Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto

Mr. Moto was a mild-mannered, Japanese detective that was the basis for a series of eight films (1937-39) by Twentieth Century-Fox from the stories of novelist John P. Marquand. Peter Lorre portrays Kentaro Moto (I.A. Moto in Marquand's novels), who was very much unlike Charlie Chan in that he was the master of disguises and physically more active, often using ju-jistsu.

It is seldom clear for whom Moto really works. Perhaps it is the International Police. In the first two films, he refers to himself an importer. When asked if he is a detective in the film Think Fast, Mr. Moto, he replies that it done only as a hobby. On other occasions, Moto claims to be a confidential investigator for the International Association of Importers, a member of the International Police, a college lecturer in criminology, and a managing director of the Dai Nippon Trading Company, which probably serves as a front for his activities with the International Police. However, in The Return of Mr. Moto, it is clear that Moto works for Interpol. In the novels, he is a Japanese agent in the service of the Emperor.

Many of the actors and crew members who were associated with the Charlie Chan series at Twentieth Century-Fox were also involved with the Mr. Moto films. Most notable of the actors and actresses were Thomas Beck, Harold Huber, Erik Rhodes, Virginia Field, Murray Kinnell, and Lionel Atwill. Even Keye Luke, who had already appeared as Number One son Lee Chan in eight films with Warner Oland, reprised his role as Lee Chan in Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938), much of which was salvaged from Charlie Chan at the Ringside, a 1938 movie project that never was completed.

The following are the eight Mr. Moto films with Peter Lorre:

* Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)
* Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937)
* Mr. Moto's Gamble (1937)
* Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938)
* Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938)
* Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)
* Danger Island (1939)
* Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)


Daniel said...

Peter Lorre was an incredible actor, but most people nowadays only seem to remember him as the heavyset bug-eyed character which he portrayed in numerous AIP Horror movies of the 1960's such as THE RAVEN and COMEDY OF TERRORS.
Mr. Moto is one of those characters whose light has diminished over the years - having never reached the popularity of Charlie Chan. These films are rarely seen today(I had no idea they had made so many of them).
I love the way you captured Peter's looks in both of these paintings. He looks so deceptively fragile. And yet there is an intelligence behind the eyes that makes you realize there is more to him than one would immediately decipher.
Nice job!!

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