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December 21, 2022

Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet Celebrating Christmas at Warner Brothers, 1942

Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, who made nine movies together in the 1940s, including John Huston’s 1941 masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon, posed for perhaps one of the strangest studio Christmas photos ever:

To American moviegoers who grew up with black and white thrillers from between the 1940s and 1960s, the names Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are magic. As partners in crime or thrown together in nefarious, moneymaking schemes, the oily, 5-foot-3 Lorre and the menacing, 5-foot-9, 285-pound Greenstreet were stellar character actors. Lorre often was cast as a shady, not-to-be trusted character, and Greenstreet as a sinister fat man and archetypal villain.

Lorre made his unforgettable film debut as a psychotic child-killer in Fritz Lang’s final German movie, M (1931), and mesmerized audiences as a sneering assassin in Alfred Hitchcock’s original version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). He also made his mark as mild-mannered Japanese detective Mr. Moto in eight films in the 1930s.

The rotund Greenstreet, a veteran British stage actor, debuted in 1902 in a Sherlock Holmes mystery. At 62, his first film was John Huston’s classic remake of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1941). Usually appearing on screen in dark, villainous roles, he later scored on radio in 1950-51 as detective Nero Wolfe.

But American audiences probably best remember Lorre and Greenstreet working together in eight pulse-pounding 1940s films noir. Following is a brief look at this dynamic pair in these memorable movies. All were produced in moody black and white and many featured innovative camera angles. 


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