Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Famous Classic Movie Stars - PETER LORRE

Peter Lorre was born as Laszlo Lowenstein on June 26, 1904 In Ruzomberok, Slovakia. He was of Hungarian-Austrian heritage who became an American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner.

He made an international sensation in 1931 with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the German film "M". Later, he became a popular featured player in Hollywood crime films and mysteries, notably alongside Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet, and as the star of the successful Mr. Moto detective series.

Lorre was born into a Jewish family. His parents were Alois and Elvira. When he was a child, his family moved to Vienna where Lorre attended school, and during his youth he was a student of Sigmund Freud. He began acting onstage in Vienna then moved to Breslau, and Zurich. In the late 1920's, the young 5'5" actor moved to Berlin where he worked with the famous playwright Bertolt Brecht. He achieved fame when Fritz Lang cast him as a child killer in his 1931 film "M".

When the Nazi's came to power in Germany in 1933, Lorre took refuge first in Paris and then London where he played a charming villain in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1934). When he arrived in Great Britain, his first meeting was with Hitchcock, and, by smiling and laughing as Hitchcock talked, Lorre was able to bluff the director about his limited command of the English language. During the filming of "The Man Who Knew Too Much", Lorre learned much of his part phonetically.

Eventually, he went to Hollywood where he specialized in playing wicked or wily foreigners, beginning with "Mad Love" (1935) directed by Karl Freund. He starred in a series of Mr. Moto movies, a parrallel to the better known "Charlie Chan" series in which he played a Japanese detective and spy. He did not much enjoy these films and twisted his shoulder during a stunt in "Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation", but they were lucrative for the studio and gained Lorre many new fans.

In 1940, Lorre co-starred with fellow horror actors Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the Kay Kyser Movie "You'll Find Out". Lorre enjoyed considerable popularity as a featured player in Warner Brothers suspense and adventure films. Lorre played the role of Joel Cairo in "The Maltese Falcon" in 1941 and portrayed the character Ugarte in the film classic "Casablanca" in 1942.

Lorre demonstrated a gift for comedy in the role of Dr. Einstein in "Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). And in 1946 he starred with Sydney Greenstreet and Geraldine Fitzgerald in "Three Strangers" about three people who are joint partners on a winning lottery ticket.

In 1941, Peter Lorre became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

After World War II, Lorre's acting career in Hollywood experienced a downturn, whereupon he concentrated on radio and stage work. In 1954 though, he had the distinction of becoming the first actor to play a James Bond villain when he portrayed Le Chiffre in a television adaption of "Casino Royale" opposite Barry Nelson as an American James Bond. Also in 1954, Lorre starred alongside Kirk Douglas and James Mason in the hit-classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". In the early 1960's he worked with Roger Corman on several low-budgeted, tongue-in-cheek, and very popular films.

Lorre was married three times: Celia Lovsky (1934-1945), Kaaren Verne (1945-1950) and Annemarie Brenning (1953-1964) (his death). Annemarie bore his only child, Catherine, in 1953 who died in 2006 from diabetes.

Lorre had suffered for years from chronic gall-bladder troubles, for which doctors had prescribed morphine. Lorre became trapped between the constant pain and addiction to morphine to ease the trouble. It was during the period of the Moto films that Lorre struggled and overcame this problem.

Overweight and never fully recovered from his morphine addiction, Lorre suffered many personal and career disappointments in his later years. He died in 1964 of a stroke at 59 years of age. Lorre's body was cremated and his ashes interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, Ca. Vincent Price read the eulogy at his funeral.

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