Monday, August 25, 2008
Favorite Classic Movie Stars - EDWARD G. ROBINSON
Edward Goldenberg Robinson Sr. (born Emanael Goldenberg), was born on December 12, 1893 and died on January 26, 1972.
Edward was born to a Yiddish speaking Jewish family in Bucharest, Romania. He emigrated with his family to New York City in 1903. He attended Townsend Harris High School and then City College of New York, but an interest in acting led him to winning an American Academy of Dramatic Arts Scholarship after changing his name to Edward G. Robinson, with the G signifying his last name.
He began his acting career in 1913 and made his Broadway debut in 1915. He made his film debut in minor and uncredited roles in 1916. In 1923 he made his named debut as E.G. Robinson in "The Bright Shawl". One of many actors who saw his career flourish in the new sound film rather than falter. He made only three films prior to 1930, but left his stage career that year, and made fourteen films between 1930-1932. He married his first wife, actress Gladys Lloyd in 1927, who was born Gladys Lloyd Cassell. She was the former wife of Ralph L. Vestervelt and daughter of Clemment C. Cassell, an architect, sculptor and artist. They had one son, Edward Goldenberger Robinson Jr. (also known as Manny Robinson 1933-1974), as well as a daughter from Gladys first marriage.
An acclaimed performer as the gangster Roco Bandello in Little Ceaser (1931) led him to being typecast as a tough guy for much of his early career. In works such as "Five Star Final (1931) "Smart Money" (31), also his only movie with James Cagney. "Tiger Shark" (32), "Kid Galahad" (37) with Bette Davis and Humphry Bogart, and "A Slight Case of Murder" and "The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse" (1938). In the forties, after a good performance with "Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet" (1940), he expanded into edgy psychological drama including "Double Indemnity" (1944), "The Woman in the Window" (1945), and "Scarlet Street" (1945). But he continued to portray gangsters such as Johnny Rocco in John Huston's "Key Largo" (1948), the last of five films he made with Humphry Bogart.
On three occasions in 1950 and 1952 , he was called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee and was threatened with blacklisting. Robinson became frightened and took steps to clear his name, such as having a representative go through his check stubs to ensure that none had been issued to subversive organizations. He reluctantly gave names of communist sympathizers and his own name was cleared, but thereafter he received smaller and less frequent roles. Still, anti-communist director Cecil B. DeMille cast him in "The Ten Commandments" in (1956).
A cultured and urbane man , Robinson built up a significant art collection, especially of abstract modern art. In 1956 he sold it to Greek Shipping tycoon Staros Niarchos to raise case for his divorce settlement with Gladys Robinson. His finances suffered due to underemployment after Hollywood's anti-communist period in the fifties. That same year he returned to Broadway in "Middle of the Night".
After De Mille brought Robinson back into movies his most notable role was "A Hole in the Head" (1959), opposite Frank Sinatra, and "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965), which showcased Robinson alongside Steve McQueen. Director Peter Bogdanovich was considered as a possible director for "The Godfather" in 1972, but turned it down. He later remarked that he would have cast Robinson in the role ultimately played by Marlon Brando. Robinson indeed tried to talk himself into the part (which was how he won the role of Little Caeser forty years earlier), but Francis Coppola decided on Brando instead over initial objections of the studio.
Robinson was popular in the thirties and forties and was able to avoid many flops during a fifty year career that included 101 films. His last scene was an euthanasia sequence in the science fiction cult classic "Soylent Green" (1973), in which he dies in an euthanasia clinic while watching nature films on a wall size screen.
Robinson was never nominated for an Academy Award, but in 1973, he was awarded an honary 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. He died from cancer at the age of 79 two months before the award ceremony.
Edward G. Robinson is buried in a crypt in the family mausoleum at Beth El cementery in Ridgewood, Queens, NY.