Sydney Hughes Greenstreet (27 December 1879 – 18 January 1954) was an English actor. He was best known for his work with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre in the 1940s.
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 he appeared in such plays as a revival of As You Like It in 1916 with revered actress Margaret Anglin. 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 as 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 two men appeared in nine films together, including Casablanca as crooked club owner Signor Ferrari (for which he received a salary of $3,750 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 him.