Ok, every once in a while we need a Peter Lorre fix. This is one of those times. For our money, he may well have been the finest character actor Hollywood ever produced.
The former Laszlo Lowenstein from somewhere in the old Austro-Hungarian empire was almost as bizarre offscreen as he was on — in nearly 155 movie and TV credits spread over two continents and a 35-year career. That’s quite a bit of work given that Lorre died of a stroke early, at age 59 in 1964.
There is no doubt that his performances were streaked with varying degrees of evil. But he played with certain qualifications imposed on his characterizations by his acting skills and his innate sense of humor. (Lorre was known in Hollywood circles as a consummate prankster.)
He acted with the best, and appeared in some of the best films ever to come out of the old studio system. Lorre is well worth knowing more about, and that’s the aim of today’s Monday Quiz.
As much as you may think you know about this superb actor, we are hoping that we will be able to stump you, and perhaps add an informative point or two. Now, on to our Peter Lorre Quiz. (Answers tomorrow.)
1) Question: Lorre first made his movie acting debut playing a child murderer in Fritz Lang’s 1931 German classic, M. What convinced Lange to cast the then unknown actor? a) The director was contractually obligated to do so; b) Lorre agreed to work for very little money; c) The German actor that Lang originally sought was not available; or d) that Lorre’s angelic appearance at the time was perfect for his grisly role.
2) Question: M was remade in English but Lorre was NOT considered for the role of the murderer. Who wound up playing the part? a) Anthony Perkins; b) David Wayne; c) Rod Steiger; or d) George Chakiris.
3) Question: Shortly before he died, the down-on-his-luck Lorre was forced to make beach movies costarring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. a) True; or b) False.
4) Question: On the set of Casablanca, perhaps Lorre’s most famous picture, he stage managed an off-camera stunt that provoked gales of laughter among cast members. What did he do? a) Gave hot foots to key actors while they were napping; b) Distributed fake pay checks with lower salary amounts on then; c) Secretly miked the director’s offset sexual assignations for the amusement of the cast and crew; or d) Spiked the onset water jugs with absinthe.
5) Question: Which actor was most closely associated with Lorre, so close that the duo evoked comparisons of comedians Abbott and Costello. a) Zachary Scott; b) Sydney Greenstreet; c) Vincent Price; or d) Boris Karloff.
6) Question: The pint-sized Lorre found himself costarring in a Fifties film noir tussling with another shorty, Mickey Rooney. Which one was taller?
7) Question: Speaking of the genre, which one of Lorre’s starring performances in which one of his films strongly influenced the entire course of fim noir for some two decades? a) Casablanca; b) The Maltese Falcon; c) The Stranger on the Third Floor; or d) The Mask of Dimitrios.
8) Question: In which Alfred Hitchcock picture did Lorre exercise the most guile to secure the leading role? a) The Man Who Knew Too Much; b) Torn Curtain; c) Psycho; or d) The 39 Steps.
9) Question: Which of Lorre’s offscreen quirks especially caught Hitchcock’s attention. Lorre’s habit of a) Crossing himself repeatedly before a scene began; b) Rehearsing in a floor-length overcoat; c) Collecting valuable story properties and selling them to directors; or d) Break out in tears when a studio executive would come on the set.
10) Question: How many marriages did Lorre have? a) one; b) five; c) three; or d) eight.