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Robinson, Edward G.

ROBINSON, Edward G.



Nationality: American. Born: Emanuel Goldenberg in Bucharest, Romania, 12 December 1893; acquired U.S. citizenship papers on emigrating with his parents at age 10. Education: Attended Townsend Harris Hall High School, New York; Columbia University, New York; American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York, 1912–13. Family: Married 1) Gladys Lloyd, 1927 (divorced 1956), son: Emanuel; 2) Jane Adler, 1958. Career: 1913—member of Binghamton Stock Company, New York; 1915—Broadway debut in Under Fire; served in the U.S. Navy during World War I; 1923—film debut in The Bright Shawl; 1927—leading role in stage play The Racket (also co-wrote it); 1931—contract with Warner Brothers; 1937–40—in radio series Big Town with Claire Trevor; 1946—formed Film Guild Corporation production company; 1956—on Broadway in Middle of the Night. Awards: Best Actor, Cannes Festival, for House of Strangers, 1949; Special Academy Award, 1972 (awarded posthumously). Died: 26 January 1973.


Films as Actor:

1923

The Bright Shawl (Robertson) (as Domingo Escobar)

1929

The Hole in the Wall (Flory) (as the Fox); Night Ride (Robertson) (as Tony Garotta)

1930

A Lady to Love (Seastrom) (as Tony); Outside the Law (Browning) (as Cobra Collins); East Is West (Bell) (as Charlie Young); Thunder in the City (Gering) (as Dan Armstrong); The Widow from Chicago (Cline) (as Dominio)

1931

Little Caesar (LeRoy) (as Rico Bandello); Smart Money (Green) (as Nick "The Barber" Venizelos); Five Star Final (LeRoy) (as Joseph Randall)

1932

The Hatchet Man (Wellman) (as Wong Low Get); Two Seconds (LeRoy) (as John Allen); Tiger Shark (Hawks) (as Mike Mascarena); Silver Dollar (Green) (as Yates Martin)

1933

The Little Giant (Del Ruth) (as James Francis Ahearn); I Loved a Woman (Green) (as John Hayden)

1934

Dark Hazard (Green) (as Jim "Buck" Turner); The Man with Two Faces (Mayo) (as Damon Wells)

1935

The Whole Town's Talking (Ford) (as Arthur Ferguson Jones); Barbary Coast (Hawks) (as Louis Chamacis)

1936

Bullets or Ballots (Keighley) (as Johnny Blake)

1937

Kid Galahad (Curtiz) (as Nick Donati); The Last Gangster (Ludwig) (as Joe Krozac)

1938

A Slight Case of Murder (Bacon) (as Remy Marco); The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (Litvac) (title role); I Am the Law (Hall) (as John Lindsay)

1939

Confessions of a Nazi Spy (Litvak) (as Ed Reward); Blackmail (Potter) (as John Ingram)

1940

Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (Dieterle) (title role); Brother Orchid (Bacon) (as Little John Sarto); A Dispatch from Reuters (Dieterle) (as Julius Reuter)

1941

The Sea Wolf (Curtiz) (as Wolf Carsen); Unholy Partner (LeRoy) (as Bruce Corey); Manpower (Walsh) (as Hawk McHenry)

1942

Larceny, Inc. (Lloyd Bacon) (as Pressure Maxwell); Tales of Manhattan (Duvivier) (as Browne)

1943

Destroyer (Seiter) (as Steve Boleslauski); Flesh and Fantasy (Duvivier) (as Marshall Tyler)

1944

Tampico (Mendes) (as Capt. Bart Manson); Mr. Winkle Goes to War (Green) (title role); Double Indemnity (Wilder) (as Barton Keyes)

1945

The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang) (as Prof. Richard Whanley); Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (Rowland) (as Martinius Jacobson)

1946

Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang) (as Christopher Cross); Journey Together (Boulting) (as Dean McWilliams); The Stranger (Welles) (as Wilson)

1947

The Red House (Daves) (as Peter Morgan)

