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Peter Lorre
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Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre (June 26, 1904 - March 23, 1964) was a Hungarian-American actor known largely for playing criminals.

He was born Ladislav (László) Löwenstein in Rózsahegy/Rosenberg, Austria-Hungary, which is now Ruzomberok, Slovakia. His parents were Alois and Elvira, and he was the eldest son in their German-speaking Jewish family. He began acting on stage in Vienna, Austria; Breslau, Germany; and Zürich, Switzerland. At age 21 he moved to Berlin and caught the attention of German playwright Bertolt Brecht. Lorre became famous when Fritz Lang cast him as the child killer in M in 1931. Scenes from that film were re-used by the Nazi propaganda agencies in the anti-Semitic movie Der ewige Jude. None of his films were in Hungarian.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Lorre moved from Berlin to Paris and, eventually, Hollywood. Typecast as a villain, he found himself with no shortage of work. Moving from a villainous role in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), he then played Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment in 1935, and followed that up in a series of Mr. Moto movies, a parallel to the better known Charlie Chan series, in which he played a Japanese detective. He also had significant roles in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1943).

For some years, Lorre suffered severely from gall-bladder problems, for which he was prescribed morphine. During his early career in Hollywood, Lorre was an addict, and he could often be found scurrying away between shoots to satisfy his habit. It was only during the Mr. Moto series that he finally managed to overcome his addiction.

After the 1940s, Lorre began to gain weight and played lesser roles, with the exception of Skeeter the clown in the 1959 movie The Big Circus. Lorre's caricature was frequently used in Warner Brothers cartoons, and his persona was used as the basis of the character Flat Top in the Dick Tracy cartoons.

Peter Lorre died in 1964 and was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.

Lorre has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6619 Hollywood Boulevard.


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