Actor. He is best remembered for his role in the classic films "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) and "Casablanca" (1942) that also starred Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre. Born Sidney Hughes Greenstreet in Sandwich, Kent, England, he was one of eight children whose father was a leather merchant. At the age of 18, he left his home to become a tea planter in Ceylon (now Sir Lanka) but it soon failed because of a drought and he returned to England and managed a brewery business. He decided to pursue acting and made his stage debut was as a murderer in a 1902 production of "Sherlock Holmes" at the Marina Theatre, Ramsgate, Kent. He toured England with Ben Greet's Shakespearean company, and in 1905, he made his New York debut. He 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 led to many offers to appear in films. In 1941, at the age of 62, he began working for Warner Brothers Studios and his debut film role was as 'Kasper Gutman' ("The Fat Man") in "The Maltese Falcon," for which he received his only Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In "Casablanca" he played the memorable role of the crooked club owner 'Signor Ferrari'. He appeared in over 20 other films during the 1940s including "They Died with Their Boots On" (1941, with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland), "Across the Pacific" (1942, with Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor), "Background to Danger" (1943, with George Raft and Peter Lorre), "Passage to Marseille" (1944, with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Claude Rains), "Between Two Worlds" (1944, with Eleanor Parker and John Garfield), "The Mask of Dimitrios" (1944, with Zachary Scott and Peter Lorre), "The Conspirators" (1944, with Heddy Lamarr and Paul Henreid), "Pillow to Post" (1945, with Ida Lupino and William Prince), "Conflict" (1945, with Humphrey Bogart and Alexis Smith), "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945, with Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan), "Three Strangers" (1946, with Joan Lorring and Alan Napier), "Devotion" (1946, with Ida Lupino, Paul Henreid, and Olivia de Havilland), "The Verdict" (1946, with Peter Lorre and Joan Lorring), "The Hucksters" (1947, with Clark Gable and Deborah Kerr), "The Velvet Touch" (1948, with Rosalind Russell and Leon Ames), "Ruthless" (1948, with Zachary Scott and Louis Hayward), "The Woman in White" (1948, with Alexis Smith and Eleanor Parker), and "Flamingo Road" (1949, with Joan Crawford and Zachary Scott). His last film appearance was in "Malaya" (1949, with Spencer Tracey and James Stewart), after which he retired from films. In 1950 and 1951, he played 'Nero Wolfe' on the NBC radio program "The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe," based loosely on the rotund detective genius created by American fiction writer Rex Stout. Overweight nearly all his life, he suffered from Bright's disease and diabetes in his last years and died at the age of 74 of complications from diabetes. He was partially the inspiration for the 'Jabba the Hutt' character in the George Lucas film "Return of the Jedi" (1983). The Marvel Comics' character 'The Kingpin' was reportedly based on him.
Bio by: William Bjornstad