J. Edward Bromberg

Joseph Edward Bromberg (born Josef Bromberger, December 25, 1903 – December 6, 1951) was a Hungarian-born American character actor in motion picture and stage productions dating mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. Knowledge of his past as a Communist Party led to a defiant appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee, shortly before his death.

J. Edward Bromberg
Bromberg in the Group Theatre's Broadway production Gold Eagle Guy (1934)
Josef Bromberger

(1903-12-25)December 25, 1903
Temesvár, Kingdom of Hungary
DiedDecember 6, 1951(1951-12-06) (aged 47)
London, UK
Resting placeMount Hebron Cemetery, New York City
Years active1926–1950
Spouse(s)Goldie Doberman (1927–?)

Bromberg is considered a victim of red-baiting and a casualty of the Hollywood Blacklist.[1] He is best known, historically, as being one of the "names" named by director Elia Kazan in the director's second appearance before HUAC.[2]

Early yearsEdit

Born to a Jewish family in Temesvár, Austria-Hungary (now Timișoara, Romania),[3] Bromberg was 11 months old when his parents, Herman and Josephine Roth Bromberg,[4] emigrated to the United States with him in the second cabin class on the S/S Graf Waldersee, which sailed from Cuxhaven, Germany, 18 March 1905 and arrived at the Port of New York, 31 March. They settled in New York City. After graduating from Stuyvesant High School,[5][6] he attended City College of New York for two years[4] and then went to work to help pay for acting lessons with the Russian coach Leo Bulgakov, who had trained with Konstantin Stanislavski.


Bromberg in Queen of the Amazons (1947)

By virtue of his physique, the short, somewhat rotund actor was destined to play secondary roles. Bromberg made his stage debut at the Greenwich Village Playhouse and in 1926 made his first appearance in a Broadway play, Princess Turandot.[7] The following year, Bromberg married Goldie Doberman,[4] with whom he had three children.

Occasionally credited as J.E. Bromberg'[7] and Joseph Bromberg, he performed secondary roles in 35 Broadway productions and 53 motion pictures until 1951. For two decades, Bromberg was highly regarded in the New York theatrical world and was a founding member of the Civic Repertory Theatre (1928–1930) and of the Group Theatre (1931–1940).

Bromberg made his screen debut in 1936 under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox. The versatile actor played a wide variety of roles ranging from a ruthless New York newspaper editor (in Charlie Chan on Broadway) to a despotic Arabian sheik (in Mr. Moto Takes a Chance). Although he spoke with no trace of an accent, he was often called upon to play humble immigrants of various nationalities. When Warner Oland, the actor who played Charlie Chan, died in 1938, Fox considered Bromberg as a suitable replacement, but the role ultimately went to Sidney Toler.[3] Fox began loaning Bromberg to other studios in 1939 and finally dropped him from the roster in 1941. He kept working for various producers, including a stint at Universal Pictures in the mid-1940s.

Bromberg's most outstanding attribute was his facility with sensitive character roles; he could take a standard, undistinguished supporting part and make it unforgettably sympathetic. In Hollywood Cavalcade he portrays Don Ameche's friend who knows he will never get the girl; in Three Sons he is the lowly business associate who longs to be given a partnership; in Easy to Look At he is the once-great couturier now reduced to night watchman. In ‘’Mark of Zorro’’ he portrays the Alcade of Los Angeles to Tyrone Power’s role of the screen hero.

In September 1950, the anti-communist magazine Red Channels accused Bromberg of being a member of the American Communist Party. Subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in June 1951, Bromberg refused to answer any questions in accordance with his Fifth Amendment rights. Bromberg refused to tell the Committee whether or not he was a member of the Communist Party. He also declined to pledge his support in defense of the United States if ever there were a war with the Soviet Union. Bromberg attacked the Committee for holding hearings "in the nature of witch hunts."[8] As the result of his defiant testimony before the committee, Bromberg was blacklisted from working in Hollywood. He suffered enormous stress from the ordeal; friends, such as Lee Grant, noted that he aged considerably in a very short time.


In 1951 Bromberg sought work in England, but died within the year, of a heart attack while working in the London play The Biggest Thief in Town. He was just a few weeks short of his 48th birthday.

In 1952, he and seven other Group Theater members were named by Elia Kazan as Communist Party members in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. According to Kazan in his 1988 autobiography A Life, the Group Theatre Communist Party cell he belonged to in the Group Theatre met in Bromberg's dressing room. Members of the cell included Clifford Odets and Paula Strasberg.[9]

Broadway rolesEdit



  1. ^ Bromberg, Conrad (November 30, 1985). "A SON WRITES ABOUT HIS BLACKLISTED FATHER" (CXXXVI #46, 974). New York Times. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  2. ^ Schacher, Yael (16 March 1999). "https://www.villagevoice.com/1999/03/16/the-people-kazan-named/". The Village Voice. Retrieved 6 July 2021. External link in |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b Liebman, Roy (2017). Broadway Actors in Films, 1894–2015. McFarland. pp. 38–39. ISBN 9781476626154. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Chase, Dick (June 10, 1938). "Story of J. Edward Bromberg, Screen Character Actor". The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. Wisconsin, Milwaukee. p. 9. Retrieved June 2, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.  
  5. ^ "Guide to the J. Edward Bromberg Papers, 1924-1951" (PDF). The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-11. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
  6. ^ Cones, John (April 2015). Motion Picture Biographies: The Hollywood Spin on Historical Figures. pp. 21 and 37. ISBN 9781628941166.
  7. ^ a b "J. Edward Bromberg". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 3 June 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  8. ^ The House Committee On Un-American Activities’ Entertainment Hearings And Their Effects On Performing Arts Careers, by Michael D. Whitlatch, 1977
  9. ^ Kazan, Elia (1988). A Life (Hardcover, First ed.). New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780394559537.

External linksEdit