It was to the eternal frustration of much-admired actor Peter Lorre that he was forever seen as some sort of "horror star," and never quite got the kind of roles that he wanted, and that would have lifted him into a more exalted category. Of course, nowadays most film enthusiasts who are familiar with Lorre's work in various genres have come to recognize his dramatic ability as his numerous fine performances certainly attest to. This lengthy, in-depth biography of the actor covers his life as a Jewish emigre from Austria to his move to the United States, details his coming to international attention thanks to his starring role in Fritz Lang's M, looks into his Hollywood career and the frustrations it engendered, and examines his private life, including his three marriages and serious, life-long drug addiction. Along the way he appeared in such notable films as the first version of Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, Mad Love, Crime and Punishment and Casablanca, starred in a series of Mr. Moto movies, and directed his one and only picture, the controversial Der verlorene ("The Lost One"). In his later years he appeared in everything from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, along with a Jerry Lewis film, The Patsy, and Roger Corman's The Raven and Tales of Terror. The Lost One is a solid bio, although I wish it was perhaps a bit more entertaining; the passages devoted to Lorre's relationship with Bertolt Brecht eventually become tedious and there are other dry stretches. The details of Lorre's divorce from his first wife, Celia Lovsky, with whom he remained close, are never quite made sufficiently clear. Otherwise, this is a good book on an important film figure.
Verdict: Possibly not the last word on Lorre, but he certainly deserves this exhaustive look at his life and career. ***.