Varying degrees of madness. A creepy but vulnerable figure escaping his awkward urges with bloodhounds on his trail. It is an intangible sliver of hope. Peter Lorre gives pause for a reflection on the nature of evil, particularly who the enemy is in times of conflict. It was the American archetype of the untrustworthy narrator carried to its most extreme; stretched and strained by conforming to the stereotype of the dark foreigner. the invisible but visible minority. Somewhat chilling, slightly pathetic and with a cloud of tragedy, Lorre’s screen persona seems culled from Franz Kafka and Sholom Aleichem, the same black humor that stumbles into fatalistic territory. Not quite fitting the cosmopolitan western European, Lorre catches us in that netherworld between east and west, a man constantly on the run. At his most raw level, he is a portrait from the haunting world of Felix Nussbaum. To Americans, this was the underside of Norman Rockwell and Walt Disney where this manufacturing of innocence lay dormant in a grey and ambiguous zone…
Without question, Peter Lorre is an important figure in entertainment as an actor, a personality that transcended the characters he played, and his presence in motion picture history. For many, he’d become known more for comedy than the killer in M that had frightened German mothers. For example, according to Hal Erickson, “Lorre employed his familiar repertoire of wide eyes, toothy grin, and nasal voice to invoke laughs rather than shudders.” Anne Sharp says of him, “Small, almost childlike at times, with huge, heavy-lidded eyes and haunting Viennese-accented voice, Lorre projected an aura of decadent menace when playing a villain. At the same time, his puckish sense of humor made him just as effective in comic roles.”…
But beyond his acting roles and the endless exploitation of his accent and mannerisms, Peter Lorre has left an important legacy for enthusiasts of spy films. Again, in the words of Anne Sharp:
“I think you could say that Peter had an impact on popular culture in general and on the foreign intrigue/spy genre in particular because he was such an icon of the evil/criminal/shady foreigner up to no good. There was a certain sort of expectation that in a certain sort of story with sinister things going on or in an exotic setting that Peter Lorre should be there, and this tied in with the thing about Peter Lorre impressions and caricatures – whenever there’s some sort of film noir or foreign intrigue parody, there’s almost always a Peter Lorre-based figure that turns up. And even at the time when Peter was making those films, you will occasionally run across a character who is not played by Peter but is clearly meant to be a Peter surrogate. In the film Journey Into Fear, which came out the year after Casablanca, there are TWO Peter Lorre surrogates, one played by Everett Sloane, who is blatantly doing a Peter Lorre impersonation, and another played by William Alland, who plays his role silent but is costumed to look like Peter.” Read More:http://www.spywise.net/peterlorre.html
By the waters
We lay down and wept
For thee Zion.
Thee Zion ( Don McLean, Babylon )