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Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg; Yiddish: ײמאַנועל גאָלדענבערג‎; December 12, 1893 – January 26, 1973) was a Romanian American actor of stage and screen during Hollywood's Golden Age. He appeared in 40 Broadway plays and more than 100 films during a 50-year career[1] and is best remembered for his tough-guy roles as gangsters in such films as Little Caesar and Key Largo.

Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson - still.jpg
Robinson circa 1935
Born
Emanuel Goldenberg

(1893-12-12)December 12, 1893
DiedJanuary 26, 1973(1973-01-26) (aged 79)
Resting placeBeth El Cemetery, Brooklyn
OccupationActor
Years active1913–1972
Home townManhattan, New York City
Spouse(s)
Gladys Lloyd
(m. 1927; div. 1956)

Jane Robinson
(m. 1958, his death 1973)
Children1
AwardsHonorary Academy Award (1973)
Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award (1969)
Military career
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy

During the 1930s and 1940s, he was an outspoken public critic of fascism and Nazism, which were growing in strength in Europe leading up to World War II. His activism included contributing over $250,000 to more than 850 organizations involved in war relief, along with cultural, educational and religious groups. During the 1950s, he was called to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare, but was cleared of any Communist involvement.

Robinson's roles included an insurance investigator in the film noir Double Indemnity, Dathan (adversary of Moses) in The Ten Commandments, and his final performance in the science-fiction story Soylent Green.[2] Robinson received an Honorary Academy Award for his work in the film industry, which was awarded two months after he died in 1973. He is ranked number 24 in the American Film Institute's list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic American cinema.

Contents

Early years and educationEdit

Robinson was born as Emanuel Goldenberg to a Yiddish-speaking Romanian-Jewish family in Bucharest, the son of Sarah (née Guttman) and Morris Goldenberg, a builder.[3]

After one of his brothers was attacked by an anti-semitic mob, the family decided to immigrate to the United States.[1] Robinson arrived in New York City on February 21, 1904.[4] "At Ellis Island I was born again", he wrote. "Life for me began when I was 10 years old."[1] He grew up on the Lower East Side,[5]:91 had his Bar Mitzvah at First Roumanian-American Congregation,[6] and attended Townsend Harris High School and then the City College of New York, planning to become a criminal attorney.[7] An interest in acting and performing in front of people led to him winning an American Academy of Dramatic Arts scholarship,[7] after which he changed his name to Edward G. Robinson (the G. standing for his original surname).[7]

He served in the United States Navy during World War I, but was never sent overseas.[8]

CareerEdit

Robinson in his breakout role, Little Caesar (1931)
Robinson in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944)
Robinson and Lynn Bari in Tampico (1944)
All My Sons (1948): Louisa Horton, Robinson, Chester Erskine (producer) and Burt Lancaster
Florence Henderson and Robinson on the set of Song of Norway (April 1969)

TheatreEdit

He began his acting career in the Yiddish Theater District[9][10][11] in 1913 and made his Broadway debut in 1915.[1] He made his film debut in Arms and the Man (1916).

In 1923 made his named debut as E. G. Robinson in the silent film, The Bright Shawl.[1]

The RacketEdit

He played a snarling gangster in the 1927 Broadway police/crime drama The Racket, which led to his being cast in similar film roles, beginning with The Hole in the Wall (1929) with Claudette Colbert for Paramount. Paramount then cast him in a comedy, The Kibitzer (1930).

One of many actors who saw his career flourish in the new sound film era rather than falter, he made only three films prior to 1930, but left his stage career that year and made 14 films between 1930 and 1932.

Robinson went to Universal for Night Ride (1930) and MGM for A Lady to Love (1930) directed by Victor Sjöström. At Universal he was in Outside the Law and East Is West (both 1930), then he did The Widow from Chicago (1931) at First National.

Little CaesarEdit

Robinson was established as a film actor. What made him a star was an acclaimed performance as the gangster Caesar Enrico "Rico" Bandello in Little Caesar (1931) at Warner Bros.

Robinson signed a long term contract with Warners. They put him in another gangster film, Smart Money (1931), his only movie with James Cagney. He was reunited with Mervyn LeRoy, director of Little Caesar, in Five Star Final (1931), playing a journalist, and played a Tong gangster in The Hatchet Man (1932).

