WHAT A CHARACTER….ACTOR

I have in the past noted the birthdays or deaths of a number of star actors. Yesterday marked the death of an actor who may not have been a leading man-type star, but was one of the leading and most unforgetable character actors of all time. If you’re a fan of classic movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age, you’ve seen him as Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon and as Ugarte inย Casablanca. I refer to Laszlo Lowenstein – better known as PETER LORRE (June 26, 1904 – March 23, 1964).

Humphrey Bogart may have been THE star (along with Ingrid Bergman in the latter of those films), but for my money, the secondary players were no less memorable: Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, Elisha Cook Jr., Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt and, of course, Peter Lorre.

Lorre was born Laszlo Lowenstein in Austria-Hungary and began his film career in Berlin in the late 1920s, making his first big splash as a child murderer in the German filmย Mย in 1931. After fleeing Hitler’s persecution of Jews, he made his first English language film, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, in 1934. He then moved to Hollywood where, after several years, his career entered a period of decline until Director John Huston cast him in The Maltese Falcon in 1941, and the rest is mystery….along with occasional comedy – speaking of which, here he is in a guest appearance on the Jack Benny Show in 1963:

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16 comments on “WHAT A CHARACTER….ACTOR

  1. scifihammy says:

    Always knew he was in a film when you heard that unique voice. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that is correct. Peter Lorre had a distinctive voice. He also appeared with Cary Grant in a film I just saw again on TCM, something about a ship from Singapore on the China Sea. At first I did not recognize Lorre with the facial hair. He had a sparse goatee of some kind which made him look like the Jew he was in real life. He played the nefarious captain of that junkee ship. On board was also some of the famous character actors Muse described. Jean Harlow in her break out role was a petty thief trying to escape the law with Gable as her guide.

      Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse says:

      Right, scifihammy – not to mention knowing he was in a film when you read the credits – hahahaha. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Michaeline, that film sounds vaguely familiar. Now you’ve made me curious, so I’ll have to check and find the title, because I think I may have seen it many years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      • scifihammy says:

        Well I usually caught a glimpse of the middle of a film my Dad was watching – and I recognised Lorre from his voice ๐Ÿ™‚
        Nowadays there’s probably only George Clooney with ‘the voice’ – but there used to be James Mason, Richard Burton etc etc

        Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse says:

        And let’s also give credit to certain actresses (men weren’t the only actors with distinctive voices). Some who come to mind were Billie Burke (of Glinda the Good Witch fame), Mae West, Marjorie Main, and Mae Questel (the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl).

        Liked by 1 person

      • scifihammy says:

        Marlene Dietrich ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. ladysighs says:

    I agree about the secondary characters. They had character. ๐Ÿ™‚ You couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the parts Lorre did.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don Frankel says:

    “Wait weren’t those German Couriers carrying Letters of Transit?”
    “Poor devils.”
    “That’s right Ugarte I am a little more impressed with you.”

    You mean that guy and that movie?

    Like

  4. mistermuse says:

    Don, I can picture the scene even as you mention it (as well I should – I’ve seen CASABLANCA so many times, I Must Remember This….and just about every scene in the movie).

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  5. mistermuse says:

    Strange that you should mention Marlene Dietrich, ladysighs, because I was going to include her in my reply to you this morning, but by the time I started typing in the other names, I forgot hers. Either I’m getting old, or…..I forget what else.

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  6. mistermuse, I think that movie I described had the words “the ship and on the China Sea (s)” if that is of anyhelp in finding the title. Sorry I do not recall the title but mainly I remember the characters, if the film was not a huge box office success. Some movies are not appreciated until they have aged, like good wine.
    I think CASABLANCA was not a favorite of the critics and theater going public at the time it was realeased. Later it did become one of the the Top Ten favorite movies. One of my favorites is the movie with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak called VERTIGO. There were not many character actors in that one as Novak managed to dispense of any witnesses to her crimes. Ha! Ha! She was so scary playing two characters.

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    • mistermuse says:

      Michaeline, I think the film you saw was actually titled CHINA SEAS because it was on TCM last week (March 16), the plot is similar to your description. and Jean Harlow was one of the stars – however her co-star was Clark Gable (not Cary Grant), and Peter Lorre is not listed in the cast. A thorough search reveals that Harlow and Cary Grant were together in only one picture (SUZY), and Peter Lorre wasn’t in that one either.

      As for VERTIGO, it’s not only one of my favorite Hitchcock films, but one of my favorites by any director….but then, Hitchcock made at least a half-dozen of my “favorite” films!

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  7. I liked your recall of dialogue, Don Frankel, from the film, Casablanca. Very good memory you have. How many times have you seen it? I have lost count of my viewings.

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    • I do not know why I confuse Clark Gable with Cary Grant. Maybe because they have the same initials..C G? I also confuse two actresses who look alike and have similar names. This has been going on since I fell and bruised my brain. I hope this not going to be a permanent problem. It might drive my poor husband up the wall every time he gently corrects me. mistermuse, thanks for your corrections. What would I do without your good memory? It is far better than mine.

      Liked by 1 person

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