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Face-maker : the negotiation between screen performance, extra-filmic persona and conditions of employment within the career of Peter Lorre

By Sarah Thomas


Peter Lorre often described his acting as merely "face-making". This disparaging attitude is\ud reflected within critiques which read the life of Peter Lorre as a tragic narrative of wasted\ud opportunities and his career as a screen performer as restricted by the nature of his\ud employment in studio-era Hollywood. Working in the United States, he was unable to escape\ud from the notoriety of his first major role in the German film, M (1931), or from the murderous\ud persona that evolved from his portrayal of a psychopathic serial killer. His status as an emigre\ud positioned him as a European "artist" whose talent was misused by American filmmaking\ud practices which typecast the actor in line with his nefarious public image.\ud This thesis proposes to investigate the accuracy of these perceptions which approach the actor\ud via a binary split between "person" and "persona". It will offer an alternative methodology for\ud analysing the career of the screen actor which recognises that persona-based analyses can\ud obscure complex negotiations between performance, image and the conditions of employment.\ud Rather than attempting to reveal the "real" Peter Lorre behind the image, the context of Lorre's\ud mutable position as an employee within the Hollywood industry and the misconstrued\ud association between his screen labour and his public persona will be examined. The creative\ud agency of the actor will also be examined in order to question Lorre's definition of himself as\ud "face-maker" whose work was reliant upon performative gimmicks.\ud This alternative approach to the screen actor will be pursued through a chronological\ud investigation of Lorre's professional labour. Also necessary are an exploration of the features of\ud Lorre's persona and an understanding of the role played by other media in the construction of\ud this public image. My methodology will combine close textual analysis of Lorre's screen\ud performances, archival research into the terms of his employment and extensive analysis of\ud promotional discourses pertaining to the actor throughout his career.\ud My historiography of Lorre will consider the relationship between the actor and a number of his\ud employers to suggest that conditions of employment help to shape screen performance. Lorre's\ud status as a "face-maker" will also be challenged through a demonstration of the actor's use of\ud complex performative techniques within his film work. This thesis will demonstrate the limitations\ud of interpreting Lorre's career as Hollywood's mismanagement of a problematic performer.\ud Instead, his career can be considered indicative of industrial strategies that exist between acting\ud labour, promotional personas and employers. One consequence of my research is the reevaluation\ud of Lorre's persona as "extra-filmic" and his career as "transmedial". As such, this\ud thesis highlights how the significant labour of a screen performer can potentially become\ud superseded by the personas used by employers to promote actors away from the cinema\ud screen

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  325. (1972). The Great Movie Stars: The International Years (London: Angus and
  326. (1990). The Great Profile: How do we know the Actor from the Acting?",
  327. (1969). The Haunted Screen (Berkeley and Los Angeles:
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  329. (1986). The Hollywood Film Industry (London and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
  330. (1932). The Jazzband Five. Dir: Erich Engel. Screenplay: Hermann Kosterlitz. Music: Theo Mackeben.
  331. (2005). The Joker" (translated by
  332. (1980). The Kaleidoscopic Lens: How Hollywood Views Ethnic Groups
  333. (1992). The Kuleshov Effect: Recreating the Classic Experiment",
  334. (1951). The Lost One. Dir: Peter Lorre. Prod: Arnold Pressburger. Screenplay: Peter Lorre, Axel Eggebrecht, Benno Vigny. Arnold Pressburger Films.
  335. (1999). The Lost One",
  336. (2005). The Lost One", Hollywood Reporter,
  337. (1990). The Mad and the Beautiful: A Look at Two Performances in the Films of Stanley Kubrick",
  338. (1991). The Maltese Falcon (Leicester:
  339. (1996). The Maltese Falcon: Melodrama or Film Noir?",
  340. (1941). The Maltese Falcon: Production file, final shooting script, pressbook, clippings file, actor biographies
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  346. (1999). The Mask of Dimitrios"
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  348. (1993). The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror (Revised Edition) (New York and London: Faber and Faber,
  349. (1969). The Movie Moguls (London:
  350. (2006). The Movies and the Antiwar Debate in America 1930-1941",
  351. (1983). The Mysterious Peter Lorre",
  352. (1992). The Nazi-Retro Film: How German Narrative Cinema Remembers the Past (New York: Twayne Publishers,
  353. (2002). The New Biographical Dictionary of Film
  354. (1940). The New Pictures", Time Magazine,
  355. (2000). The Peter Lorre Companion
  356. (2006). The Purpose of Playing: Modern Acting Theories in Perspective (Ann Arbour:
  357. (1979). The Question of Criteria for Judging Acting" (Originally
  358. (1981). The Revolution in German Theatre 1900-1933
  359. (1946). The Role I Liked Best", Saturday Evening Post (partly undated
  360. (1964). The sad faced man of menace is dead", Daily Express,
  361. (1935). The Screen" (Review of Crime and Punishment),
  362. (2004). The Sounds of Silence': Modernist Acting in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up",
  363. (1987). The Star and the Commodity: Notes Towards a Performance Theory of Stardom",
  364. (2000). The Star System: Hollywood and the production of popular identities (London: Wallflower,
  365. (1960). The Stars (translated by Richard Howard)
  366. (1957). The Story of Mankind. Dir: Irwin Allen. Prod: Irwin Allen. Screenplay: Irwin Allen, Charles Bennett; based on the book by Hendrik Van Loon. D.P: Nick Musuraca. Cambridge Productions I Warner Bros.
  367. (2004). The Subject of Acting",
  368. (1988). The Theatre of the Weimar
  369. (1991). The Training of the Actor",
  370. (2006). The Troll Among Us",
  371. (1931). The Trunks of Mr O.F. Dir: Alexis Granowsky. Prod: Hans Conradi and Mark Asarow. Screenplay: Leo Lania and Alexis Granowsky. Music: Karol Rethaus. Songs: Erich Kastner.Tonbild-Syndikat AG.
  372. (2006). The Ultimate Irony: Jews Playing Nazis in Hollywood",
  373. (2003). The Viennese Night: A Fritz Lang Confession",
  374. (1979). The Warner Bros. Story (London: Octopus,
  375. (1932). The White Demon. Dir: Kurt Gerron. Prod: Erich Pommer, Bruno Duday. Screenplay_ Lothar Mayring, Friedrich Zeckendorf.
  376. (1999). Thelma Ritter",
  377. (1987). Think Fast Mr Peters
  378. (1968). Third Edition
  379. (1936). This Gun For Hire: Paramount Studios Production files
  380. (1984). Thomas, Fast and Furious: The Story of American International Pictures
  381. (1990). Tuned: A Concise History of American Broadcasting (Second Edition)
  382. (1988). Two Birds of a Feather: Hammett's and Huston's The Maltese Falcon"
  383. (2003). Typecasting",
  384. (1964). U A Great Actor's Tribute to a Great Actor", American International Pictures Magazine,
  385. (1973). Understanding Brecht (translated by
  386. (1999). Warner Bros.' Fat Men", Sante &
  387. (2000). Weimar Cinema and After: Germany's Historical Imaginary (London and
  388. (1991). When Acting is an Art",
  389. (1997). Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Filmmakers
  390. (2005). Yellowface: Creating the Chinese
  391. (2001). Yellowface': the Racial Branding of the Chinese in American Theatre or Media", Asian Profile Vol.29 NO.2.
  392. (2004). You Despise Me, Don't You? Peter Lorre at the Harvard Film Archive",

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