The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
Hungarian character actor. He made his international reputation as the whistling child-murderer in Fritz Lang's thriller M (1931). Becoming one of Hollywood's best-loved villains, he played opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), and Beat the Devil (1954), and in several films with English actor Sydney Greenstreet.
Lorre twice worked with the English thriller director Alfred Hitchcock: on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and Secret Agent (1936). He then played the Japanese detective Mr Moto in a series of eight B-movies. Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) also featured Lorre's bulging eyes, high voice, and melancholy mien.
Lorre was born in Rozsahegy, Hungary. He worked in a bank before performing on stage in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, and made his film debut in 1928. Fleeing from the Nazis, he went first to the UK, then the USA, and settled in Hollywood in 1935, impressing as the crazed surgeon in Mad Love (named The Hands of Orlac in the UK) and as Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, both 1935.
Lorre directed his only film, Der Verlorene/The Lost One (1950), in West Germany, but on his return to Hollywood he was forced to accept supporting roles in increasingly low-budget films, the best of which was Roger Corman's The Raven (1963).
Among his other films are Stranger on the Third Floor (1940), The Face Behind the Mask (1941), The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), My Favorite Brunette (1947), Silk Stockings (1957), and The Big Circus (1959).