WHAT A CHARACTER ( 11 : 14 - 16 : 2015 )The “What A Character!” Blogathon is here and hosted by three blogging hostesses with the mostesses: Aurora at ‘Once Upon a Screen’ Kellee with ‘Outspoken and Freckled’ and Paula of ‘Paula’s Cinema Club’ and they’ve taken on this blogathon for its fourth year with a wide array of bloggers weighing in on some of the great character actors of classic film. Click on this banner to see this year’s crop.

Me? I’m joining them in the sandbox by writing about PETER LORRE:

June 26th, 1904 – March 23rd, 1964

He’s been covered by this “…Character” blogathon before…2013 & 2014:


…and you can hear his name in this 1970’s song within the first minute and a half:

THERESA - FIRST GRADEAs a good card-carrying classic film buff, I’ve known of Lorre all through my classic film obsession. I hadn’t really paid attention to him. He was a means to an end to our more handsome and heroic heroes and heroines. He pushed my button with his Over-The-Top-Scenery-Chewing; you know, within 20-seconds flat of seeing him, the ewwww-creep out factor’d kick in. He’s the fall guy…the quivering coward you want to beat over the head with Elisha Cook Jr. But there are none so blind as those who cannot see. Uhhhh…that would be me. Cat-eye glasses…the better to see talent with, my pretties.



THINGI saw something while watching “The Beast With Five Fingers.” ( I confess, I confused it with “The Five Thousand Fingers Of Dr. T” ). Initially I wasn’t really feeling “…Five Fingers.” The leads weren’t compelling for me ( though very attractive ) and the movie seemed a bit like the uninvited-hold-that-ghost-dark-&-stormy-night-spook house tale. ( HEY ABBOTTTT!! ) When I saw the disembodied hand come out of the box like Thing in The Addams Family and reach for its ring, I was like “what the h….!!!!”

Things were looking up!  But I also caught Peter Lorre from the corner of my eye.


From the corner of my eye? Yeh. Some faint 30-watt light-bulb went on in ye olde noggin’. Watching him in “…Five Fingers” my focus suddenly turned entirely to him. He could have been Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight for all the terror and turmoil he displays that no one else sees. He was convinced about this hand. And in turn, convinced me. In “…Five Fingers” when he was bugging out because of the hand, you knew he was cracked the instant you saw him. Then I found myself looking forward to seeing him a little later in “Mad Love.” (  It was some back-to-back-to-back mini-fest TCM was having about killer hands ). I cannot speak to anything specific that caught my eye in these two movies. Isn’t it enough then came the dawn, and I felt an involuntary overwhelming respect for this actor? It slowly “dawned” on me what I was seeing in these two films and, in fact, in all of the films I’ve seen him in.

What I finally realized I was seeing, was Peter Lorre’s Commitment to Acting. Ha! I sound nutsy, right? After all, COMMITMENT is an intangible, unconcrete thing. But I felt it. This little guy with the bugged out eyes and “funny” accent who looks cherubic at times and demented at others, commits to what his character is going through.

When I look at that rogue’s gallery of Lorre characters above, I see a tortured man. A man tortured by love, greed; he suffers from pecadilloes he tries to control, but can’t. He wants too much and loves much too much. He has a need to succeed.


In “Mad Love” he sits in the theatre balcony, the camera slowly dollies towards him as he watches Frances Drake tortured onstage. Yeah, you know he’s a goner…a man in love. In pursuing her, he just wouldn’t…couldn’t take “NO” for an answer from the raven-haired Drake. Her being married and in love with her husband ( Colin Clive ) does not stop Lorre from loving obsessing over her. Lorre plays a doctor who, had he stayed on the sane and Hippocratic path, could make great contributions to medicine; help a lot of people. ( I loved seeing Keye Luke as the doctor’s assistant. KEYE LUKEHey, any chance to see Keye Luke in the 40’s is a thrill for me. Represent, my Asian brother! ) But Lorre plays a man gone mad knowing he could never HAVE that love reciprocated. I watch Lorre commit whole hog to this role; he absolutely relishes the torment. Tell me he didn’t enjoy having Dr. Gogol dress up in that macabre contraption, strapped, bound and corsetted rivaling Hannibal Lecter, Pin Head or any of today’s horror fiends:


While this discovery was dawning on me, I kind of felt a tad bit like a peeping Tom witnessing the abandon Lorre commits to both roles. Coming up those stairs in “Mad Love” wearing that crazy neck brace, laughing maniacally, on a movieset full of cast, crew and cockatoo, he plays with such controlled abandon, he seems lost in his characters’ reverie of orgasmic self-torture. Lorre simultaneously fills me with revulsion and sympathy and I can’t say that about many other actors; maybe not any other actor. How does he do that?

We all know “M” and “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon” but I especially like Peter Lorre in the lesser-known, quieter “The Face Behind the Mask”. PETER LORRE ( BEHIND MASK )An immigrant, happy to make a new life here in America, he’s in an accident that leaves him horribly burned. He can’t get a good job so he wears a mask, goes gangster, finds love with a pretty blind girl ( Evelyn Keyes ) and wreaks justified vengeance on the bad guys. I liked Don Beddoe as Lorre’s one and only true friend in this movie. ( Read about Beddoe here in last year’s character blogathon ). I liked Lorre in “The Face Behind the Mask” – loving, poignant, damaged.


