The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre

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 ...

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The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre

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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: 9780813136066
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 680
  • Sales rank: 686,336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.60 (d)

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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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Prologue: "Who are you, really?" 1

1 Facemaker 4

2 M Is for Morphine 52

3 Escape to Life 89

4 Softly, Softly, Catchee Monkey 142

5 Being Slapped and Liking It 176

6 Insider as Outsider 246

7 The Swamp 279

8 Smoke Gets in Your Eyes 311

9 Elephant Droppings 360

10 The Mask behind the Face 425

Epilogue: Mimesis 451

Appendix: Peter Lorre Credits and Broadcast Appearances 455

Notes 493

Bibliography 567

Index 581

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2012

    Ok.....

    Ok im a HUGE FAN of peter lorre ive seen m,the beast with five fingers,and mad love.....im sure this book is AWESOME so how many pages are there???

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2008

    He's a creep...he's a weirdo

    Definitely one of the funniest biographies ever written about the strangest star to hit Hollywood. A junkie addicted to enemas, hookers and biting his friends...this is definitely not Cary Grant we're talking about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2008

    Definitely recommended

    As previous reviewers note, this is not your usual Hollywood hack job but a thoroughly researched, honest BIOGRAPHY that explores all aspects of the actor's life, not just the sensational (though there is plenty of that as Lorre had as much of an appetite for girls and drugs as any rock star.) I've already given copies to two friends and they've thanked me for it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2008

    Pure pleasure reading

    I can't believe this book isn't more well known. It deserves to be read as one of the creative nonfiction classics, along with 'Angela's Ashes' and 'The Devil in the White City.' Not only is it beautifully written, it's also a damn fun read. Don't miss it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2006

    Excellent Book on Peter Lorre!

    I do hope that potential readers will pay more attention to the publisher's comments, professional reviews, and positive reviews here, because they give a much more accurate account of the contents of the book than the rather negative comments by one reader in particular (who used an alias). It seems to me that 'critic' has an axe to grind against the author. This is not an 'amatuerish' telling of Peter Lorre's life, but an outstanding and scholarly chronicle that follows the timeline of his professional work -- stage, film, radio, and television. Lorre was no 'loser', and he is certainly not described as one here. Rather, quotes from the numerous interviews Mr. Youngkin took with Lorre's friends, family members, co-workers, and associates -- and which are listed and dated in the book's back-matter -- call him a loyal and generous friend and a gifted artist whose talent was not always used well by Hollywood. As a long-time fan of Peter Lorre's, I found information on every page that set the actor and his career in historical context. Lorre did not exist in a vacuum. The events of the early part of the 20th century on up to the 1960s affected both his personal and professional lives. What one person on this page describes as 'too much of a not very good thing' is necessary description that explains where Lorre came from in his philosophy and approach to his craft as an actor. If all you want is a brief synopsis of Lorre's life, there are plenty of 'Who's Who' entries that will satisfy. But if a thorough and well-documented discussion is more to your taste, 'The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre' is the book for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2006

