The Lost One
A Life of Peter Lorre
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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Prologue: "Who are you, really?"
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Walking along Hollywood’s Highland Avenue one fall evening in 1977, twenty-five-year-old Catharine A. Lorre, sole heir to the face and fame of her highly recognizable father, watched a police car pull up and cut her off. Out of the vehicle stepped two undercover vice-squad officers, who flashed their badges and demanded to see some identification. ...
Chapter 1. Facemaker
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At the beginning of the twentieth century, Arad looked to the future. Thanks to its position as an important railroad junction, the commercial center of southeastern Hungary boasted one of the largest distilleries in Europe, its own brand of flour (Arad Königsmehl, or King’s Flour); a lumberyard; and wagon,machine, and barrel factories. ...
Chapter 2. M is for Morphine
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Absolutely convinced that Peter Lorre was perfect for the lead in his new picture, Fritz Lang saw no need to screen test the “virgin” actor. With script in hand, he turned up at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. “I sometimes cursed him secretly,” Lorre looked back twenty years later, “as I must have waited fourteen months and couldn’t accept any film offers.” ...
Chapter 3: Escape to Life
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A benign fate—as he liked to believe—intervened to end Lorre’s Hungerjahr in Paris. At Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd’s Bush, more commonly known as “the Bush” to film habitués, Alfred Hitchcock and Ivor Montagu, his associate producer, readied production of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) for Gaumont-British film studios. ...
Chapter 4. Softly, Softly, Catchee Monkey
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Lorre wanted to play comedy. 20th Century–Fox, which had accepted him—and he it—on a trial basis, met the actor halfway with a dual role in an action-melodrama. Director Malcolm St. Clair had reportedly read the screenplay for Crack-Up (1937) and then sketched his ideas of what the characters might look like. ...
Chapter 5. Being Slapped and Liking It
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Fed up with losing control over his work, John Huston, who had coauthored his way into high standing at Warner Bros. in the late 1930s, asked his agent to write a provision into his contract that said if the studio took up his option, he would be allowed to direct a film. ...
Chapter 6. Insider as Outsider
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By all appearances, Lorre had gone Hollywood at Warner Bros. With pal Humphrey Bogart, he frequented popular watering holes—Chasen’s, Romanoff’s, the Villanova—and steamed the alcohol out of his pores at Finlandia Baths. He pulled pranks and practical jokes and cracked wise. ...
Chapter 7. The Swamp
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When Mickey Rooney passed through Pittsburgh on a promotional tour in 1943, he met “a beefy guy with a raspy voice.” Sam Stiefel made his pitch over dinner. The theater operator wanted to sell out his interests on the East Coast and manage the actor. His self-confidence swept Rooney off his feet. ...
Chapter 8. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
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Peter Lorre’s approach was always soft and silent. He left the United States, and his life in Hollywood, just as quietly. Dissembling about his sudden departure, he said, “I removed myself from the limelight to give picturegoers a rest. They deserve it. I must be a terrifying experience on occasions!” ...
Chapter 9. Elephant Droppings
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Disappointment awaited Lorre in America. Wasted and unable to generate interest in Der Verlorene, the defeated actor-director-writer returned from his lonely mission empty-handed. He had sought to listen and to learn, and perhaps to help himself by helping others. His countrymen had paid him back in indifference, “with interest and interest’s interest.” ...
Chapter 10. The Mask behind the Face
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Facial expression,” wrote film critic Béla Balázs, “is the most subjective manifestation of man.” Lorre wore the contradiction of person and persona like so many masks, at times laying bare the inner man, at others obscuring him. Toward the end of his life, he tore away old disguises and created new ones, forever confusing the shadowy line between selves, not as an acting...
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Three months after Peter Lorre’s death in March 1964, police officers in Elk City, Oklahoma, arrested nineteen-year-old Larry McLean for counseling a devil-worshipping cult allegedly responsible for vandalizing a string of local churches. Dedicated to destroying all emblems of God, the secret society also planned to exhume the body of its idol, Peter Lorre, and restore it to life. ...
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Page Count: 680
Publication Year: 2005