Skip to main content
Select Source:

Cobb, Lee J.

COBB, Lee J.



Nationality: American. Born: Leo Jacoby in New York City, 8 December 1911 (some sources list 9 December). Education: Attended accounting classes at City College of New York (CCNY). Family: Married 1) Helen Beverly, 1940 (divorced 1952), children: Vincent and Julie; 2) Mary Hirsch, 1957, sons: Tony and Jerry. Career: 1920s—trained as a violinist, but broken wrist ended musical career; 1928—ran away from home to Hollywood, but failed to secure work in film industry as actor; 1928–31—returned to New York City and acted in radio dramas to pay for classes at CCNY; 1931—stage debut at Pasadena Playhouse, California; 1934—film debut in serial Vanishing Shadow; 1935—joined Group Theater in New York; 1949—role as Willie Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman on Broadway; early 1950s—forced to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee; 1962–66—starred as Judge Henry Garth in TV series The Virginian; 1970–71—in TV series The Young Lawyers. Died: In Woodland Hills, California, 11 February 1976.


Films as Actor:

1934

Vanishing Shadow (serial)

1937

North of the Rio Grande (Watt) (as Goodwin); Rustler's Valley (Watt) (as Cal Howard); Ali Baba Goes to Town (David Butler)

1938

Danger on the Air (Garrett) (as Tony)

1939

Golden Boy (Mamoulian) (as Mr. Bonaparte); The Phantom Creeps (serial)

1941

This Thing Called Love (Married but Single) (Hall) (as Julio Diestro); Men of Boys Town (Taurog) (as Dave Morris); Paris Calling (Marin) (as Schwabe)

1943

The Moon Is Down (Pichel) (as Dr. Winter); Tonight We Raid Calais (Brahm) (as Bonnard); The Song of Bernadette (Henry King) (as Dr. Dozous); Buckskin Frontier (The Iron Road) (Selander) (as Jeptha Marr)

1944

Winged Victory (Cukor) (as doctor)

1946

Anna and the King of Siam (Cromwell) (as Kralahome)

1947

Boomerang (Kazan) (as Chief Robinson); Captain from Castile (Henry King) (as Juan Garcia); Johnny O'Clock (Rossen) (as Inspector Koch); Carnival in Costa Rica (Ratoff)

1948

The Miracle of the Bells (Pichel) (as Marcus Harris); Call Northside 777 (Hathaway) (as Brian Kelly); The Luck of the Irish (Koster) (as D. C. Augur)

1949

The Dark Past (Maté) (as Dr. Andrew Collins); Thieves' Highway (Dassin) (as Mike Figlia)

1950

The Man Who Cheated Himself (Feist) (as Ed Cullen)

1951

Sirocco (Bernhardt) (as Col. Feroud); The Family Secret (Levin) (as Howard Clark)

1952

The Fighter (Kline) (as Durango)

1953

The Tall Texan (Williams) (as Capt. Theodore Bess)

1954

Yankee Pasha (Pevney) (as Sultan); Gorilla at Large (Harmon Jones) (as Det. Sgt. Garrison); On the Waterfront (Kazan) (as Johnny Friendly); Day of Triumph (Pichel and Coyle) (as Zadok)

1955

The Racers (Such Men Are Dangerous) (Hathaway) (as Maglio); The Road to Denver (Kane) (as Jim Donovan); The Left Hand of God (Dmytryk) (as Mieh Yang)

1956

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (Johnson) (as Judge Bernstein); Miami Exposé (Sears) (as Bart Scott)

1957

Twelve Angry Men (Lumet) (as Juror no. 3); The Three Faces of Eve (Johnson) (as Dr. Luther); The Garment Jungle (Aldrich and Vincent Sherman) (as Walter Mitchell)

1958

The Brothers Karamazov (Richard Brooks) (as Fyodor Karamazov); Man of the West (Anthony Mann) (as Dock Tobin); Party Girl (Nicholas Ray) (as Rico Angelo)

