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Sydney Greenstreet: Wikis


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Sydney Greenstreet

in Casablanca (1942).
Born Sydney Hughes Greenstreet
27 December 1879(1879-12-27)
Sandwich, Kent, England, UK
Died 18 January 1954 (aged 74)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1902–1949
Spouse(s) Dorothy Marie Ogden (1918-?) child: one son

Sydney Hughes Greenstreet (27 December 1879 – 18 January 1954) was an English actor, best known for his work with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre in the 1940s.



Greenstreet was born in Sandwich, Kent, England, the son of 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. His stage debut was as a murderer called Craigen in a 1902 production of a Sherlock Holmes entry by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the Marina Theatre in Ramsgate, Kent. He toured England with Ben Greet's Shakespearian 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 England 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 also his most famous: 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 duo appeared in nine films together, including Casablanca as crooked club owner Signor Ferrari (for which he received a salary of $3750 per week for seven weeks), as well as Background to Danger (1943, with George Raft), Passage to Marseille (1944, reteaming him with Casablanca[1] 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). 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.

In 1950 and 1951, Greenstreet played Nero Wolfe on the NBC radio program The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe, based loosely on the rotund detective genius created by Rex Stout.

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, born out of Sydney's marriage to Dorothy Marie Ogden. John Ogden Greenstreet died 4 March 2004 at age 74.

Sydney is the great-uncle of actor Mark Greenstreet.

As a tribute to Greenstreet, the crime boss Hector Lemans in the computer game Grim Fandango was based on him. Jim Ward voiced the character, and even copied Greenstreet's unmistakable evil laugh. An episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation called "The Big Goodbye" has holographic villain called Cyrus Redblock, played by Lawrence Tierney, an apparent play on 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)[2]

Robert Serber stated in his memoirs that as the "Fat Man" atomic bomb was round and fat, he named it after Greenstreet's character of "Kasper Gutman" in The Maltese Falcon.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Casablanca (Two-Disc Special Edition DVD) (1942).
  2. ^ Phil Tippett interview, Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy documentary.

Further reading

  • Youngkin, Stephen D. (2005). The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-813-12360-7.  -- Contains a full chapter on the professional friendship between Greenstreet and classic film actor Peter Lorre.

External links

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