in Casablanca (1942)
|Born||Sydney Hughes Greenstreet
27 December 1879
Sandwich, Kent, England, UK
|Died||18 January 1954
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, USA|
|Spouse(s)||Dorothy Marie Ogden (1918-?; one son)|
Sydney Hughes Greenstreet (27 December 1879 – 18 January 1954) was an English stage and film actor. He is most widely known for his Warner Bros. films with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, which include The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942).
Greenstreet was born in Sandwich, Kent, England, the son of Ann (née Baker) and John Jack Greenstreet, a leather merchant, and had seven siblings. He left home at age 18 to make his fortune as a Ceylon tea planter, but drought forced him out of business and back to England. He managed a brewery and, to escape boredom, took acting lessons.
Greenstreet's stage debut was as a murderer in a 1902 production of a Sherlock Holmes story at the Marina Theatre, Ramsgate, Kent. He toured Britain with Ben Greet's Shakespearean company, and in 1905, he made his New York debut. Thereafter he appeared in such plays as a revival of As You Like It in 1916 with revered actress Margaret Anglin. Greenstreet appeared in numerous plays in Britain and America, working through most of the 1930s with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne at the Theatre Guild. Throughout his stage career, his parts ranged from musical comedy to Shakespeare, and years of such versatile acting on two continents led to many offers to appear in films. He refused until he was 62.
In 1941, Greenstreet began working for Warner Bros.. His debut film role was as Kasper Gutman ("The Fat Man") in The Maltese Falcon, which co-starred Peter Lorre as the twitchy Joel Cairo, a pairing that would prove profitable and long-lasting for Warner Bros. The two men appeared in nine films together, including Casablanca (1942) as crooked club owner Signor Ferrari (for which he received a salary of $3,750 per week for seven weeks), as well as Background to Danger (1943, with George Raft), Passage to Marseille (1944), reteaming him with Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains, The Mask of Dimitrios (1944, receiving top billing), The Conspirators (1944, with Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid), Hollywood Canteen (1944), Three Strangers (1946, receiving top billing) and The Verdict (1946, with top billing). The actor played roles in both dramatic films, such as William Makepeace Thackeray in Devotion and witty performances in screwball comedies, for instance Alexander Yardley in Christmas in Connecticut.
After a mere eight years, in 1949, Greenstreet's film career ended with Malaya, in which he was billed third, after Spencer Tracy and James Stewart. In those eight years, he worked with stars ranging from Clark Gable to Ava Gardner to Joan Crawford. Author Tennessee Williams wrote his one-act play The Last of My Solid Gold Watches with Greenstreet in mind, and dedicated it to him.
Death and legacy
Greenstreet suffered from diabetes and Bright's disease, a kidney disorder. Five years after leaving films, Greenstreet died in 1954 due to complications from diabetes. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California in the Utility Columbarium area of the Great Mausoleum, inaccessible to the public. He was survived by his only child, John Ogden Greenstreet, from Greenstreet's marriage to Dorothy Marie Ogden. John Ogden Greenstreet died 4 March 2004, aged 74. Actor Mark Greenstreet is his great-nephew
An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called "The Big Goodbye" has a holographic villain "Cyrus Redblock", played by Lawrence Tierney, whose surname was a reference to Greenstreet's surname and whose character is a reference to Greenstreet's character Kasper Gutman (The Fat Man) in The Maltese Falcon.
Greenstreet was partially the inspiration for the Jabba the Hutt character in Return of the Jedi (1983). The Marvel Comics' character "The Kingpin" was reportedly based on Greenstreet.
|1941||The Maltese Falcon||Kasper Gutman||John Huston||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|They Died with Their Boots On||Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott||Raoul Walsh|
|1942||Across the Pacific||Dr. Lorenz||John Huston|
|Casablanca||Signor Ferrari||Michael Curtiz|
|1943||Background to Danger||Colonel Robinson||Raoul Walsh|
|1944||Passage to Marseille||Major Duval||Michael Curtiz|
|Between Two Worlds||Reverend Tim Thompson||Edward A. Blatt|
|The Mask of Dimitrios||Mr. Peters||Jean Negulesco|
|The Conspirators||Ricardo Quintanilla||Jean Negulesco|
|Hollywood Canteen||Himself||Delmer Daves|
|1945||Pillow to Post||Colonel Michael Otley||Vincent Sherman|
|Conflict||Dr. Mark Hamilton||Curtis Bernhardt|
|Christmas in Connecticut||Alexander Yardley||Peter Godfrey|
|1946||Three Strangers||Jerome K. Arbutny||Jean Negulesco|
|Devotion||William Makepeace Thackeray||Curtis Bernhardt|
|The Verdict||Supt. George Edward Grodman||Don Siegel|
|1947||That Way with Women||James P. Alden||Frederick De Cordova|
|The Hucksters||Evan Llewellyn Evans||Jack Conway|
|1948||The Velvet Touch||Capt. Danbury||Jack Gage|
|Ruthless||Buck Mansfield||Edgar G. Ulmer|
|The Woman in White||Count Alessandro Fosco||Peter Godfrey|
|1949||Flamingo Road||Sheriff Titus Semple||Michael Curtiz|
|Malaya||The Dutchman||Richard Thorpe|
- Youngkin, Stephen D. (2005). The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2360-7. – Contains a full chapter on the professional friendship between Greenstreet and classic film actor Peter Lorre.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sydney Greenstreet.|
- Sydney Greenstreet at the Internet Movie Database
- Sydney Greenstreet at the TCM Movie Database
- Sydney Greenstreet at the Internet Broadway Database
- Sandwich People & History: Sydney Greenstreet
- FreeOTRShows — The Adventures of Nero Wolfe
- Sydney Greenstreet at Find a Grave
- Literature on Sydney Greenstreet