1959

But Not for Me (Walter Lang) (as Jeremiah MacDonald); The Trap (The Baited Trap) (Panama) (as Victor Massonetti); Green Mansions (Mel Ferrer) (as Nuflo)

1960

Exodus (Preminger) (as Barak Ben Canaan)

1962

The Brazen Bell (Sheldon—for TV); The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Minnelli) (as Julio Madariaga)

1963

"The Outlaws" ep. of How the West Was Won (Hathaway) (as Lou Ramsey); Come Blow Your Horn (Yorkin) (as Mr. Baker)

1966

Our Man Flint (Daniel Mann) (as Cramden)

1967

In Like Flint (Gordon Douglas) (as Cramden)

1968

Las Vegas 500 milliones (They Came to Rob Las Vegas; Les Hommes de Las Vegas) (Isasi) (as Skorsky); Il giorno della civetta (The Day of the Owl; La Maffia fait la loi; Mafia) (Damiani) (as Don Mariano Arena); MacKenna's Gold (J. Lee Thompson) (as the editor); Coogan's Bluff (Siegel) (as Sheriff McElroy)

1970

The Liberation of L. B. Jones (Wyler) (as Oman Hedgepath); Macho Callahan (Kowalski) (as Duffy)

1971

Heat of Anger (Taylor—for TV); Lawman (Winner) (as Vincent Bronson)

1973

Double Indemnity (Smight—for TV); The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (Sarafian) (as Lapchance); La polizia sta a guardare (Infascelli); The Exorcist (Friedkin) (as Lt. Kinderman)

1974

Dr. Max (Goldstone—for TV) (title role); The Great Ice Ripoff (Curtis—for TV); Trapped beneath the Sea (Graham—for TV) (as Victor Bateman); Venditore di palloncini (The Last Circus Show; The Balloon Vendor; Last Moments) (Gariazzo)

1975

Mark il poliziotta (Blood, Sweat and Fear) (Massi); Ultimatum alla città (Ultimatum); That Lucky Touch (Miles) (as Lt. Gen. Henry Steedman)


1976

I Amici di Nick Nezard (Nick the Sting) (Di Leo); Cross Shot (La legge violenta della squadra anticrimine) (Massi)

1979

Arthur Miller on Home Ground (Rasky)



Publications


On COBB: articles—

Current Biography 1960, New York, 1960.

Obituary in New York Times, 12 February 1976.

Pickard, Roy, "Lee J. Cobb," in Films in Review (New York), November 1977.

Cobb, Julie, "Lee J. Cobb: My Father," in Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book, edited by Danny Peary, New York, 1978.

Ecran (Paris), April 1978.


* * *

Lee J. Cobb died while preparing to repeat in Exorcist II: The Heretic the role of investigating detective he played in the original film. It was an ironic end for an actor whose impeccable credentials would, on any European stage, have earned him fame and honor. Unfortunately, this fine character actor, who appeared in the early plays of Odets for the Group Theatre and created Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, spent most of a long screen career in distinctive but undemanding work.

On occasion, Cobb would play thoughtful, supportive characters, such as the psychiatrist who attempts to cure Joanne Woodward of her psychological disorder in The Three Faces of Eve. But in his best screen roles, he was effectively cast as an urban predator paradoxically tormented by twentieth-century anxieties: a wolf with an ulcer. Cobb redeemed a score of routine roles as gang boss, cop, or rancher with his capacity for conveying disquiet or a residual sensitivity. Behind his snarl lurked a weakness that already had betrayed him or would do so in the last reel. Gang-boss Rico Angelo in Party Girl is softened by a fugitive sentimentality toward Robert Taylor's tame cultivated attorney, while loneliness for the son he terrorized away from him racks the bigot in Twelve Angry Men.

In comedy Cobb seldom convinced. His Jewish father in Come Blow Your Horn is a performance anyone might have given. But in Don Siegel's Coogan's Bluff he played a weary and impatient New York detective to some effect against Eastwood's Arizona cowboy cop.