Robinson made a third film with LeRoy, Two Seconds (1932) then did a melodrama directed by Howard Hawks, Tiger Shark (1932).

Warners tried him in a biopic, Silver Dollar (1932), where Robinson played Horace Tabor, a comedy, The Little Giant (1933) and a romance, I Loved a Woman (1933).

Robinson was then in Dark Hazard (1934), and The Man with Two Faces (1934).

He went to Columbia for The Whole Town's Talking (1935), a comedy directed by John Ford. Sam Goldwyn borrowed him for Barbary Coast (1935), again directed by Hawks.

Back at Warners he did Bullets or Ballots (1936) then he went to Britain for Thunder in the City (1937). He made Kid Galahad (1937) with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. MGM borrowed him for The Last Gangster (1937) then he did a comedy A Slight Case of Murder (1938). Again with Bogart in a supporting role, he was in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) then he was borrowed by Columbia for I Am the Law (1938).

World War TwoEdit

At the time World War II broke out in Europe, he played an FBI agent in Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), the first American film which showed Nazism as a threat to the United States.

He volunteered for military service in June 1942 but was disqualified due to his age at 48,[12] although he became an active and vocal critic of fascism and Nazism during that period.[13]

MGM borrowed him for Blackmail, (1939). Then to avoid being typecast he played biomedical scientist and Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich in Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940) and Paul Julius Reuter in A Dispatch from Reuter's (1940).[14] Both were biographies of prominent Jewish public figures. In between, he and Bogart were in Brother Orchid (1940).[14]

Robinson was teamed with John Garfield in The Sea Wolf (1941) and George Raft in Manpower (1941). He went to MGM for Unholy Partners (1942) and made a comedy Larceny, Inc. (1942).

Post WarnersEdit

Robinson was one of several stars in Tales of Manhattan (1942) and Flesh and Fantasy (1943).

He did war films: Destroyer (1943) at Columbia, and Tampico (1944) at Fox. At Paramount he was in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck and at Columbia he was in Mr. Winkle Goes to War (1944). He then performed with Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea in Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945).

At MGM he was in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) then did Orson Welles' The Stranger (1946) with Welles and Loretta Young. Robinson followed it with a thriller The Red House (1947) and starred in an adaptation of All My Sons (1948).

Robinson appeared for director John Huston as gangster Johnny Rocco in Key Largo (1948), the last of five films he made with Humphrey Bogart and the only one in which Bogart did not play a supporting role.

He was in Night Has a Thousand Eyes in 1948 and House of Strangers in 1949.

GreylistingEdit

Robinson found it hard to get work after his blacklisting. He was in low budgeted films: Actors and Sin (1952), Vice Squad (1953), Big Leaguer (1953), The Glass Web (1953), Black Tuesday (1954), The Violent Men (1955), Tight Spot (1955), A Bullet for Joey (1955), Illegal (1955), and Hell on Frisco Bay (1955).

His career rehabilitation received a boost in 1954, when noted anti-communist director Cecil B. DeMille cast him as the traitorous Dathan in The Ten Commandments. The film was released in 1956, as was his psychological thriller Nightmare.

After a subsequent short absence from the screen, Robinson's film career—augmented by an increasing number of television roles—restarted for good in 1958/59, when he was second-billed after Frank Sinatra in the 1959 release A Hole in the Head.

Supporting ActorEdit

Robinson went to Europe for Seven Thieves (1960). He had support roles in My Geisha (1962), Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), Sammy Going South (1963), The Prize (1963), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), Good Neighbor Sam (1964), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), and The Outrage (1964).

He had a key part in The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and was top billed in The Blonde from Peking and Grand Slam (1967).

Robinson was originally cast in the role of Dr. Zaius in Planet Of The Apes (1968) and even went as far to filming a screen test with Charlton Heston. However, Robinson dropped out from the project before production began citing heart problems and concerns over the long hours under the heavy ape make up. He was replaced by Maurice Evans.

Later appearances included The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968), Never a Dull Moment (1968), It's Your Move (1968), Mackenna's Gold (1969), and the Night Gallery episode “The Messiah on Mott Street" (1971).

The last scene Robinson filmed was a euthanasia sequence, with friend and co-star Charlton Heston, in the science fiction cult film Soylent Green (1973); he died only twelve days later.

