Saturday, March 21, 2009

Peter Lorre Eyes

Laurie Masters, who lives on Tremlett Street, is certainly the biggest Peter Lorre fan in Dorchester, and is probably the most devoted Lorre fanatic in all of Boston. She is twelve years old and has memorized most of the lines this character actor ever spoke on film.

I visited the Masters' household on Tremlett Street and, indeed, there is a shelf in the family's DVD collection dedicated to the work of Peter Lorre, from his first 1929 appearance in Die Verschwundene Frau to his last, in 1964's The Patsy. There are also stacks of old comic books and movie magazines full of both fictional and factual adventures of Laurie's hero. Why would a young, 21st century, tween girl fall in love with a film star who began his career before the Great Depression? To find out, Laurie, her mother, and I discussed it over #3 Value Meals at the Mc Donald's in Codman Square.

Laurie explained, "We have the same name." I pointed out that the subject of her admiration was born László Löwenstein. Laurie replied, "But he changed it to make it better." I couldn't argue her point, at least from a typographical point-of-view. I pressed further to discover what made him attractive to her. "He has the eyes a girl can fall into and lose herself," she answered. "When I get married," she continued, "I want to marry a man with Peter Lorre eyes." She probably won't have much competition.

Ms. Masters then stood up and started to perform impersonations of her hero. She recited lines from The Maltese Falcon, from Casablanca, and from the various Mr. Moto films and she did it all in perfect imitation of Mr. Lorre's accent and mannerisms. She was at ease and the dining room wasn't overly warm, but she appeared to be nervous and sweaty. If it weren't a skinny, under aged, African-American girl speaking the lines, people would have thought Peter Lorre had returned from the grave. Laurie's mother dipped a french fry into the cup of barbecue sauce we were sharing and then wiped her fingertips before patting my hand. "You see," she said, "Laurie loves the Mr. Moto movies the best."

Do lightning and genetic combinations strike twice? I hope for Laurie Masters's sake she finds her dream man. It may take her awhile (doesn't it always?) but if a modern day Lazlo Lowenstien exists in Dorchester, we are sure this young lady will find him someday.

Peter Lorre's least favorite role, but Laurie Master's pick from his oeuvre:

15 comments:

Cheryl said...

How wonderful to read about a young lady who appreciates Peter Lorre! And I can certainly agree about his eyes, alright! Does Laurie have a copy of his biography, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre? If not, you might want to let her know about it -- and the official website: http://www.PeterLorreBook.com. Thanks!

Whalehead King said...

Thanks,Cheryl. I'll be sure to pass along the information the next time I see Laurie. I'm sure she'll enjoy it.

Cheryl Morris said...

You're very welcome! Always glad to help out a fellow Lorre fan. I'm curious about one thing, though -- how did Laurie get a copy of Peter's first movie Die Verschwundene Frau, and on DVD, too? It's not commercially available, as far as I know, and I checked both U.S. Amazon and German Amazon. I forwarded your blog entry to Stephen Youngkin, long-time friend of mine, as he's always interested in hearing about Lorre fans -- and he also was surprised about Frau. Can you find out for us where she got it? Stephen and I would like to add it our own Lorre collections. Thanks!

Anne Sharp said...

Peter Lorre has always had a sizeable fan base among discriminating females. How can you not love someone that cute, cool, talented and sexy?

Whalehead King said...

I didn't realize Mr. Lorre still had such a devoted following. I doubt Laurie Masters did either. I'm sure she's happy to learn she's in good company.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me precisely how should I pronounce Lorre?

Thanks!

Cheryl Morris said...

You can say "Lorre" one of two ways:

"Law-ree" -- Which is the way Peter himself pronounced it.

"Lore-ee -- Which is the way most other people say it.

Whalehead King said...

Thanks for covering me Cheryl. I've always pronounced it like Laurie Masters does, rhyming with her first name, but I'm a New Englander like she is so we tend to talk fast.

Cheryl Morris said...

That's ok -- glad to help out!

Cheryl Morris said...

By the way, the Germans call him "Pay-ter Lore-ruh".

In German, an "e" on the end of a word is generally pronounced "uh", as in the word for "please" -- "bitte" or "bit-tuh".

Whalehead King said...

That's true. Unforunately, the German lady of my house has never heard of him. Can you imagine?

Cheryl Morris said...

Amazing -- especially since he seems to have many fans in Germany, with attention now being paid to his film Der Verlorene. Stephen Youngkin would love to have a German-language edition of his book The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre, but translations cost a fortune.

Hannah K. said...

It's wonderful to hear of some new P.L. fans coming up in a younger generation! But speaking of Peter Lorre eyes, as I see some very distinguished names from within the fandom here (Ms. Sharp, I love your book)--can someone please answer me this question? What color were his eyes? I always imagined them to be brown, but in colorized photos they're almost always blue. I feel silly asking, as if it were common knowledge, but I honestly don't know.

Cheryl Morris said...

Hannah, Peter's eyes were brown. Have you read The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre? An official description of Peter, taken when he and his wife Celia Lovsky arrived in New York City from England in 1934, is given.

Hannah K. said...

Ah, that must be why I felt like it should be common knowledge. Thank you, Ms. Morris. I own the book and have read it cover-to-cover twice; chalk it up to my sieve-like retention of facts. I wonder why so many wanted to colorize Peter's eyes blue. It seems that you are in close touch with Mr. Youngkin; you must tell him for me that I greatly enjoyed his book; it made me laugh with delight and cry with longing.

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