Saturday, June 26, 2010


The large eyed fellow above is one László Löwenstein, born this day 1904, in Rozahegy, Austria-Hungary. He is much better known by his stage name Peter Lorre. He ran away from his family when he was a youth, and spent some time working as a bank clerk in Vienna, before turning to acting. He began his acting career at the tender age of 17, by acting on stage. He adopted his stage name Lorre in 1925. His big break came in the film "M" (from which the picture above is taken). "M" is a Fritz Lang film about a serial killer, and Lorre's portrayal of the title character was to make him a star. It was also going to get him typecast as the suspicious looking foreigner in many films, but it was a type that he played with aplomb. After fleeing Berlin, and the Nazis, Lorre made his way to London where (despite not speaking very much English) he was cast by Alfred Hitchcock in "The Man Who Knew Too Much." However it is two films made a year apart (after he had moved to Hollywood) that put him on our hero podium for today. You may have watched them they are "The Maltese Falcon" and "Casablanca" two pretty damn good films, and he played the suspicious foreigner role very well in both of them. His trademark raspy voice helped him a great deal in playing that role, and has been parodied many times (mostly memorably by Mel Blanc in a couple of Looney Tunes cartoons). "Casablanca" was shot in 1942, and I know money was a bit tight, but his reported salary for the film was 500 bucks. He was interviewed during the 40's and 50's by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and asked to give them a list of anyone suspicious he had met since moving to America, Lorre provided them a list alright, he gave them a list of everyone he knew. I guess we are all suspicious if you catch us on the right day, and in the right mood. After World War II, his career took a bit of a nosedive (partially because chronic gallbladder trouble had got him hooked on morphine), but it is for those two films that Peter Lorre (June 26th, 1904-March 23rd, 1964, at the age of 59 of a stroke), is my (305th) hero of the day.

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