The Lost One – A life of Peter Lorre

(Stephen Youngkin)

Standard, almost obsessively detailed reference book on the whispering menace.


Peter (born: Lazlo Loewenstein) was perfect in the film roles of the 1930s and 1940s, the smartest person in the room but always with a touch of sadness.

May be a black-and-white image of 1 person and smoking

Peter gets to stroll the green lanes of Paradise for his work in M, Mad Love, Crime and Punishment, Strange Cargo, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca  The Beast with Five Fingers, The Mask of Dimitrios, and Beat the Devil. He gets censured for taking work away from actors of certain nations and ethnicities, e.g., Japanese (the Mr Moto films), Chinese (They Met in Bombay, where his slimy ship’s captain declares, “I love money…I’ll do anything for money…heh heh…anything“) ‘Mexican’ (Secret Agent), Russian (Crime and Punishment), Dutch (The Mask of Dimitrios) and Irish (although we doubt the authenticity of that last one, from Beat the Devil, where Peter keeps insisting his name’s ‘O’Hara’ – a likely story).

peter lorre

“NOW are you impressed with me?”

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Darkness at Noon

November 17, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(Arthur Koestler)

Koestler, like Solzhenitsyn, managed to humanise the Gulag and here he almost manages to explain the insanity of the Great Terror in this short but brilliant novel, in which a now discarded architect of the revolution decides to abandon his duty not to perish.  This writer has had a somewhat chequered past, but with this book he desreves substantial absolution.


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The Trial

(by Franz Kafka)

An offense to natural justice, this nightmare procedural (originally entitled ‘The Process’) has K finding all about how but nothing about why. Kafka’s famous novel interprets both the times and the inhumanity of the human condition.


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The Aeneid

(by Virgil)

Iliad begat Aenid begat Commedia…Virgil links two classic works 2,000 years apart with a masterpiece of his own, wherein Aeneas goes to Rome and wreaks Trojan revenge on the successors of Attic Greece, with everyone satisfyingly getting what’s coming to them.  Full of images and phrases resplendent either in English or in dodgy Latin.

Thus Walter Pater (in Appreciations) “I am reading over again the Aeneid, certain verses of which I repeat to myself to satiety.  There are phrases there which stay in one’s head, by which I find myself beset, as with those musical airs which are for ever returning, and cause you pain, you love them so much[1].  I observe that I no longer laugh much, and am no longer depressed.”     ([1] Earworm.)

Virgil should not be overlooked: he should be drilled into the heads of schoolchildren (for their own good, to cure their terrible mental stooping!) And should any educator object to or shirk this responsibility, they shall go to a place where the locals ausi mones immane nefas ausoque potiti (purpose dreadful deeds and get their way).

TVC recommends the modern translation by Robert Fitzgerald or the crusty, the fin-de-siècle (1890) rendering into English prose by John Conington, if you can’t find the Loeb 2 volume edition by Fairclough & Goold, that is.

The great conclusion, as rendered by Virgil (per Conington): “‘What, with my friend’s trophies upon you, would you escape my hand? It is Pallas, Pallas, who with this blow makes you his victim, and gluts his vengeance with your accursed blood.’ With these words, fierce as flame, he plunged the steel into the breast that lay before him.  That other’s frame grows chill and motionless, and the soul, resenting its lot, flies groaningly to the shades.”

Giordano's painting of Aeneas deciding to stick it to Turnus

Giordano’s painting of Aeneas deciding to stick it to Turnus

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(by Duff Cooper)

When told that those who fell in with Napoleon had “betrayed the cause of Europe”, Talleyrand replied that was “a question of dates”.  A legendary survivor, his apparent inconsistency seems to have less to do with a lack of morals than with the exigencies of geopolitics.

This elegant biography of the wily, oleaginous and adaptable diplomat-statesman, serving French Kings from Louis XVI to Louis-Philippe, was written by Duff Cooper, who knew a thing or two about difficult men (and women).

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Wise Blood

(by Flannery O’Connor)

You can almost hear Father Ted saying, “Those Protestants; up to no good as usual.”.

A slight but hysterical piece of southern Grand-Guignol in which O’Connor, in stark muscular prose, shows us why warmer climes tend to grow lusher fruit (viz., the evangelists in northern Queensland, the Spanish Inquisition, etc.).  O’Connor presents her freak show without explanation, comment or censure and you close the book as if you’ve just escaped the weird tent, gasping for air.

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

(dir. M Nicholls) (1966)

Fortify yourself before attending a party at George and Mildreds’.

More Albee-inspired drink and depravity with great overheated performances (a big tick in particular for Sandy Dennis).

'I am, George.'

‘I am, George.’

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Sabbath’s Theater

(by Philip Roth)

An extremely funny bucket of filth, King Lear and Fool combined as a depraved and exiled puppeteer, keeping us in suspension, bearing and grinning it and beating a dead whore, alive and cooking….

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Laughter in the Dark

(by Vladimir Nabokov)

Also known as Kamera obskura, “meant as an elaborate parody” but “one of my worst novels” is in fact a pitilessly cruel, slamming-door joke on a cuckold who is morally, aesthetically and physically blind.

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A Likely Story

(by Donald E. Westlake) (1984)

Very funny tale of hack writer (of “The Pink Garage Gang”, “Coral Sea”, “Golf Courses of America”, etc.) trying to get up a Christmas Book with contributions from various real celebrities that respond with a mixture of indifference, misunderstanding or hideous enthusiasm, while contending with a mother-obsessed editor (‘I’m fine…I’m peachy. Destroyed at f****** lunch with a writer.  Home a basket case.’)


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