A Tribute to Edward G. Robinson
In 1904, as a 10-year-old Romanian Jewish immigrant named Manny Goldenberg, he was debating whether to become a rabbi or a lawyer. Instead, to our good fortune as movie fans, he became Edward G. Robinson, the movie star.
First he became Edward G. Robinson the off-Broadway and then Broadway actor, a trade which he plied from 1913 until he married actress Gladys Lloyd in 1927, shortly thereafter leaving for Hollywood. He made his debut as an uncredited extra in the silent film Arms and the Woman (1916), eventually appearing opposite Mary Astor in The Bright Shawl (1923), the first of several times they were cast as brother and sister. He finally found success as the prototypical gangster Rico Bandello in Little Caesar (1931). Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, Little Caesar was only Robinson’s ninth film and his sixth talkie, but the performance was so powerful and the movie so influential that it resulted in a series of similar gangster roles from which Robinson struggled to break free for much of his early career.
In films such as Five Star Final (1931), Tiger Shark (1932), Kid Galahad and A Slight Case of Murder (1938) he delivered his trademark sneer. Finally, following Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940), he was able to broaden the roles he received, resulting in Double Indemnity (1944), The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945). Luckily he returned to form for Key Largo (1948). Other notable films of that era included Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945), Orson Welles’ The Stranger (1946), the Arthur Miller drama All My Sons (1948) and, of course,The Ten Commandments (1956). He continued to work, even returning to Broadway briefly, until just before he died.
Unbelieveably, he never won an Oscar (although the Cannes Film Festival honored him as Best Actor for 1949’s House of Strangers); in fact he was never even nominated. But in 1973 he was given an honorary Oscar. Unfortunately it was presented two months after he died of cancer. Though his life included persecution by McCarthy, an expensive divorce from his wife of 30 years, and the mental illness of his only son, his career had covered 5 decades and almost 100 films and established him as one of the icons of Hollywood history.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies