Part One: The real Peter Lorre
I came to Berlin with ten borrowed marks in my pocket, and I went to the theater. The manager told me to come in, because he said I didn't look like an actor. He sent me over to see Brecht. We talked for about half an hour and it was as if we had known each other for twenty years. "You're not going to get that part," he told me. I felt terrible. It was very Brechtian, really, because he waited a moment and then said: "You're going to play the lead in another play I have." Deep down in my heart, you see, I'm a Cinderella.
Peter Lorre, quoted in “Newsweek”
What are we going to do with Lorre? What roles do we have for him? Can we find something that suits him? We can’t just have him playing madmen and criminals; that would be unbearable. It’s also wrong to just cast him as lounge lizards. Lorre’s forte is the ironic, ambiguous, loveable-despicable dualistic types. Not the clearly sick nor the clearly uncomplicated ones…. Lorre’s territory is the menacing innocent, the friendly devil, the gentle cynic, the mild-mannered schemer, the narrow-minded ironist. This is the formula that makes him a star, that puts it all together and delivers a Lorre of the first rank.
Herbert Ihering, from an essay in "Film in Deutschland"
Mr. Lorre, with every physical handicap, can convince you of the goodness, the starved tenderness, of his vice-entangled souls. Those marbly pupils in the pasty spherical face are like the eye-pieces of a microscope through which you can see laid flat on the slide the entangled mind of a man: love and lust, nobility and perversity, hatred of itself and despair jumping out at you from the jelly.
Graham Greene, in a review of “Mad Love”
Character actors were well experienced on the stage and they were tremendously valuable in every scene. They made all the difference. You look back on some of those movies Peter Lorre made...imagine putting somebody else in those roles--there would be nothing there! He was a guy you could put in a Simonize [floor wax] commercial and make it a classic. You just can't get that anymore. An actor can have talent, but if he hasn't done the work, he's not going to be able to do what a guy like Peter Lorre did.
Rip Torn, quoted in “Actors on Acting”
Peter carried his personal gentleness into his characterizations, and this was a great part of his magic.
Charles Bennett, in “Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book”
Lorre had a beauty when he was thin that he lost when he ballooned up and became a caricature. If you see him in one of his thin roles, you're amazed at what an elegant creature he is.
Pauline Kael, quoted in Aljean Harmetz’s “Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of ‘Casablanca’”
"I and my girl friends saw Peter Lorre last night," she said. "The movie actor. In person. He was buyin' a newspaper. He's c u t e."
"You're lucky," I told her. "You're really lucky. You know that?" She was really a moron. But what a dancer.
J. D. Salinger, “The Catcher in the Rye”
Part Two: quotes from the cinema of Peter Lorre
I, a poor peasant, have conquered science. Why can't I conquer love?
Professor Gogol, "Mad Love"
I am here, free as the wind, a fountain of extraordinary knowledge, splendidly corrupt and eager to be of profitable service.
Toady, "Rope of Sand"
Keep that monkey away from me!
Stephen Danel, "Island of Doomed Men"
DANNY (Victor McLaglen): You mean you croaked a guy?
PROFESSOR STURM (Peter Lorre): What else was I to do? I am so little and he was such a large man--as big as you!
"Nancy Steele Is Missing!"
Why do I have to waste my time outwitting morons?
Professor Fenninger, "You'll Find Out"
Icy, don't ever get mixed up with a Chinese goddess. That's the worst thing that can happen.
Johnny West, "Three Strangers"
Sic transit gloria mundi, which means--er, what I wanted to say--one never knows the secret of his neighbor's brain.
Professor Lorencz, "The Boogie Man Will Get You"