Born Laszlo Lowenstein, 26 June, 1904. Died 23 March, 1964. In between, there was a whole lotta living.
Born in Hungary, he began acting at age seventeen. He first found success onstage, working with Bertolt Brecht. His breakout role came in 1931 when Fritz Lang cast him as the child killer in M. Against all odds Lorre made the character quite sympathetic (if not admirable), marking the first of many sad monsters he would play throughout his career. Faked his way through an interview with Alfred Hitchcock by watching him closely, and laughing hysterically whenever he thought that Hitch had told the punchline of a joke, as Peter didn't speak English yet. He was then cast in The Man Who Knew Too Much, and learned his part phonetically.
He was married three times. His first wife, and lifelong best friend, was Celia Lovsky, a classically trained actress who is probably best remembered as T'Pau in "Amok Time" on Star Trek.
He was close friends and occasionally co-starred with Vincent Price, who read the eulogy at his funeral. Counseled Humphrey Bogart to marry Lauren Bacall, despite their age difference, by telling him "five good years are better than none!"
The speech pattern of Ren C. Hoek is a Shout-Out to Lorre (as is Rocky Rococo), likewise Agent X Two Zero in Gerry Anderson's Stingray, and the Genie briefly impersonates him in Aladdin. The Woody Allen Gag Dub spy movie What's Up, Tiger Lily? gives a Lorre voice to a villain, who at one point complains that "this Peter Lorre impression is keeeeling my throat!" Spike Jones's spoof version of the song "My Old Flame" features a vocal parody that Jones wanted to call "Peter Gory" until the record company vetoed the idea. The Quest for Glory series of computer games has Ugarte, Lorre's character in Casablanca, as a minor recurring character alongside Sydney Greenstreet's Signor Ferrari. Lorre's life and career are the subject of Addicted to Bad Ideas, a musical by The World Inferno Friendship Society. Lastly, Tom Smith has a song dedicated to him named "I Want to Be Peter Lorre".
Starred in (among other movies):
- Arsenic and Old Lace
- Mad Love. 'Tis the Trope Namer
- The Maltese Falcon
- The Man Who Knew Too Much
- The Mr. Moto series.
- Disney's adaptation of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Peter Lorre displays examples of:
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: He was typecast as this, after his breakout performance in M.
- Fake Nationality/ Not Even Bothering with the Accent : He played "creepy foreigners" from all different countries: German (in M and Arsenic and Old Lace ), Greek ( The Maltese Falcon ), Italian ( Casablanca ), French ( "Passage to Marseille"), and Dutch ("The Mask of Dimitrios.") He never bothered changing his Hungarian accent for any of these roles.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Cartoons today are still parodying him.
- The Woobie: He was typecast as this, probably due to his "sad eyes." Usually a Villain Woobie, or a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.