1948

All My Sons (Reis) (as Joe Keller); Key Largo (Huston) (as Johnny Rocco); The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (Farrow) (as John Triton)

1949

It's a Great Feeling (Butler) (as himself)

1950

My Daughter Joy (Operation X) (Ratoff) (as George Constantin)

1952

Actors and Sin (Hecht) (as Maurice Tillayou)

1953

Vice Squad (Caven) (as Captain Barnaby); Big Leaguer (Aldrich) (as John "Hans" Lobart); The Glass Web (Arnold) (as Henry Hayes)

1954

Black Tuesday (Fregonese) (as Vincent Cavelli)

1955

The Violent Men (Maté) (as Lew Wilkison); Tight Spot (Karlsen) (as Lloyd Hallett); A Bullet for Joey (Lewis Allen) (as Inspector Raoul Leduc)

1956

Hell on Frisco Bay (Tuttle) (as Victor Amato); Nightmare (Shane) (as Rene); The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille) (as Dathan)

1959

A Hole in the Head (Capra) (as Mario Manetta)

1960

Seven Thieves (Hathaway) (as Theo Wilkins); Pepe (Sidney) (as himself)

1961

My Geisha (Cardiff) (as Sam Lewis)

1962

Two Weeks in Another Town (Minnelli) (as Maurice Kruger)

1964

The Prize (Robson) (as Dr. Max Stratman); Good Neighbor Sam (Swift) (as Simon Nurdlinger); Robin and the Seven Hoods (Douglas) (as Big Jim); The Outrage (Ritt) (as Cow Man); Cheyenne Autumn (Ford) (as Carl Schurr)

1965

A Boy Ten Feet Tall (Mackendrick) (as Cocky Wainwright); The Cincinnati Kid (Jewison) (as Cancey Howard)

1968

La Blonde de Pekin (The Blonde from Peking) (Gassner) (as Douglas); Ad ogni costo (Grand Slam) (Montaldo) (as Prof. James Anders); Uno scacco tutto matto (Mad Checkmate) (Fiz) (as MacDowell); Operation St. Peter's (Fucci) (as Joe); Never a Dull Moment (Paris) (as Leo Joseph Smooth)

1969

MacKenna's Gold (Thompson) (as Old Adams); U.M.C. (Operation Heartbeat) (Sagal—for TV)

1970

The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (Grauman—for TV); Song of Norway (Stone) (as Krogstad)

1973

Soylent Green (Fleischer) (as Sol Roth); Neither by Day nor Night (Stern) (as Father)

1979

Arthur Miller on Home Ground (Rasky—doc)



Publications


By ROBINSON: book—


All My Yesterdays, with Leonard Spigelgass, New York, 1973.

On ROBINSON: books—

Lee, Raymond, and B. C. Van Hecke, Gangster and Hoodlums: The Underworld in Cinema, foreword by Edward G. Robinson, New York, 1971.

Parish, James Robert, and Alvin H. Marill, The Cinema of Edward G. Robinson, South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1972.

Wallis, Hal, and Charles Higham, Starmaker, New York, 1980.

Gansberg, Alan L., Little Caesar: A Biography of Edward G. Robinson, Sevenoaks, Kent, 1983.

Neibaur, James L., Tough Guy: The American Movie Macho, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1989.

Marill, Alvin H., The Complete Films of Edward G. Robinson, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1990.

McCarty, John, Hollywood Gangland, New York, 1995.


On ROBINSON: articles—

Current Biography 1950, New York, 1950.

Eyles, Allen, "Edward G. Robinson," in Films and Filming (London), January 1964.

Roman, Robert, "Edward G. Robinson," in Films in Review (New York), August-September 1966.

Beylie, Claude, "Ave, Little Caesar!" in Ecran (Paris), March 1973.

Overbey, D., "Edward G. Robinson," in Take One (Montreal), May 1978.

Frank, Michael, "Edward G. Robinson: Sterling Collection for the Star of Little Ceasar and Double Indemnity," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1990.

Niderost, Eric, "Edward G. Robinson: the Classic Gangster," in Classic Images (Muscatine), May 1993.

