SYDNEY GREENSTREET Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Sydney Hughes Greenstreet                                                           
Born: 27 December 1879 Sandwich, Kent, England                                             
Died: 18 January 1954 Hollywood, Los Angeles, California                                   
Sydney Hughes Greenstreet (December 27, 1879 - January 18, 1954) was an English           
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, 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 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           
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 from complications arising             
from his diabetes. He is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in               
Glendale, California in the Utility Columbarium area of the Great Mausoleum,               
which is not accessible 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 March 4, 2004 at age 84.                                           
Sydney is the great uncle of actor Mark Greenstreet.                                       
As a tribute to Greenstreet, the crimeboss 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.