Sensitive or not, Cobb had the crooked mouth that allowed him to play pure evil. Pouring acid over a paper party decoration in Party Girl to demonstrate what might happen to Cyd Charisse's face, blustering himself into exhausted acquiescence to Henry Fonda's intelligence and logic in Twelve Angry Men or, most memorably, as union racketeer Johnny Friendly, ranting at the longshoremen whom Marlon Brando leads back to work in On the Waterfront, he defined for all time a sector in the outer limits of urban desperation.

From an acting standpoint, On the Waterfront is most fondly recalled for the legendary "I coulda been a contender" taxicab scene between Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger. But Cobb's electrifying performance as Friendly—a bully destined to crumble and fall when one man becomes determined to defy him—remains every bit as impressive as those of Brando and Steiger.

—John Baxter, updated by Rob Edelman

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cobb, Lee J.." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Cobb, Lee J.." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 11, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cobb-lee-j

"Cobb, Lee J.." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved September 11, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cobb-lee-j

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Cobb, Lee J.

Lee J. Cobb, 1911–76, American actor, b. New York City. He first performed with the Pasadena (Calif.) Playhouse in 1929 and made his Broadway debut in Crime and Punishment (1935). Cobb created the role of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (1948–49; repeated for television in 1965). He performed Shakespeare in New York, including The Merchant of Venice and King Lear. A burly, powerful actor, he became a valuable supporting player in films, including On the Waterfront (1954), Twelve Angry Men (1957), The Brothers Karamazov (1958), and The Exorcist (1973).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cobb, Lee J.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Cobb, Lee J.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 11, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cobb-lee-j

"Cobb, Lee J.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 11, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cobb-lee-j

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Cobb, Lee J.

COBB, LEE J.

COBB, LEE J. (Leo Jacoby ; 1911–1976), U.S. actor. Born in New York City, Cobb studied at New York University. He then performed with the Group Theater, N.Y., during the 1930s, acting in Waiting for Lefty, Golden Boy, The Gentle People, and Winged Victory. His portrayal of Willy Loman in Arthur *Miller's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Death of a Salesman (1949) won him awards. Miller wrote the part specifically for him in the original stage play.

In 1951 Cobb was named by Larry Parks as having leftwing views and was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. For two years he refused to appear, during which time his passport was confiscated, he was followed and threatened, and his wife suffered a breakdown and was institutionalized as a result of the pressure. In 1953, worn down, out of money, unemployable, and with a family to support, he succumbed and named 20 people as former members of the Communist Party. After giving evidence, he was able to go back to work. In his 1987 book TimebendsA Life, Arthur Miller describes the situation in this way: "I could not help thinking of Lee Cobb, my first Willy Loman, as more a pathetic victim than a villain, a big blundering actor who simply wanted to act, had never put in for heroism, and was one of the best proofs I knew of the Committee's pointless brutality toward artists. Lee, as political as my foot, was simply one more dust speck swept up in the 1930s idealization of the Soviets, which the Depression's disillusionment had brought on all over the West."

Cobb appeared in many motion pictures, including Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937), Golden Boy (1939), The Moon Is Down (1943), Anna and the King of Siam (1946), Johnny O'Clock (1947), Sirocco (1951), On The Waterfront (Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, 1954), The Left Hand of God (1955), The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), 12 Angry Men (1957), Three Faces of Eve (1957), The Brothers Karamazov (Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, 1958), Exodus (1960), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), How the West Was Won (1962), Come Blow Your Horn (1963), Our Man Flint (1966), Coogan's Bluff (1968), The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970), The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973), The Exorcist (1973), and That Lucky Touch (1975).

Television audiences knew him as Judge Henry Garth (1962–66) on the tv western series The Virginian. In 1966 he played Willy Loman again, this time in the tv version of Death of a Salesman, a role that earned him an Emmy nomination. In the short-lived series The Young Lawyers (1970–71), Cobb played the starring role of attorney David Barrett.

add. bibliography:

V. Navasky, Naming Names (1980).

[Jonathan Licht /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cobb, Lee J.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Cobb, Lee J.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 11, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cobb-lee-j

"Cobb, Lee J.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved September 11, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cobb-lee-j

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.