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Elsa Lanchester
Martin Landau
Robert Lansing
Glen A. Larson
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Peter Lorre
Eugene Lourie
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LORRE, PETER
(1904–1964). Hungarian actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: M (Fritz LANG 1931); F.P.I. Doesn't Answer (German version) (Karl Hartl 1932); Mad Love (Karl Freund 1935); The Crack-Up (Malcolm St. Clair 1936); Strange Cargo (Frank Borzage 1940); Stranger on the Third Floor (Boris Ingster 1940); You'll Find Out (David BUTLER 1940); The Face behind the Mask (Robert Florey 1941); The Invisible Agent (Edwin L. Marks 1942); The Boogie Man Will Get You (Lew LANDERS 1942); Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank CAPRA 1944); The Beast with Five Fingers (Florey 1946); Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (Richard FLEISCHER 1954); "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1955), episode of The Best of Broadway; Around the World in Eighty Days (Michael ANDERSON 1956); The Story of Mankind (Irwin ALLEN 1957); "The Diplomatic Corpse," (1957), "Man from the South" (1959), episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Allen 1961); Tales of Terror (Roger CORMAN 1962); Five Weeks in a Balloon (Allen 1962); "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing" (1962), episode of Route 66; The Raven (Corman 1963); The Comedy of Terrors (Jacque TOURNEUR 1964); "Monsters We've Known and Loved" (documentary) (1964), episode of Hollywood and the Stars.
 
I've always had trouble making up my mind about Peter Lorre. The chief puzzle confronting commentators is the fact that, during the last years of his career, Lorre found himself enshrined in generally lamentable horror comedies as a beloved icon of the genre, fully equivalent to co-stars Boris KARLOFF and Vincent PRICE − even though, compared to those gentlemen, he had appeared in relatively few horror films. How is this to be explained? One response would be to say that, essentially, Peter Lorre was a horror film; his unsettling demeanor, oddly cadenced and whispery speech, and bulging, shifty eyes added a touch of the macabre to every single film he appeared in. Thus, while I have limited his credits here to films that fall into the conventional territory of the genre, it could be argued that every single one of his films should be considered fantastical, solely due to Lorre's unearthly presence. This brings up another difference between Lorre and his latter-day companions in sardonic terror: unlike Karloff and Price, when Lorre did find himself in a horror film like Mad Love or The Boogie Man Will Get You, he never wore any outlandish makeup. He didn't need to.

From this perspective, the last fifteen years of his career would represent a regrettable anomaly. One could theorize that the inability of Lorre's chief rivals in horror, Karloff and Bela LUGOSI, to break out of the horror ghetto had the virtue of enabling them to maintain their lean and hungry look, so that they could at times perform effectively until the very end of their lives. Lorre, a welcome addition to mainstream hits like The Maltese Falcon (1940), Casablanca (1942), and My Favorite Brunette (1947),  instead grew fat and complacent. In films like Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, then, the corpulent Lorre found himself no longer persuasive as a menace, and necessarily attempted instead to project an incongruous air of avuncular charm.

But one might alternatively posit that Lorre was always a clown at heart, and that a wry awareness of the essential absurdity of his mannerisms was always lurking beneath his apparently sincere efforts to be ominous and disturbing. It doesn't really serve to explain early triumphs like M and Mad Love, wherein Lorre seemed quite sincerely and convincingly monstrous, but a bit later, his performances in the Mr. Moto films, The Invisible Agent, and The Beast with Five Fingers might be interpreted as unacknowledged anticipations of the overtly humorous Lorre to come, with subtle signs of a bemused twinkle in his eye. And this was also the time, of course, that Lorre began to accept roles in outright comedies like The Boogie Man Will Get You and Arsenic and Old Lace. This take on Lorre would suggest another reason for his appearances in those all-star horror farces of the 1960s: those films needed natural comics like Lorre and Price to balance the work of colleagues like Karloff and Basil RATHBONE who lacked their flair for a lighter touch. In support of the notion that Lorre is best viewed as amusing, one might also note that, well after his death, eerie replications of Lorre's voice and appearance have continued to surface in such comedic realms as Looney Tunes cartoons and the memorable television series The Ren and Stimpy Show (1991-1996).

For once, then, I will leave it up to readers to reach your own judgment about this singular actor: you may cringe at the sight of Peter Lorre, or you may laugh at him. But there is one thing that everybody can agree on: you can never forget him.

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