Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre

Additional Names: Ladislav Loewenstein (Geburtsname)
Darsteller, Regie, Drehbuch
*26.06.1904 Rosenberg (Ružomberok), Slowakei; †23.03.1964 Hollywood, Kalifornien, USA

Biography

Ladislav Loewenstein was born June 26, 1904, in Rószahegy in the Carpathian Mountains, Hungary, as the son of a merchant. In 1908, his mother died, and his father remarried. Ladislav attended a German private school in Braila and, after his family relocated to Mölding near Vienna, a Viennese secondary school. After his graduation he started an apprenticeship at a bank upon his father's wish but soon provoked his dismissal. After a time full of privation, he joined Jacob Moreno's impromptu theatre. The improvisational method of the later founder of the "psycho drama" fundamentally influenced Ladislav's manner of expression. He also devoted himself to psychoanalysis, his lifelong hobby.

Moreno gave him his stage name Peter Lorre before he became a cast member of Leo Mittler's Lobe-Theater and Thalia Theater in Breslau in 1924. In 1925/26, Lorre performed at Zürich's Schauspielhaus, from 1926 to 1927, he played at Kammerspiele Vienna, and in 1928, he went to Vienna's Carl-Theater. In the spring of 1929, Bert Brecht gave him the role of Fabian in his production of Fleißer's "Pioniere in Ingolstadt" ("Pioneers in Ingolstadt") at Berlin's Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. Subsequently, Lorre performed at Schiffbauerdamm and at Volksbühne, for instance, as St. Just in "Dantons Tod" ("Danton's Death") and as Moritz Stiefel in "Frühlingserwachen" ("Spring Awakening", 1929).

A few months after his controversial performance as Galy Gay in "Mann ist Mann" ("A Man's A Man") in February 1931, at Staatstheater, directed by Bert Brecht who also filmed the production, Lorre became a film star with his debut on the movie screen as the child murderer Beckert in Fritz Lang's sound film "M". However, Lorre stayed at the theatre and, for instance, performed at Kabarett der Komiker in 1932. Furthermore, he played smaller, often comedic roles in films like "Die Koffer des Herrn O.F." ("The Thirteen Trunks of Mr. O.F.")

On March 4, 1933, the Jew Lorre left Germany and at first went to Vienna, then to Paris where he starred in the film "Du haut en bas". In 1934, he went to England to star in the Hitchcock movie "The Man Who Knew Too Much". During the shooting of the film, he married the actress Cäcilie Lvovsky who later named herself Celia Lovsky.

In July 1934, he went to Hollywood with a contract from Columbia. Lent to M-G-M for his first US film "Mad Love", Lorre made a memorable performance as the bald-headed "mad scientist" Dr. Gogol: "It was to Lorre alone we owed the goodness, the tenderness of the vicious man. Those marble pupils in the pasty spherical head are like the eye-pieces of a microscope through which you can watch the tangled mind laid flat on the slide: love and lust, hatred of itself and despair jumping out at you from the jelly." (Greene, 1936).

In 1936, Lorre went to Century Fox because he had been restrictd to the image of a murderer and horror star in his following films. But at Century Fox, he had to play another fixed role – much to his chagrin – in the series of "Mr. Moto" films. When his contract ended in 1939, he worked for four years without any obligations to a studio but still did not receive any role offers that went beyond his image.

In 1941, Lorre's career gained new momentum after he played the part of Joel Cairo in the Warner Bros. film "The Maltese Falcon". As a result, he made several films for the studio with his friend Humphry Bogart and the tall and large Sydney Greenstreet ("'Laurel & Hardy' of Crime"; Sennett 1979). Lorre then received a contract from Warner from 1943 to 1946. In 1945, he married his second wife, the actress Kaaren (Karin) Verne.

Since 1941, Lorre stood in close contact with Bert Brecht, who wrote several film exposes for him but none of the studios was interested in buying one. Even the business partners of Lorre's own company Lorre Incorporated that he had set up in 1946, rejected the screenplays. For his company, Lorre toured with readings and started to increase his work for the radio that he had already begun at the end of the 1930s. In 1949, his company went bankrupt and in June 1949, Lorre returned to Europe. He toured Great Britain and Germany with readings of Poe's "A Tell-Tale Heart" and worked in refugee camps.

In 1950/51, Lorre finished the "Der Verlorene" ("The Lost One") as co-author, director and leading actor. In the film, a scientist turns into a women's killer but is prevented from atonement by the Nazi regime because his research is too important. Despite positive reviews, "Der Verlorene" flopped at the box office and Lorre returned to the USA with his third wife Annemarie Brenning.