Heston, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, presented Robinson with its annual award in 1969, "in recognition of his pioneering work in organizing the union, his service during World War II, and his 'outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.'"[5]:124

Robinson was never nominated for an Academy Award, but in 1973 he was awarded an honorary Oscar in recognition that he had "achieved greatness as a player, a patron of the arts and a dedicated citizen ... in sum, a Renaissance man".[1] He had been notified of the honor, but died two months before the award ceremony, so the award was accepted by his widow, Jane Robinson.[1]

RadioEdit

From 1937 to 1942, Robinson starred as Steve Wilson, editor of the Illustrated Press, in the newspaper drama Big Town.[15] He also portrayed hardboiled detective Sam Spade for a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of The Maltese Falcon. During the 1940s he also performed on CBS Radio's "Cadena de las Américas" network broadcasts to South America in collaboration with Nelson Rockefeller's cultural diplomacy program at the U. S. State Department's Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.[16]

Personal lifeEdit

 
Robinson and his son Manny in a 1962 episode of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre.

Robinson married his first wife, stage actress Gladys Lloyd, born Gladys Lloyd Cassell, in 1927; she was the former wife of Ralph L. Vestervelt and the daughter of Clement C. Cassell, an architect, sculptor and artist. The couple had one son, Edward G. Robinson, Jr. (a.k.a. Manny Robinson, 1933–1974), as well as a daughter from Gladys Robinson's first marriage.[17] In 1956 the couple divorced. In 1958 he married Jane Bodenheimer, a dress designer professionally known as Jane Arden. Thereafter he also maintained a home in Palm Springs, California.[18]

In noticeable contrast to many of his onscreen characters, Robinson was a sensitive, softly-spoken and cultured man who spoke seven languages.[1] Remaining a liberal Democrat, he attended the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, California.[19] He was a passionate art collector, eventually building up a significant private collection. In 1956, however, he was forced to sell his collection to pay for his divorce settlement with Gladys Robinson; his finances had also suffered due to underemployment in the early 1950s.[5]:120

DeathEdit

Robinson died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles of bladder cancer[20] on January 26, 1973. Services were held at Temple Israel in Los Angeles where Charlton Heston delivered the eulogy.[21]:131 Over 1,500 friends of Robinson attended with another 500 crowded outside.[5]:125 His body was then flown to New York where it was entombed in a crypt in the family mausoleum at Beth-El Cemetery in Brooklyn.[21]:131 Among his pallbearers were Jack L. Warner, Hal B. Wallis, Mervyn LeRoy, George Burns, Sam Jaffe, and Frank Sinatra.[1]

In October 2000, Robinson's image was imprinted on a U.S. postage stamp, its sixth in its Legends of Hollywood series.[5]:125[22]

Political activismEdit

During the 1930s, Robinson was an outspoken public critic of fascism and Nazism, and donated more than $250,000 to 850 political and charitable groups between 1939 and 1949. He was host to the Committee of 56 who gathered at his home on December 9, 1938, signing a "Declaration of Democratic Independence" which called for a boycott of all German-made products.[13]

Although he tried to do so, he was unable to enlist in the military at the outbreak of World War II because of his age;[12] instead, the Office of War Information appointed him as a Special Representative based in London.[5]:106 From there, taking advantage of his multilingual skills, he delivered radio addresses in over six languages to countries in Europe which had fallen under Nazi domination.[5]:106 His talent as a radio speaker in the U.S. had previously been recognized by the American Legion, which had given him an award for his "outstanding contribution to Americanism through his stirring patriotic appeals."[5]:106 Robinson was also active with the Hollywood Democratic Committee, serving on its executive board in 1944, during which time he became an "enthusiastic" campaigner for Roosevelt's reelection that year.[5]:107 During the 1940s Robinson also contributed to the cultural diplomacy initiatives of Roosevelt's Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in support of Pan-Americanism through his broadcasts to South America on the CBS "Cadena da las Américas" radio network.[23]

In early July 1944, less than a month after the Invasion of Normandy by Allied forces, Robinson traveled to Normandy to entertain the troops, becoming the first movie star to go there for the USO.[5]:106 He personally donated $100,000 ($1,500,000 in 2015 dollars) to the USO.[5]:107 After returning to the U.S. he continued his active involvement with the war effort by going to shipyards and defense plants to inspire workers, in addition to appearing at rallies to help sell war bonds.[5]:107 After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, while not a supporter of Communism, he appeared at Soviet war relief rallies to give moral aid to America's new ally, which he said could join "together in their hatred of Hitlerism."[5]:107

