Monday Matinee: Peter Lorre


Sorry for the lateness of this post, but this has been a busy week-end. We spent the Fourth with friends, and then yesterday, we had one doozy of a storm front over use, with lighting and thunder pretty much all day. During such times, all electronics are unplugged.

However, I do want to bring up one of my favorite actors from the 30’s and 40’s, Peter Lorre. Short and pudgy with bulging eyes and a Hungarian accent, he was one of the most recognizable actors on the screen. In fact, he was frequently caricatured in the cartoons of the 40’s. Last week, I talked about The Maltese Falcon; Lorre was one of the featured actors in Falcon. He played Joel Cairo, an effeminate (it was the time of the Hays Commission, remember) gangster, one of several looking for a storied artifact. His performance was excellent, of course, but if you want to see him turn in a powerful performance, rent the movie “M”. A German movie, he portrays a predator of children. (“M” is on Hulu Plus, if you’re a subscriber.)

In Maltese Falcon, made in 1941, Lorre works with Humprhrey Bogart and Sidney Greenfield. He would go on to work with Bogart in another great cinematic classic, Casablanca, and another seven times with Greenfield. As great an actor as Lorre was, it is a fact that he would take work doing whatever he could. Hence, in addition to such great films as “M”, Casablanca, Maltese Falcon, and Arsenic and Old Lace, he would do such things as the entire Mr. Moto series of the 30’s, and cheap thrillers in the 50’s.

Lorre was also great doing comedy, and one of my favorites is his performance as Dr. Einstein, in the delightful comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace (I will be writing about that one, soon.) As well, he was delightful as one of the three Russian commisars in Silk Stockings, the Fred Astaire remake of Ninotchka.

Here is another clip from The Maltese Falcon, again opposite Bogey.

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