Oscar Actors: Greenstreet, Sidney–Background, Career, Awards

Research in Progress: Nov 10, 2021

Sidney Greenstreet Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: father, a tanner

Nationality: British-American


Family: he had 7 siblings; left home at 18 to be planter


Training: Out of boredom, began taking acting lessons.

Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut: 1902, played a murderer; aged 23

Broadway Debut: 1905; successful theater career

Film Debut: Maltese Falcon, 1941; aged 62

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role:

Other Noms: The Maltese Falcon, 1941, aged 62

Other Awards: No

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film: Malaya, 1949; aged

Career Output:

Film Career Span: 1941-1949; aged 62-70



Death: 1954, aged 75

Sydney Hughes Greenstreet (December 27, 1879–January 18, 1954) was British-American actor.

A late screen bloomer, he began his career in film at the age of 61, but he had a successful run of significant pictures in his rather Hollywood career, which lasted only eight years.

Greenstreet is best remembered for his Warner films with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, which include The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), and Passage to Marseille (1944).

Greenstreet portrayed Nero Wolfe on radio during 1950 and 1951.

He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1925.

Sydney Hughes Greenstreet was born on December 27, 1879, in Sandwich, Kent, the son of Ann (née Baker) and John Jarvis Greenstreet, a tanner.

He had seven siblings. Greenstreet left home at the age of 18 to make his fortune as a Ceylon tea planter, but drought forced him out of business. He began managing a brewery, and to escape boredom, took acting lessons.

Greenstreet’s stage debut was in playing a murderer in a 1902 production of a Sherlock Holmes story at the Marina Theatre, Ramsgate, Kent.

He toured Britain with Ben Greet’s Shakespearean company, and in 1905, he made his New York City debut in Everyman.

He then appeared in a revival of As You Like It (1914).

Greenstreet appeared in numerous plays in Britain 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 61.

In 1941, Greenstreet began working for Warner Bros. His debut film role was as Kasper Gutman (“The Fat Man”) co-starring with Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon.

The film also featured Peter Lorre, as the twitchy Joel Cairo, a pairing that would prove durable. The two men appeared in some nine films altogether, including Casablanca (1942), with Greenstreet as crooked club owner Signor Ferrari, as well as Background to Danger (1943, with George Raft), Passage to Marseille (1944), reteaming him with Casablanca stars Bogart, Lorre, and Claude Rains, The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), The Conspirators (1944), with Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid, Hollywood Canteen (1944), Three Strangers (1946), and The Verdict (1946).

Top Billing: 3 Films

In the last two. and The Mask of Dimitrios, Greenstreet received top billing.

A diverse actor, he excelled in dramatic films, such as William Makepeace Thackeray in Devotion (1946) and screwball comedies, such as Alexander Yardley in Christmas in Connecticut (1944).

Near the end of his film career, Greenstreet played opposite Joan Crawford in Flamingo Road (1949).

After eight years, Greenstreet’s film career ended with Malaya (also 1949), in which he was billed third, after Spencer Tracy and James Stewart.

During those years, he worked with stars ranging from Clark Gable to Ava Gardner to Joan Crawford.

Tennessee Williams wrote his one-act play “The Last of My Solid Gold Watches” with Greenstreet in mind, and dedicated it to him.

During 1950–1951, Greenstreet played Nero Wolfe on the radio program The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe, based loosely on the rotund detective genius created by Rex Stout.

Greenstreet suffered from diabetes and Bright’s disease, a kidney disorder.

Five years after quitting films, Greenstreet died in 1954 in Hollywood due to complications from both conditions.

He was survived by his only child, John Ogden Greenstreet (September 30, 1920 – March 4, 2004), from his marriage to Dorothy Marie Ogden.

Actor Mark Greenstreet is his great-nephew.


Oscar Award nomination

The Maltese Falcon (Best Supporting Actor Nominated)


Filmography: 24 films (in 8 years)


The Maltese Falcon, Kasper Gutman, Oscar Nomination

They Died with Their Boots On Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott


Across the Pacific Dr. Lorenz

Casablanca Signor Ferrari


Background to Danger Col. Robinson


Passage to Marseille Major Duval

Between Two Worlds Rev. Tim Thompson

The Mask of Dimitrios Mr. Peters

The Conspirators Ricardo Quintanilla

Hollywood Canteen Himself


Pillow to Post Col. Michael Otley

Conflict Dr. Mark Hamilton

Christmas in Connecticut Alexander Yardley


Three Strangers Jerome K. Arbutny

Devotion William Makepeace Thackeray

The Verdict Supt. George Edward Grodman


That Way with Women James P. Alden

The Hucksters Evan Llewellyn Evans


Ruthless, Buck Mansfield

The Woman in White Count, Alessandro Fosco

The Velvet Touch, Capt. Danbury


Flamingo Road, Sheriff Titus Semple

It’s a Great Feeling, Himself (Uncredited)

Malaya, The Dutchman (final film role)