Sydney Greenstreet Biography

Actor, Film Actor (1879–1954)
The heavy set British actor Sydney Greenstreet made a name for himself as a character actor, taking on villainous, scheming roles, such as Kasper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon.


Sydney Greenstreet was born on December 27, 1879 in Sandwich, England. Considered one of film's all-time great character actors, Greenstreet was 61 years old when he made his film debut in John Huston's classic, The Maltese Falcon (1941), starring Humphrey Bogart. He'd go on to appear in a number of other Bogart movies, most notably Casablanca (1942). He died in Hollywood, California, on January 18, 1954.

Early Years

Actor. Born Sydney Hughes Greenstreet on December 27, 1879 in Sandwich, England. One of eight children, Greenstreet, whose father was a merchant marine, left home at the age of 18 to make his fortune in Sri Lanka as a tea planter.

An awful drought forced the dispirited Greenstreet to retreat back to England five years later, where soon began studying acting. He made his stage debut in 1902 as a murderer in a production of Sherlock Holmes.

By his early thirties, Greenstreet had relocated to the United States, where he made his Broadway debut and then found steady work with a string of productions that ranged from musicals to Shakespeare. Greenstreet called US his home for the rest of his life.

Commercial Success

In 1940 Sydney Greenstreet met film director John Huston in Los Angeles. Huston was in the middle of putting the pieces together for the filming of his next movie, The Maltese Falcon, and saw in Greenstreet the perfect fit as the scheming Kasper Gutman, a man who's desperate to find the coveted falcon.

For Greenstreet the film was a breakthrough, and gave the 61-year-old actor the opportunity to appear on film for the first time. It also paved the way for a series of professional relationships with fellow actors Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart that would last for the rest of his life.

Over the next decade, Greenstreet made his name as one of Hollywood's premiere character actors, often appearing opposite Lorre in such films as Casablanca (1942) and Passage to Marseilles (1944), both of which also starred Bogart.

After a string of villainous roles, Greenstreet broke free a bit by going the comedy route in Pillow to Post (1945) and Christmas in Connecticut (1945).

In all, Sydney Greenstreet appeared in 23 films, including his final movie, Malaya (1949), starring Spencer Tracy and James Stewart. He announced his retirement from acting in 1952. Greenstreet, who battled diabetes and nephritis, passed away two years later on January 18, 1954 in Hollywood, California. He is buried in Glendale, California.

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