Stars (Mariembourg), Autumn 1993.

Phelps, Donald, "On the Spot," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1996.


* * *

His craggy frog-face, squat, stocky figure, and whine/growl of a voice made Edward G. Robinson the permanent property of generations of impressionists and caricaturists. That his acting never descended into the masochistic self-parody of many another distinctive talent is due to Robinson's skill and humor. He became famous through his startling and vivid portrayal of Rico Bandello in Little Caesar. This and other roles of the same vintage and mood (The Hole in the Wall and Outside the Law, to name but two) swiftly typed Robinson as a conscienceless, snarling thug. He was never trapped by this menacing persona. Instead, he played with it, using it as a foundation and weaving skillful variations on the public's perception of his range. Like Cagney he transcended typecasting; rather, he used it to his own ends. No matter with what preconceptions one approaches a Robinson characterization, the actor is able to bring to his work a freshness, an element of the unexpected.

Robinson's roles were sometimes thinly scripted but they inevitably emerged as full-blooded and emotionally shaded on the screen. Even the toughest of his maniacal killers is capable of moments of whimsy or unguarded pleasure. This often points to an essential weakness in the character which leads to his inevitable downfall. This is the key to Robinson's screen gangsters and bad guys, and what separates them from those of his fellow kings of the celluloid underworld, Cagney and Bogart. Robinson's characters are killers, but they are not clever, homicidal crazies (like Cagney's) or desperate loners looking for a way out (like Bogart's). They are fools guided by stupidity—essentially comic figures. This may be why many of Robinson's best gangster films following Little Caesar were, in fact, outright comedies in which he not only poked fun at the distinctive tough guy character he had created but further defined that character in ways that some of his dramas failed to do. In these comic films, such as The Little Giant, The Whole Town's Talking, A Slight Case of Murder, Brother Orchid, and so on, his cruel face softened and relaxed until it resembled that of an amiable, if unfortunate, baby.

In Robinson's best performances, he was able to walk the line between reason and rage. Flesh and Fantasy and The Night Has a Thousand Eyes show his vulnerability and susceptibility to madness; he is a hard-edged thug with a soft spot in The Last Gangster, a cuckold in Manpower, noble and tenacious in Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet, shrewd and bemused in Double Indemnity, benevolent and fatherly in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes.

Robinson worked with some of the best directors in Hollywood—Browning, LeRoy, Wellman, Ford, Hawks, Farrow, Curtiz, Huston—but the archetypical Robinson roles are contained in Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street and The Woman in the Window. In the former, he is an easily manipulated artist driven to madness and murder by his wife's infidelity. In the latter, he portrays a cultured and intelligent professor who becomes embroiled in the seamier side of life by his obsession with the beautiful subject of a portrait. In both films, Lang's themes seem tailor-made to display the disparate facets of Robinson's personality: paranoia, impending insanity, and violence versus taste, trust, and an innate, if fragile, amiability.

—Frank Thompson, updated by John McCarty

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Robinson, Edward G.

Edward G. Robinson, 1893–1973, American movie actor, b. Bucharest, Romania, as Emmanuel Goldberg. He made his stage debut in New York City in 1915. A short, tough-looking man, Robinson played both vicious gangsters and amiable men, the latter frequently led astray by unfaithful women. His most famous role was as the snarling mobster in Little Caesar (1931). He played criminals in such movies as Five Star Final (1931), Kid Galahad (1937), and Key Largo (1948), and more sympathetic parts in Double Indemnity (1944), The Stranger (1946), Tight Spot (1955), and Soylent Green (1973).

See his autobiography (1974).

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Robinson, Edward G.

ROBINSON, EDWARD G.

ROBINSON, EDWARD G. (Emanuel Goldenberg , 1893–1973), U.S. actor. Born in Bucharest, Romania, Robinson was taken to the U.S. in 1903. He made his first New York appearance in 1913 and came to prominence in the 1920s with the Theatre Guild, appearing on Broadway in such plays as Samson and Delilah (1921), Peer Gynt (1923), The Adding Machine (1923), Androcles and the Lion (1925), The Firebrand (1925), The Brothers Karamazov (1927), and Kibitzer, which he co-wrote with Jo Sterling (1929).

