Sydney Greenstreet’s father was a leather merchant with eight children. Sydney 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 in a 1902 production of “Sherlock Holmes”. From then on he appeared in numerous plays in England and the US, working through most of the 1930s with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne at the Theatre Guild. His parts ranged from musical comedy to Shakespeare. His film debut, occurring when he was 62 years old and weighing nearly 300 pounds, was as Kasper Guttman in the classic The Maltese Falcon (1941), with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre. He teamed with Lorre in eight more movies after that. In eight years he made 24 films, all while beset by diabetes and Bright’s disease. In 1949 he retired from films, and died four years later. He was 75.
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