He played theatre at the East Coast in "A Night at Madame Tussaud's" before the film business took notice of him again after his performance in "Beat the Devil". Lorre got smaller parts, for instance, in Irwin Allen's color wide screen films. After an illness had turned him plump, he was often used in films as a chubby eyecatcher.

Lorre then worked a lot for TV productions, mainly in roles, that referred to his horror star image. He became popular once more after his collaboration with Vincent Price and Boris Karloff in two films by Roger Corman, "Tales Of Terror" and "The Raven", and in Jacques Tourneur's film "The Comedy Of Terrors". In the films, Lorre expressed his comedic as well as his scary talents in a likable vicious manner.

Peter Lorre died in the night from March 22 to 23, 1964, in his apartment at Hollywood Boulevard.

Filmography

1964 Muscle Beach Party
Cast
 
1964 The Comedy of Terrors
Cast
 
1964 The Patsy
Cast
 
1962/1963 The Raven
Cast
 
1962 Five Weeks in a Balloon
Cast
 
1962 Tales of Terror
Cast
 
1961 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Cast
 
1959/1960 Scent of Mystery
Cast
 
1959 The Big Circus
Cast
 
1957 Hell Ship Mutiny
Cast
 
1957 The Sad Sack
Cast
 
1957 The Story of Mankind
Cast
 
1957 Silk Stockings
Cast
 
1957 The Buster Keaton Story
Cast
 
1956 Around the World in 80 Days
Cast
 
1956 Congo Crossing
Cast
 
1955/1956 Meet Me in Las Vegas
Cast
 
1953 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea
Cast
 
1953 Beat the Devil
Cast
 
1950/1951 Die Laterne des Diogenes
Cast
 
1950/1951 Der Verlorene
Cast, Director, Screenplay
 
1949/1950 Double Confession
Cast
 
1949/1950 Quicksand
Cast
 
1949 Rope of Sand
Cast
 
1948 Casbah
Cast
 
1947 My Favorite Brunette
Cast
 
1946 The Beast with Five Fingers
Cast
 
1946 The Verdict
Cast
 
1946 The Chase
Cast
 
1946 Black Angel
Cast
 
1945/1946 Three Strangers
Cast
 
1945 Confidential Agent
Cast
 
1944/1945 Hotel Berlin
Cast
 
1944 Hollywood Canteen
Cast
 
1944 The Conspirators
Cast
 
1944 Arsenic and Old Lace
Cast
 
1944 The Mask of Dimitrios
Cast
 
1944 Passage to Marseille
Cast
 
1943 The Cross of Lorraine
Cast
 
1943 Background to Danger
Cast
 
1943 The Constant Nymph
Cast
 
1942 Casablanca
Cast
 
1942 The Boogie Man Will Get You
Cast
 
1942 Invisible Agent
Cast
 
1941/1942 All Through the Night
Cast
 
1941 The Maltese Falcon
Cast
 
1941 They Met in Bombay
Cast
 
1940/1941 Mr. District Attorney
Cast
 
1940/1941 The Face Behind the Mask
Cast
 
1940 You'll Find Out
Cast
 
1940 Stranger on the Third Floor
Cast
 
1940 Island of Doomed Men
Cast
 
1940 I Was an Adventuress
Cast
 
1939/1940 Strange Cargo
Cast
 
1939 Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation
Cast
 
1939 Mr. Moto in Danger Island
Cast
 
1938/1939 Mr. Moto's Last Warning
Cast
 
1938 Mysterious Mr. Moto
Cast
 
1938 I'll Give a Million
Cast
 
1938 Mr. Moto Takes a Chance
Cast
 
1938 Mr. Moto's Gamble
Cast
 
1937 Thank You, Mr. Moto
Cast
 
1937 Lancer Spy
Cast
 
1937 Think Fast, Mr. Moto
Cast
 
1936/1937 Nancy Steele Is Missing!
Cast
 
1936/1937 Crack-Up
Cast
 
1936 Secret Agent
Cast
 
1935 Crime and Punishment
Cast
 
1935 Mad Love
Cast
 
1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much
Cast
 
1933 Du haut en bas
Cast
 
1933 Unsichtbare Gegner
Cast
 
1933 Was Frauen träumen
Cast
 
1933 Les requins du pétrole
Cast
 
1932 F.P. 1 antwortet nicht
Cast
 
1932 Stupéfiants
Cast
 
1932 Der weiße Dämon
Cast
 
1932 Schuß im Morgengrauen
Cast
 
1931/1932 Fünf von der Jazzband
Cast
 
1931 Die Koffer des Herrn O. F.
Cast
 
1931 Bomben auf Monte Carlo
Cast
 
1931 M
Cast
 
1930/1931 Monte Carlo Madness
Cast
 
1928/1929 Die verschwundene Frau
Cast
 

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