best film: It’s Casablanca but not by much. I have Casablanca 16 spots above M and both in my top 50 of all-time. 16 spots is not a lot so this could change over time. The only other real candidate is The Maltese Falcon. Clearly he’s backing up Bogey (and many others) in two of these three films (I’ll get to M below here in “best performance”) but think of how dynamite he is in those scenes with Bogart. Who else would make you say “who the hell is this stealing this scene from Humphrey effing Bogart?”

best performance:   M – Lorre as Hans Beckert is one of those roles/performances that catapults you into the top 100 actors of all-time almost regardless of what you do over the rest of your career. Lorre is on fire, solo lead, in one of the best 50 films of all-time (where a major strength of the film is the strong central lead performance (as opposed to say 2001: A Space Odyssey). It’s a massive achievement for Lorre.

stylistic innovations/traits: Lorre is good enough in supporting turns the rest of his career to propel him into a solid spot on this list. He had a hell of a 1944 (4 films), backed up Bogart in some classics (Casablanca, Maltese Falcon, Beat the Devil, Passage to Marseille) and of course— M. I wish it was in a stronger film but he’s actually quite fantastic in Von Sternberg’s Crime and Punishment. M was both a blessing and a curse for Lorre as he had a hard time finding non-oddball or psychopath roles. His distinguishing accent and 5’3 stature probably didn’t help. Outside of the great films with Bogey he mostly played villains per his typecast or comedic renditions of that typecast.

directors worked with:  John Huston (2) and Curtiz (2) and then only once with Lang, Von Sternberg and Capra

Top 5 Performances:

  1. M
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. Crime and Punishment
  4. Beat the Devil
  5. Arsenic and Old Lace

Archiveable films

1931- M
1935- Crime and Punishment
1940- The Stranger On the Third Floor
1941- The Maltese Falcon
1942- Casablanca
1944- All Through the Night
1944- Arsenic and Old Lace
1944- Passage to Marseille
1944- The Mask of Dimitrios
1953- Beat the Devil
1954- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
1956- Around the World in 80 Days
1957- Silk Stockings