The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre

The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre

by Stephen D. Youngkin
     
 

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Often typecast as a menacing figure, Peter Lorre achieved Hollywood fame first as a featured player and later as a character actor, trademarking his screen performances with a delicately strung balance between good and evil. His portrayal of the child murderer in Fritz Lang's masterpiece M (1931) catapulted him to international fame. Lang said of Lorre: "He gave…  See more details below

Overview

Often typecast as a menacing figure, Peter Lorre achieved Hollywood fame first as a featured player and later as a character actor, trademarking his screen performances with a delicately strung balance between good and evil. His portrayal of the child murderer in Fritz Lang's masterpiece M (1931) catapulted him to international fame. Lang said of Lorre: "He gave one of the best performances in film history and certainly the best in his life." Today, the Hungarian-born actor is also recognized for his riveting performances in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and Casablanca (1942). Lorre arrived in America in 1934 expecting to shed his screen image as a villain. He even tried to lose his signature accent, but Hollywood repeatedly cast him as an outsider who hinted at things better left unknown. Seeking greater control over his career, Lorre established his own production company. His unofficial "graylisting" by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, however, left him with little work. He returned to Germany, where he co-authored, directed, and starred in the film Der Verlorene (The Lost One) in 1951. German audiences rejected Lorre's dark vision of their recent past, and the actor returned to America, wearily accepting roles that parodied his sinister movie personality.The first biography of this major actor, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre draws upon more than three hundred interviews, including conversations with directors Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Frank Capra, and Rouben Mamoulian, who speak candidly about Lorre, both the man and the actor. Author Stephen D. Youngkin examines for the first time Lorre's pivotal relationship with German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, his experience as an émigré from Hitler's Germany, his battle with drug addiction, and his struggle with the choice between celebrity and intellectual respectability.Separating the enigmatic person from the persona long associated with one of classic Hollywood's most recognizable faces, The Lost One is the definitive account of a life triumphant and yet tragically riddled with many failed possibilities.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Born Laszlo Loewenstein, Hungarian Lorre (1904-1964) transformed himself from minor stage presence to Hollywood character actor through pivotal professional relationships and one breakthrough role. Portraying a child murderer in 1931's M, Lorre conveyed his unique blend of pathos and complexity so acutely that his career blossomed-with hits like 1935's Crime and Punishment; 1941's The Maltese Falcon; and 1942's Casablanca-even as his personal life unraveled with drug addiction, romantic turmoil and personal insecurity. Youngkin, coauthor of two previous books on Lorre, examines his subject with striking rigor. Through interviews with hundreds of Lorre's friends and associates-including Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder-and frequent dips into film and media archives, Youngkin peels back the layers of Lorre's life to reveal a fascinating, nuanced individual who struggled with intellectual issues in the midst of glamour and fame. As a parallel to Lorre's struggles with typecasting, Youngkin details the rise and fall of the studio star system, giving a strong backdrop to the actor's professional as well as personal dramas. Agent, Adam Chromy. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Drawing on more than 300 interviews, Youngkin (coauthor, The Films of Peter Lorre) offers the first major biography of a genuine but eccentric talent. Peter Lorre electrified the international film world in 1931 with his portrayal of a pathetic child killer in Fritz Lang's M. Born Laszlo Loewenstein in Hungary, Lorre fled Nazi anti-Semitism to join a growing colony of expatriates in Hollywood. Unlike many other foreign actors, Lorre enthusiastically embraced American culture but soon found himself stereotyped, and after key appearances in films like Casablanca, he ended his career a caricature of himself in low-budget horror films. Youngkin recounts Lorre's early years, the distinctive screen persona that eventually became something of a curse, his carelessness with money, and his addiction to morphine. Friends also remember his offbeat sense of humor and capacity for friendship, which extended to ex-wives, Humphrey Bogart, and famed German playwright Bertolt Brecht. This well-researched book illuminates both Lorre's strengths and his flaws, tantalizes the reader with lost possibilities in his career, and covers little-known chapters in his life. Recommended for large public and academic film history and biography collections.-Stephen Rees, Levittown Lib., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

""Winner of the 2005 Rondo Hatton Award"" -- Winner of the Best Book of 2005 in the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards

"Finalist for the 2005 Theater Library Association Award." --

""Youngkin gets behind the image to incise a definitive portrait, and Lorre becomes a likeness we can like in-depth."" -- Choice

""Youngkin's massively researched opus, drawing on over 300 interviews he conducted, lives up to the task of conveying Lorre's personal tragedy.... Readably written, spiced up with occasionally very amusing anecdotes, acerbic asides and insightful conclusions."" -- Cineaste

""The colossal assemblage of research has been whipped into a compelling biographical narrative."" -- Filmmonthly

""Youngkin makes a strong case for Lorre as one of cinema's most underrated actors, exploring in detail his early stage work in Europe, his largely forgotten performances in radio and television, and of course his role as the child murderer in Fritz Lang's classic crime film M, which would forever define Lorre as a celluloid bogeyman."" -- Florida Newspaper

""Youngkin peels back the layers of Lorre's life to reveal a fascinating, nuanced individual who struggled with intellectual issues in the midst of glamour and fame."" -- Library Journal (starred review)

""As the very first biography of Lorre, The Lost One does not disappoint.... A welcome revelation indeed."" -- MovieMaker

""Youngkin's life of Lorre is a monumental piece of research and sheds new light on a career that has too long been ignored and undervalued."" -- San Diego Union-Tribune

""You couldn't ask for a better book about Lorre. It will become the single most important book about Lorre's life and career, without question."" -- Washington Post Book World

""[The book] is one of the finest biographies of an actor ever written, on a par with Patricia Bosworth's Montgomery Clift and Charles Winecoff's Split Image: The Life of Andy Perkins."" -- Herbert Shadrack, www.cinemaretro.com

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813123608
Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
Publication date:
11/18/2011
Pages:
680
Product dimensions:
1.44(w) x 6.14(h) x 9.21(d)

What People are saying about this

Thomas Schatz
"A truly remarkable achievement: a quintessential biography that manages to get inside not only the inimitable, ever-mysterious Lorre, but also a movie industry that couldn’t get enough of him – yet never quite figured out how to tap his peculiar genius. Riveting, heartbreaking, and endlessly illuminating, Youngkin's The Lost One reveals the life and times, the talent and torments of an authentic motion-picture original. He deftly traces Lorre's on-screen achievements, from M and Mr. Moto, to the noir masterworks during his glory days at Warners, to his sad, slow descent into addiction, chronic melancholy and second-rate roles. And dead center throughout is Lorre himself, who is somehow sustained by his acerbic wit, his oddly heroic sensibility, and his incessant commitment to his art."
Patrick McGilligan
"You couldn't ask for a better book about Lorre. It will become the single most important book about Lorre's life and career, without question."
author of Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast and Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

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Meet the Author

Stephen D. Youngkin is coauthor of The Films of Peter Lorre and Peter Lorre: Portrait des Schauspielers auf der Flucht. He appeared as an expert biographer on the German television documentary Das Doppelte Gesicht (The Double Face) and A&E's Biography tribute to Peter Lorre.

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