Peter Lorre: Profoundly Misunderstood?

The LRB’s Bee Wilson on Peter Lorre, one of my favorite character actors of all time: “It is tempting to speculate what might have happened to Lorre’s career if the Brownshirts who were playing with stinkbombs in 1929 had not gone on to far nastier forms of thuggery. Might he have ended his days as a pillar of the German theatrical establishment rather than gurning in comedy-horror B-movies with Vincent Price? Might his persona have gained the gravitas it always lacked? Lorre himself seems to have thought so. In his bloated later years, when he presented a rather sad and incongruous figure at the Beverley Hills Tennis Club, he was inclined to harp on his intellectual past. ‘I think he felt,’ one of his friends later said, ‘had Hitler not happened and had he gone on as Bertolt Brecht’s actor . . . he would have been himself and been appreciated for what he really was.’”

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