Please give “The Face Behind the Mask” a look-see. It’s a good one:

I am a recent convert to the charms and brilliance that is Peter Lorre even though I’ve seen him since I was a kid. I don’t presume to know ANYthing about his acting process, but I can envision he enjoyed the parts he played; picked and chose them even….wondered what he could explore or exploit THIS time around with his character. I think he purposely, purposefully knew how to ratchet up and dial down what would make us sympathize or vilify his character. Sometimes he’s in and out of a picture quickly – unsaddled with the burden of carrying Jack Warner’s box office dreams to the bank – being a character whose plot point gets things percolating; able to think how he could create a world for this character in a short amount of screen time. I really now enjoy Peter Lorre and look forward to what he’s going to do in a movie. You can check the BFI for their ten-favorite Peter Lorre movie performances here. My card-carrying membership in the classic film club is an ongoing learning process. And helping that along is reading what others have to say. So do click below and find a directory of character actors for the 2015 WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon. Paula’s Cinema Club handles Day 1, Once Upon A Screen showcases Day 2 and Outspoken and Freckled features entries from Day 3 of their fourth annual blogathon. Also, you can go here for 2012, 2013 and 2014.  Enjoy!

WHAT A CHARACTER ( 11 : 14 - 16 : 2015 )

(  H O M E   )


23 thoughts on “PETER LORRE

  1. Great tribute. I laughed out loud at your wonderful phrase – “the quivering character you want to beat over the head with Elisha Cook Jr.”
    Give that girl an award!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awwwww Vienna…thanks! ( 🙂 ) Hey, if I don’t keep you readers entertained, I might as well hang up my celluloid. During the ‘What A Character! Blogathon’ you can read about all of the greats! Thanks for reading.


  2. 1001 (approximately) cartoon Lorre impersonations make him seem overly familiar, but Lorre, as you discovered, is a slow discovery where admiration comes as a marvelous surprise. Affection for the actor is an added bonus. His sympathetic characters in the Corman double bill that is a Hallowe’en tradition in our house (The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors) has turned him somewhat into a pet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Here Petey…c’mere boy! LOL! It was one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced cinematically in a long time … discovering an actor I’ve seen for years. I’ll have to be on the lookout for “The Raven” and “The Comedy of Terrors” even though I’m not such a big fan of funny horror movies. Hmmmm, who else have I overlooked? Thanks for commenting. And don’t forget Paddy, you’re in for my blogathon in January. Perhaps der Bingle’s work with David Butler may be my new discoveries…


    • Hiya Paula. I think I’ve seen “…Dimitrios” years and years ago. So I should say, No…I haven’t seen it. L0L! I’ll read your post, and thanks so much for including ye olde blog in your fourth annual What A Character! Blogathon.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: 4th Annual WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon – Day 1 Posts | Paula's Cinema Club

  4. Love your post about Mr. Lorre. TCM aired Crime and Punishment about 6 months ago, made in 1935, and it’s tortured star, you guessed it, Peter Lorre. One of my son’s had recently read the novel so he agreed to sit down and watch this film version and he was surprised at how well it followed the plot of the book. We both liked the film, and Lorre is great as the protagonist who murders and then tries to hide his crime. Edward Arnold is good as the inspector trying to solve the murder case. I’ve not seen the movie you linked to, so thank you for posting that! Now I know what I’ll be watching tonight! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there Jenni. I’ve never seen “Crime and Punishment.” Isn’t that a 10,000 page Dostoyevsky novel with teeny tiny print? Now that my eyes’ve been opened to Lorre, I must be on the look out for that movie. I’ve always liked Edward Arnold a lot too; even when he’s the bad guy. He was covered by the WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon here back in 2013. Hope you get to see “Face Behind the Mask” or “Mad Love” in your travels. Thank you for stopping by. And by the way…I look forward to your post on Ford and Wayne for my blogathon in January. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautifully written. You make Peter Lorre come alive once more. Fun to read your lively and original observations. I liked him against type, as a good guy in The Constant Nymph. I saw The Face Behind the Mask on TCM and was surprised by my sympathy for his tortured character. He was so romantic too. Your wonderful insight is a mini film course. I will be seeing Peter Lorre from a fresh perspective.


    • A mini-film course? Me? My writing?! And you wrote this out here for everyone to see too. Yay! Seriously, thank you so much Harriet. I remember when I saw “The Constant Nymph” my expectations sort of had me waiting for something dark and dire to happen to Brenda Marshall but I saw he was a different kind of guy in this. ( …As was Eduardo Ciannelli who is usually a bad guy but nice in this film. ) I’m keeping my eye out for Peter Lorre from here on. During the Ingrid Bergman retrospective this summer at the Museum of Modern Art, I was able to really pay attention to him in “Casablanca” before she and Bogie did their thing. His actions set the whole plot in motion! Thank you again for your comments, Harriet. Check out my blog when you have time.


  6. You know, you’re right about Lorre committing to his character. There was no halfway with him, especially when it came to the creepy roles. Your description is perfect: “the ewwww-creep out factor”.

    I’m so glad you, in particular, chose Lorre. You’ve made me see him in a fresh way. Thanks! 🙂


    • Thank you for the great shout out during the Criterion podcast. I heard my name, had no idea that I would win anything not what with all the other 100-plus good entries. Glad my post gave you a chuckle. Oh…and “Quai…” is pronounced KAY. L0L!!! As soon as I get my prize in my hot grubby hands, I’ll be watching more movies “…from the Couch.” Thanks again!!!

      Liked by 1 person

Please leave a comment ( No Anonymous Replies Accepted )

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.