Lorre’s relationship with Bertolt Brecht.
Interview mit Stephen Youngkin, Autor von „The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre“
When I began researching Lorre’s life, there was precious little written about Brecht. In recent years, however, there’s been a deluge of material, some of it very scholarly, some of it less credible. Fortunately, one of the more recent works by John Fuegi that paints a distorted picture of Brecht the writer has been largely discredited. We know, of course, that Brecht the human being was something of a mixed blessing. To this day, Fuegi has failed to refute or correct any of the numerous errors and inaccuracies.
That aside, Lorre saw Brecht as one of the two most important writers in the 20th century, the other being James Joyce. This was the pivotal relationship in his life. He not only referred to Brecht as his best friend, but as himself as one of Brecht’s actors. Without understanding Brecht, you can’t understand Lorre. Some people have found Brechtian elements in Lorre’s acting style. Well, I guess you can find anything if you look hard enough. It’s a chicken and the egg argument.
When I first interviewed Brecht scholar Eric Bentley, I naturally asked about Brecht’s influence on Lorre. He told me it was actually the other way around, that Brecht saw actors he liked, things they were doing – in Lorre’s case, the clashing of opposite characteristics, doing two things at once – and formed those aspects into a new style of acting. Lorre was just doing what he had always been doing. It was an incredibly adaptable form. The same style could easily be plugged into different holes and given a new name, a new theoretical label. So, in a sense, Lorre’s performances were Brechtian by default, before we – or he – knew the use of the word.