Some of the 300 interviews listed in his book date back to 1973 and include every entertainment figure, family member, and human being who worked with or knew Peter Lorre. The Lost One is an intimidating, 600+ page tome, until one begins reading and is immediately hooked.
The colossal assemblage of research has been whipped into a compelling biographical narrative. Lorre was an alluring, sensitive man whose life was tinged with a palpable melancholy. He gravitated to a select circle of entertainment sophisticates; Bertold Brecht, Bogart, Burl Ives, Cedric Hardwicke, Vincent Price – and was bemused in reconciling his celluloid celebrity with intellectual and cultural respectability. Even though he had few intimates, Lorre was a beloved and respected performer. The actor�s generosity, talent and wicked sense of humor inwardly vied with a chronic despondency that made him a conflicted, but irresistible soul.
The personal depression manifested itself in chemical dependency. Peter Lorre was afflicted with the curse of narcotic drug addiction for most of his adult life. The destructive habit ruined his health and cast a large shadow over his life. Along the way, there were three marriages and a late child, Catherine born in 1953 when the actor was 47 years old.
The actor�s health and career rapidly declined before his beloved daughter became a teenager. In the end, Lorre became a nostalgia buff about his own career as he released his loose grip on mortality while only in his fifties. The emerging pop culture of the 1960�s became an alien existence that the once worldly, but fading Lorre simply couldn�t fathom.
Peter Lorre�s life in his various faces; actor, husband, father, intellectual, friend, pop culture icon and tragic figure is given extraordinary tribute in Stephen Youngkin�s superbly detailed biography. — Reviewed by Alan Rode, a founding member of the Film Noir Foundation, a film critic and a writer living in Los Angeles; May 29, 2006
Magill Book Reviews:
A huge biography of one of the world's most fascinating film stars, Peter Lorre.
Peter Lorre's voice and image are universally known, seemingly from birth. The comic, creepy accent and half-lidded pop-eyes that were so easily appropriated by Saturday morning cartoonists and advertising copywriters found their way into preschool pop culture half a century after their first film appearance as a psychopathic serial child killer. Not that he was ever portrayed as such on a box of cereal, his persona, nevertheless, hinted at unimaginable childhood fears. The irony was on purpose. Lorre's acting career was built on his ability to make a profoundly evil interior masked with a smile that was sweet and not at all guileless.
Stephen D. Youngkin is a gifted compiler of detail, and he has spent a good part of his adult life gathering up all things Peter Lorre. The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre would have simply sunk under the load of so much tangential information if Youngkin had not exercised considerable wisdom in allowing only such detail as the narrative could support. Even so, there are 125 pages of back matter, not including the index. The notes are worth perusing for the trimmed bits, such as the fate of Lorre's young daughter, orphaned by the death of his third wife and adopted by his second.
The author is also careful to avoid over documenting the filming of The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942), which are thoroughly covered elsewhere, and to concentrate on Lorre's relationships with such differing personalities as Berthold Brecht, Humphrey Bogart, and Burl Ives. Youngkin explores Lorre's gifted acting, evident even in the typecast roles that made up the bulk of his screen credits, and his nearly lifelong dependence on morphine. Youngkin forcefully raises the stature of this underrated actor. — Reviewed by Janet Alice Long; November, 2006
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