September 06, 2019

Good night

One evening in Vienna in 1933, as Nazi thugs skirmished with police outside, Lorre sat in a ‘subterranean bohemian wine place called Majolica Hall’ with some friends: a group of writers, actors and composers. One of them started teasing him, saying how funny it was that he always seemed to play ‘a monster or a second violin’, never an ‘important classic part’. ‘You’re thinking of Hamlet,’ Lorre said, adding that he knew all the parts by heart. Someone urged him to give them a rendition. The audience waited, half-embarrassed at the thought of fat, hunched little Peter doing ‘To be or not to be’. But instead, he recited the part of the first gravedigger. ‘It was terrific,’ one of his friends recalled. At the end, Lorre rounded on his audience. ‘You sons of bitches, you thought I was going to play Hamlet and make a fool of myself. My part is the gravedigger and if I had ever played it on the stage I would have stolen that play.’




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