    At last - Lorre biography

    Some time ago I read in 'Peter Lorre - Portrait des Schauspielers auf der Flucht' ('Peter Lorre - a portrait of the actor as a fugitive'), belleville, l998, co-authored by Stephen Youngkin, that his part of the book was based on his several hundred pages thick biography of the actor, for which unfortunately it had been impossible to find a publisher because of 'a lessening interest in film books and the disappearance of Lorre from the consciousness of the filmgoing public'. I thought with great regret of all that invaluable research, the first-hand interviews with family and colleagues - everything which now would never become publicly available. And then, suddenly one day, I see an advert on the internet from the London Review Bookshop and realize that it`s here! Instantly I reached for the phone to order my copy. I`d like to say at once that Peter Lorre could not have wished for a better biographer. This is not hagiography like Lotte Eisner`s biography of Fritz Lang nor does it 'dish the dirt', but it is the sober, honest and - yes - respectful (I think that is the right word) account of a life which should have turned out differently. When reading the book, I don´t know how many times I thought 'If only -' or 'Why didn´t he - ' or simply 'Poor Peter '. The game of 'what if Hitler had never happened' is a futile exercise, yet I cannot help wondering if Lorre´s career would have been so radically different if he had been able to remain in his homeland. With his small size and looks, Lorre was not cut out to be either suave leading man or swashbuckling action hero. It is true that in Germany he did get a wider mix of roles, yet the film in which he was scheduled to appear when he fled the country, 'Kaspar Hauser' (a historical character whose true identity was lost when he was murdered in 1833), was another study of a tragic outsider. To me, Hollywood´s criminal waste of this supremely intelligent man´s talents is incomprehensible. Only recently I saw his one own film 'Der Verlorene' ('The Lost One') about another man whose life was shattered by the war. Flawed it may be, but it is a deeply moving film I cannot get out of my mind. In Germany, however, it was met with hostility, and so it remains a one-off, a tantalising glimpse of what, at that time, Lorre could do as actor and director. When looking at the photos from Lorre´s 'thin' American period, one thing amazes me: how that rather chubby young man with the round, soft, innocent child´s face matured into this most beautiful and elegant little creature. Stephen Youngkin´s book is a splendid, intelligent and moving account of a unique life and career, capturing as it does the flaws and virtues that went to make up the engaging human being who was Peter Lorre. Karen Margrethe Halstrøm, Copenhagen, Denmark.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2006

    A Superb Achievement

    Stephen Youngkin began work on this biography over thirty-five years ago. During that time he left no stone unturned by interviewing as many people he could, who knew Lorre both personally and professionally, as well as exploring all relevant material. The final work is a well-written, professionally organized, first-class achievement in the field of film biography which sets a high standard for other works both past and present. Youngkin's scholarship and critical insights representing the 'cutting edge' in this field. He presents a sympathetic portrayal of a very talented actor living in historical circumstances not conducive to his full professional development. Unlike most publishers The University of Kentucky Press has allowed the author the necessary length he needs to write an informative work of twentieth century scholarship that will appeal both to the general reader and the professional critic. The length is no barrier to any interested reader since the author provides the necessary support for his findings, something lacking in most biographies. Youngkin's critical writings have been well-known since his earlier contribution to THE FILMS OF PETER LORRE which he has extended and elaborated. This is a very important book deserving a place on any educated person's bookshelf as well as public and university libraries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2006

    Rediscovering Peter Lorre

    The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre is everything you wanted to know about Peter Lorre and then some. For those of us who love old movies this biography sure makes us appreciate what Peter Lorre was all about. Just looking at the list of people he interviewed lends to the credibility of this book. Quite impressive!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2005

    Definitive

    Not only is THE LOST ONE the definitive work on the life and career of Peter Lorre, it is an amazing contribution to film history that will be a popular citation for subsequent writers on a variety of ancillary artists such as Bertolt Brecht and Alfred Hitchcock. The acknowledged expert on his subject, Youngkin contributed the biography section, as well as critiques of the actor's German films, for Citadel Press' 'The Films of Peter Lorre.' He appeared on camera for the German television documentary 'Das Doppelte Gesicht (The Double Face)', as well as the A&E 'Biography' tribute to Lorre. He is also the author of 'Peter Lorre: Portrait des Schauspielers auf der Flucht.' Based on decades of research and never-before-published interviews, with rare photos superbly reproduced, THE LOST ONE is a massive work of scholarship that is both an entertaining and an emotionally moving read. As a writer, Youngkin combines the impartiality of an experienced reporter with compassion and admiration for an actor who must be regarded as one of the great stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, a man whose life was blessed by great triumph and plagued by great tragedy. Major raves for THE LOST ONE - which are already coming from such diverse authorities as 'Publishers Weekly' and 'Starlog' magazine (the current issue rates the book 'a stunning achievement... beyond definitive...') - will continue to raise it to its rightful place in film scholarship, a fitting tribute to a unique performer. [Vanity compels me to mention that I am the author of 'The Complete Films of Vincent Price' (Citadel Press, 1995), which Mr. Youngkin was kind enough to cite in his bibliography.]

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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