Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer Under the Stars: Peter Lorre

Movie Dearest continues our daily previews of Turner Classic Movies' month long "Summer Under the Stars" celebration:

Now Playing Star Profile for Peter Lorre - Stardates: Born June 26, 1904, Rózsahegy, Hungary; died 1964. Star Sign: Cancer. Star Qualities: Huge, expressive eyes; silken voice; equal panache in projecting humor or menace. Star definition: "One of the finest and most subtle actors I ever worked with." -- John Huston. Galaxy of Characters: Doctor Gogol in Mad Love, Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon, Dr. Herman Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, Cornelius Leyden in The Mask of Dimitrios.

Maltese Falcon author Dashiell Hammett didn't mince words when it came to describing the character of Joel Cairo: "This guy's queer". Of course, the classic film version, starring Lorre as Cairo, could not be so blatant in the Code restricted Hollywood of 1941. Instead, some subtle devices were used to get the idea across to savvy audiences of the day, such as Cairo's gardenia-scented calling cards and handkerchiefs. He also becomes hysterical when blood gets on his shirt and even makes "fellating gestures" with his cane. Okay, that last one isn't quite so subtle, at least nowadays.

The Maltese Falcon, which was John Huston's first film as a director and also stars Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and the Oscar nominated Sydney Greenstreet as the "Fat Man", airs tomorrow on TCM at 10:30 PM EST.

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