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#043. Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre is one of those actors who gets a bad rap. It’s not because he’s a bad actor by any means. He just gets typecast. Typecast as the creepy or nervous guy. I’d have to say that Steve Buscemi would probably be the best modern Peter Lorre equivalent. Not only because he tends to play the creepy and/or nervous guys, but he’s got those slightly bulging eyes that are almost a trademark of these two actors. It’s somewhat unfortunate that certain actors are typecast based on how they look, but boy can they perform those roles to a tee. And yet, it seemed like Peter Lorre was often cast as a balance to other actors. In sort of a yin and yang relationship, his characters made the protagonist seem that much cooler. This week’s two films highlight some of the best performances of Lorre’s career.

M
Year: 1931
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

The acting career of Peter Lorre started in Germany. Perhaps it was luck, or perhaps it was skill, but with only a few films under his belt, he was cast in a work by Fritz Lang simply titled M. Lang was already famous for some impressive films, so this would be Lorre’s chance to shine. And shine he did. One would come to wonder if M started Peter Lorre off on his career of playing creepy characters, but he does it so well one would almost wonder if it just comes naturally. And yet, part of the charm of Lorre’s Peter Beckert is that, to the casual observer, he seems perfectly normal. Merely a passer-by who appears to like the works of Edvard Grieg.

Taking place in Berlin, M is the story of a manhunt. The entire town is in an uproar after the police have been unable to capture a serial killer who seems to target children. As a result, the police begin to arrest more people, including much of the Berlin underground. These thieves and white-collar criminals are pressured into action, since they can’t continue on their less-than-approvable line of work. Through the placement of an “M” (for “Murderer”) on his back, Peter Beckert (Peter Lorre) is eventually caught due to a tell: whistling In the Hall of the Mountain King. Brought before a court of his peers, Beckert finds out that his peers are now the lowlifes of Berlin, and not a part of the legitimate justice system.

Casablanca
Year: 1942
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

Now that Peter Lorre had been typecast as the creepy villain, he moved to America where he continued his acting career. Then, one day in 1941, Lorre appeared across from a certain actor in a little film known as The Maltese Falcon. This actor was Humphrey Bogart. A year later, he was cast alongside Bogart in another film. This time, the enduring classic, Casablanca. Apparently these two actors worked very well together because they were in a few more films together, including 1944’s Passage to Marseilles and finishing with 1953’s Beat the Devil. And yet, in these films he shares with Bogart, Lorre tended to play the roles opposite Bogart’s protagonists. Casablanca is no exception.

Set in Nazi-occupied Morocco during World War II, Casablanca was the waiting grounds for many ready to escape the Nazi regime. However, with travel restrictions in place, getting a visa was a challenge, which is why many decided to stick around and set up shop. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) has decided to run a nightclub and seems to be pretty content with his life, despite being exiled from America. Well, he was content until a Czech resistance leader comes to town with Rick’s former lover, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), in tow. But, what luck! Rick comes across two visas that would allow him and his former flame to leave Casablanca. However, now that Ilsa is with someone else, will she go with Rick to restart their relationship, or will she keep the Czech and cash in on Rick’s feelings for her?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 priceless Peter Lorre performances

Bacon #: 2 (The Raven / Jack Nicholson -> A Few Good Men / Kevin Bacon)

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2 responses to “#043. Peter Lorre

  1. Pingback: End of Act One | Cinema Connections

  2. Pingback: #018. Humphrey Bogart | Cinema Connections

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