Monday, March 23, 2009

The Legacy of Peter Lorre

45 years ago on this date, actor Peter Lorre died of a stroke in his apartment in West Hollywood, California. Lorre was often typecast into the role of the villain, a role that he appeared to be built for with his distinctively creepy, yet often soft, voice and bulging eyes, which he described as "two soft-boiled eggs." Lorre catapulted on to the scene in 1931 in the role of a child killer with a knack for whistling "The Hall of the Mountain King" from the Peer Gynt Suite in the classic Fritz Lang thriller, M. In 1934, he was cast as a criminal ringleader by Alfred Hitchcock in The Man Who Knew Too Much and delivered his lines phonetically, not yet able to speak the English language.

He made his Hollywood debut in the 1935 horror film, Mad Love and his tenure in the genre was secured. Aside from appearing in such horror films as Beast with Five Fingers (1946), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), Lorre is also well known for playing the Japanese detective, Mr. Moto, in a series of films. In addition, Lorre had memorable roles in such Hollywood classics as The Maltese Falcoln (1941) and Casablanca (1942). He even managed the distinct honor of being the first actor to portray a James Bond villain with his appearance as Le Chiffre in the television adaptation of Casino Royale for an episode of the CBS series, Climax!.

In his later years, Lorre's health had been declining due to a combination of weight problems, diabetes, and an addiction to morphine. His body was cremated and his ashes interred at what is now Hollywood Forever Cemetery. He was 59 at the time of his death.

Read more of the many stories of Hollywood Forever.

-Casey H.

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