He may well have been the finest character actor Hollywood ever produced.
As mentioned, 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 Peter 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 our Monday Quiz this time.
As much as you may think you know about this superb actor, we are hoping that our quiz will provide new information not included in our previous Peter Lorre Quiz published on May 19. (To review yesterday’s questions, just scroll down one blog.) Here we go.
1) Answer: b) When asked by Lottle Lenya what he was doing in Hollywood, Lorre replied, referring to his studio films, “Nothing. I make faces.” He vastly undersold himself.
2) Answer: b) Child murderer.
3) Answer: d) Charlie Chaplin was deeply impressed with Lorre’s performance in M, and pulled out the verbal stops.
4) Answer: b) False. Fact is Lorre had only one movie under his belt before he was cast by Fritz Lang in the title role in M. It was in a 1929 German silent, in which Lorre appeared in a bit part as a dental patient. Lang overlooked his inexperience, and hired Lorre for his look. Smart move.
5) Answer: True. That was exactly Lorre’s verbal joke directed to MGM’s Louis B. Mayer and assorted political bigwigs. Mayer, who was Jewish, was appalled. Lorre’s career at MGM thereafter did not flourish.
6) Answer: c) Lorre was tabbed by Fox to star as a Japanese counter-espionage agent in the Mr. Moto series which ran for eight movies beginning with 1937’s Think Fast, Mr. Moto and concluded with 1939’s Mr. Moto Takes A Vacation. Lorre enjoyed the work but rarely discussed it in his later years.
7) Answer: b) Lorre and Humphrey Bogart became fast friends after The Maltese Falcon.
8) Answer: a) 1951’s The Lost One in which Lorre plays a doctor who strangles his fiancee and turns serial killer. The movie, made in Germany, didn’t arrive in the U.S. until 1983. Lorre was praised as both director and lead actor. This is a movie worth checking out.
9) Answer: d) Morphine.
10) Answer: d) Zsa Zsa Gabor.