Peter Lorre's last film with Warner Brothers deserves a round of applause. The mystery-horror film follows several characters tied to the death of a wealthy recluse whose hand lives on after his death!
Below are five reasons to love this wild ride of a movie.
1. A Casablanca star was considered for the lead.
Warner Brothers bought the rights for the eponymous short story in 1942 from W.F. Harvey’s widow for 200 pounds. Director Robert Florey wanted Paul Henreid, who was completing Casablanca at the time. However the studio didn’t think he could play opposite a hand. Lorre, of course, could. The film had a 10 week shooting schedule and a budget of $750,000.
2. Lorre was a prankster.
Peter was quite the stinker when it came to the prop hand. He hid it in his co-star's dressing room whether it was stuffed in a drawer, smushed in her shoe, or hanging out in her robe pocket. Andrea King said, “That hand could and would be somewhere… But I knew it was Peter.”
3. Lorre enjoyed the spotlight.
He was often finding ways to make his co-stars laugh. During the serious dinner scene, Lorre put celery in his ears and a carrot up his nose, causing laughter fits among the stars. Robert Alda said, “He was a tremendous scene-stealer, and you had to be prepared for this all the time."
4. The script went through many revisions.
The murder-mystery helped shape the final story. Originally, the concept was to see the story more through the lens of Lorre’s madness, but the studio wanted a more straight-forward story. A deleted scene even had the main characters discovering the charred remains of the hand and realizing it was an imagined enemy.
5. There were a lot of hands on deck.
A mechanical hand was mounted on wheels and functioned like a toy train. The fingers would hunch and then flatten out as it inched about like a caterpillar. When the hand played the piano, it was actually pianist Ervin Nyiregyházi who covered the rest of his body in velvet. Other times, director Robert Florey’s hand emerged from the box to wiggle its fingers, and another hand was made from wood and wax.