After the war ended, Robinson spoke publicly in support of democratic rights for all Americans, especially in demanding equality for Blacks in the workplace. He endorsed the Fair Employment Practices Commission's call to end workplace discrimination.[5]:109 Black leaders praised him as "one of the great friends of the Negro and a great advocator of Democracy."[5]:109 Robinson also campaigned for the civil rights of African-Americans, helping out many people to overcome segregation and discrimination.[24]

During the years Robinson spoke against fascism and Nazism – although not a supporter of Communism - he failed to criticize the Soviet Union which he saw as an ally against Hitler. However, notes film historian Steven J. Ross, "activists who attacked Hitler without simultaneously attacking Stalin were vilified by conservative critics as either Communists, Communist dupes, or, at best, naive liberal dupes."[5]:128 In addition, Robinson learned that 11 of the more than the 850 charities and groups he had helped over the previous decade were listed by the FBI as Communist front organizations.[25] As a result, he was called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1950 and 1952 and was threatened with blacklisting.[26]

As appears in the full House of Un-American activities Committee transcript for April 30, 1952, Robinson "named names" of Communist sympathizers (Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Frank Tuttle, and Sidney Buchman) and repudiated some of the organizations he had belonged to in the 1930s and 1940s.[26][27] He came to realize, "I was duped and used."[5]:121 His own name was cleared, but in the aftermath his career noticeably suffered, as he was offered smaller roles and those less frequently. In October 1952 he wrote an article titled "How the Reds made a Sucker Out of Me", that was published in the American Legion Magazine.[28] The chair of the Committee, Francis E. Walter, told Robinson at the end of his testimonies, that the Committee "never had any evidence presented to indicate that you were anything more than a very choice sucker."[5]:122

In popular cultureEdit

 
Robinson as gangster Little Caesar (1931)

Robinson has been the inspiration for a number of animated television characters, usually caricatures of his most distinctive 'snarling gangster' guise. An early version of the gangster character Rocky, featured in the Bugs Bunny cartoon Racketeer Rabbit, shared his likeness. This version of the character also appears briefly in Justice League, in the episode "Comfort and Joy", as an alien with Robinson's face and non-human body, who hovers past the screen as a background character.

Similar caricatures also appeared in The Coo-Coo Nut Grove, Thugs with Dirty Mugs and Hush My Mouse. Another character based on Robinson's tough-guy image was The Frog (Chauncey "Flat Face" Frog) from the cartoon series Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse. The voice of B.B. Eyes in The Dick Tracy Show was based on Robinson, with Mel Blanc and Jerry Hausner sharing voicing duties. The Wacky Races animated series character 'Clyde' from the Ant Hill Mob was based on Robinson's Little Caesar persona.

In the 1989 animated series C.O.P.S. the mastermind villain Brandon "Big Boss" Babel's voice sounded just like Edward G. Robinson when he would talk to his gangsters. Then years later voice actor Hank Azaria has noted that the voice of Simpsons character police chief Clancy Wiggum is an impression of Robinson.[29] This has been explicitly joked about in episodes of the show. In "The Day the Violence Died" (1996), a character states that Chief Wiggum is clearly based on Robinson. In 2008's "Treehouse of Horror XIX", Wiggum and Robinson's ghost each accuse the other of being rip-offs.[citation needed] Another caricature of Robinson appears in two episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars season two, in the person of Lt. Tan Divo[citation needed].

Robinson was played by Michael Stuhlbarg in the 2015 film Trumbo. In the film he is portrayed as a weak man, going along with the House UnAmerican Committee to save his own career. In contrast, Dalton Trumbo appears to be entirely honourable when he refuses to accept money from Robinson.

FilmographyEdit

Excluding appearances as himself.