In his first starring film role, Robinson played a gangster in The Racket (1927), a portrayal that led to his being cast in the title role of Little Caesar (1931). His performance as a gang leader became a screen classic. He went on to play many such parts and was widely imitated. His film career continued through five decades. Among his more than 100 films are: Kid Galahad (1937), Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940), The Sea Wolf (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945), All My Sons (1948), Key Largo (1948), House of Strangers (1949), The Ten Commandments (1956), A Hole in the Head (1959), The Prize (1963), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), and Soylent Green (1973).

Robinson returned to the stage on occasion, notably in Darkness at Noon (1951) and in Paddy Chayefsky's Middle of the Night (1956), for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.

In 1973 he was awarded, posthumously, an Honorary Academy Award, which is given for exceptional distinction in the making of motion pictures or for outstanding service to the Academy.

He was very active on behalf of various Jewish and Israeli causes. Robinson's autobiography, All My Yesterdays, was published in 1975.

bibliography:

E.G. Robinson, Jr., My Father My Son (1958). add. bibliography: R. Beck, The Edward G. Robinson Encyclopedia (2001); A. Gansberg, Little Caesar: A Biography of Edward G. Robinson (1983); F. Hirsch, Edward G. Robinson (1975); J. Robinson, Edward G. Robinson's World of Art (1975); J Parish and A. Marill, The Cinema of Edward G. Robinson (1972).

[Frank Emblen and

Stewart Kampel /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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Robinson, Edward G.

ROBINSON, EDWARD G.

Edward G. Robinson (December 12, 1893–January 26, 1973), actor noted for tough guy roles, was born Emmanual Goldenberg in Bucharest, Romania. He came to the United States in 1902 with his family and was educated in New York City's public schools. After winning a scholarship in 1911 to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, he changed his name to Edward G. (for Goldenberg) Robinson. Between 1913 and 1930, with time out for a World War I navy stint, he appeared in over thirty plays, making a stab at the movies in 1923. He made some films at the end of the 1920s before moving to California and quickly becoming a star character actor.

His breakthrough role as an ambitious aggressive gangster in the 1931 film Little Caesar, released at the beginning of Hollywood's gangster cycle, helped define a particular image of Robinson. As he later said, "some people have youth, some have beauty—I have menace." Small of stature but blessed with a cutting voice, Robinson in his 1930s films (and well into the 1940s) was presented mainly as a guy who could "dish it out."

The gangster genre attracted Depression audiences because the protagonists, however sour their end, overcame adversity through most of the film. The initial gangster cycle petered out under pressure from various sources. A gangster cycle later in the decade took a different tack, downplaying the characters' heroic aspects. Robinson, whether or not on the right side of the law in his 1930s films, portrayed vigorously, convincingly, and with compassion a wide variety of characters: He played a gangster in The Last Gangster (1938), an Asian in The Hatchet Man (1932), a law enforcer in Bullets or Ballots (1936), and a self-made man in Silver Dollar (1932). He even spoofed his own image and the gangster genre in A Slight Case of Larceny (1938). Because of his passionate political convictions, he accepted a minor role as an FBI official in the controversial Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), an early entry in Hollywood's campaign against Hitler.

Star status notwithstanding, Robinson was blacklisted at the end of the 1940s. He strenuously campaigned to clear himself and his career revived in the mid-1950s but most of his subsequent roles were supporting ones. He did make a triumphal return to the stage and achieved a viable TV career. Robinson was awarded the Legion d'Honneur in 1952 and received posthumously a special Oscar for "lifetime achievement."

See Also: HOLLYWOOD AND THE FILM INDUSTRY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Beck, Robert. The Edward G. Robinson Encyclopedia. 2002.

Marill, Alvin. The Complete Films of Edward G. Robinson. 1990.

Robinson, Edward G. All My Yesterdays. 1973.

Daniel J. Leab

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