Radio appearancesEdit

Year Program Episode/source
1940 Screen Guild Theatre Blind Alley[30]
1946 Suspense The Man Who Wanted to Be Edward G. Robinson[31]
1946 This Is Hollywood The Stranger[32]
1950 Screen Directors Playhouse The Sea Wolf[32]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Edward G. Robinson, 79, Dies; His 'Little Caesar' Set a Style; Man of Great Kindness Edward G. Robinson Is Dead at 79 Made Speeches to Friends Appeared in 100 Films". The New York Times. January 27, 1973. Retrieved July 21, 2007.
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, January 31, 1973, p. 71.
  3. ^ Parish, James Robert; Marill, Alvin (1972). The Cinema of Edward G. Robinson. South Brunswick, New Jersey: A. S. Barnes. p. 16. ISBN 0-498-07875-2.
  4. ^ 1904 passenger list for Manole Goldenberg. "Ancestry.com".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Ross, Steven (2011). Hollywood Left and Right. How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-518172-2. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  6. ^ Epstein (2007), p. 249
  7. ^ a b c Pendergast, Tom. Ed. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Vol. 4, pp. 229–230
  8. ^ Beck, Robert. Edward G. Robinson Encyclopedia. McFarland. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  9. ^ Morgen Stevens-Garmon (February 7, 2012). "Treasures and "Shandas" from the Collection on Yiddish theater". Museum of the City of New York. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  10. ^ Hy Brett (1997). The Ultimate New York City Trivia Book. Thomas Nelson Inc. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  11. ^ Cary Leiter (2008). The Importance of the Yiddish Theatre in the Evolution of the Modern American Theatre. ProQuest. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Wise, James: Stars in Khaki: Movie Actors in the Army and Air Services. Naval Institute Press, 2000. ISBN 1-55750-958-1. p. 228.
  13. ^ a b Ross, pp. 99–102
  14. ^ a b Schatz, Thomas. Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s. University of California Press, Nov 23, 1999, p. 99.
  15. ^ Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. pp. 88–89.
  16. ^ Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda Deborah R. Vargas. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2012 p. 152-153 ISBN 978-0-8166-7316-2 Edward G. Robbinson, OCIAA, CBS radio, Pan-americanism and Cadena de las Americas on google.books.com
  17. ^ "Edward G. Robinson, Jr. Is Dead; Late Screen Star's Son Was 40". The New York Times. February 27, 1974. Retrieved July 21, 2007. Edward G. Robinson Jr., the son of the late screen actor, died yesterday. Mr. Robinson, who was 40 years old, was found unconscious by his wife, Nan, in their West Hollywood home. His death was attributed to natural causes.
  18. ^ Meeks, Eric G. (2012). The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 91. ISBN 978-1479328598.
  19. ^ soapbxprod (November 20, 2011). "1960 Democratic Convention Los Angeles Committee for the Arts". Retrieved April 2, 2018 – via YouTube.
  20. ^ Gansberg, p. 246, 252–253.
  21. ^ a b Beck, Robert. The Edward G. Robinson Encyclopedia, McFarland (2002)
  22. ^ Edward G. Robinson stamp, 2000
  23. ^ Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda Deborah R. Vargas. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2012 p. 152-153 ISBN 978-0-8166-7316-2 Edward G. Robbinson, OCIAA, CBS radio, Pan-americanism and Cadena de las Americas on google.books.com
  24. ^ Lotchin, Roger W. (2000). The Way We Really Were: The Golden State in the Second Great War. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252068195.
  25. ^ Miller, Frank. Leading Men, Chronicle Books and TCM (2006) p. 185
  26. ^ a b Sabin, Arthur J. In Calmer Times: The Supreme Court and Red Monday, p. 35. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999
  27. ^ Bud and Ruth Schultz, It Did Happen Here: Recollections of Political Repression in America, p. 113. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
  28. ^ Ross, Stephen J. "Little Caesar and the McCarthyist Mob", USC Trojan Magazine. Los Angeles: University of Southern California, August 2011 issue. Accessed on Jan 10, 2013. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 27, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ Joe Rhodes (October 21, 2000). "Flash! 24 Simpsons Stars Reveal Themselves". TV Guide.
  30. ^ "Sunday Caller". Harrisburg Telegraph. February 24, 1940. p. 17. Retrieved July 20, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  
  31. ^ "The Man Who Wanted to Be Edward G. Robinson". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 12, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved October 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  
  32. ^ a b "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 42 (3): 39. Summer 2016.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0660863/mediaviewer/rm2112237824

Further readingEdit

  • Epstein, Lawrence Jeffrey (2007). Edge of a Dream: The Story of Jewish Immigrants on New York's Lower East Side, 1880–1920. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-7879-8622-3.
  • Robinson, Edward G.; Spigelgass, Leonard (1973). All My Yesterdays; an Autobiography. Hawthorn Books. LCCN 73005443.

External linksEdit