|1893-1973. Born Emmanuel Goldenberg, Edward
G. Robinson arrived in the United States at age 10 from Romania. In his
teens he took an interest in acting and abandoned his plans to become a
rabbi or a lawyer. He entered films in 1923, but it wasn't until his portrayal
of gangster Rico Bandello in the film LITTLE CAESAR, in 1931, that Robinson
achieved worldwide recognition as a screen tough guy. Under contract to
Warner Bros., he continued to play film gangsters in such films as KEY
LARGO. Robinson was a gifted and highly versatile actor, appearing in a
variety of sympathetic and character roles in films like DOUBLE INDEMNITY,
SCARLET STREET and OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES. In 1973 he was awarded
a special posthumous Oscar® for lifetime achievement.
Edward G. Robinson, 1893-1973
Born in Rumania, actor Edward G. Robinson became an American movie hero, his career covering 5 decades and nearly 100 films. Famed for his gangster roles, Robinson starred in successful comedies, heavy dramas, and on Broadway. Robinson died weeks before he would have accepted a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award on January 26th, 1973 in Hollywood California.
Entering the world as Emmanuelle Goldenberg in Bucharest, Rumania on December 12th, 1893, the actor and his family came to America in 1904, settling in New York's Lower East Side. As a child, he developed manias for theater and collecting, both remaining lifelong passions, though as 10-year-old Manny Goldenberg he little suspected that he would expand from cigar bands and baseball cards to Renoirs.
While he held a perpetual fascination with theater, he entered New York's City College while debating between careers as a rabbi or a lawyer, though election to the school's Elizabethan Society soon settled the dilemma. After being awarded a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the actor took his professional name, Edward G(oldenberg) Robinson.
Robinson went from summer stock to Broadway theater productions in less than two years, establishing himself as a character actor and working steadily in New York for 15 years. After completing his classes at the Academy, he made his debut in films with an uncredited extra role in the 1916 silent film "Arms and the Woman", before taking a costarring role opposite Mary Astor in the 1923 melodrama "The Bright Shawl", the first of several films in which the two played characters of brother and sister.
Robinson left New York in 1929, having taken his first writer's credit for the play "The Kibitzer", which won good reviews on Broadway, and married actress Gladys Lloyd. The Robinsons headed to Hollywood where he took his first lead in a talkie, "The Hole in the Wall" and secured a contract with Warner Brothers Studios.
During the first year of his contract, Robinson made a handful or films that went relatively unnoticed before he was cast in the 1930 Mervyn LeRoy gangster story "Little Caesar". The film, which also starred Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., was later credited with launching not only Robinson's film career, but a mania for gangster pictures which defined the Prohibition era. Robinson's early career was consequently dominated by beer and bullets films which not only secured his place as a matinee idol, but bolstered a number of tough-guy actors, including James Cagney ("Smart Money"), Boris Karloff ("Five Star Final"), and a frequent co-star of Robinson's, Humphrey Bogart. Robinson and Bogart teamed for 5 successful films, including "Kid Galahad" with Bette Davis and the classic "Key Largo" with legendary actor Lionel Barrymore.
As the Prohibition period ended, Hollywood shifted from lionizing bootleggers to building up "G Men". While the trend ended the glory days of some film stars, Robinson's versatility and deft turn with comedy carried him to greater success with such films as "The Last Gangster" with James Stewart and "A Slight Case of Murder".
Robinson proved able at nearly any role that came his way, and often voiced his personal sense of responsibility in interpreting the lives and works of others. His devotion to his craft resulted in critical acclaim for such roles as the lead in the controversial bio-pic, "Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet" and the Arthur Miller drama "All My Sons". He starred with Orson Welles in "The Stranger", and after a decade of playing crooks, killers and swindlers, Robinson scored a hit as an investigator on the trail of a murderer in the 1944 film "Double Indemnity". The same year he became an unlikely hero in "Mr. Winkle Goes to War", playing a henpecked householder who accepts an accidental draft notice just to escape a nagging wife.
Robinson ended the 1940s with a Cannes Film Festival Best Actor honor for his 1949 film, "House of Strangers". That victory preceded a dark decade for the actor, who, during the 1950s, was among the film industry figures accused of Communist sympathies by Senator McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee. Robinson spent weeks being dragged through the media as well as Congressional investigation hearings before the charges against him were proven to be groundless.
Robinson was dragged through courts and media again when he divorced from his wife of nearly 30 years, Gladys Lloyd accusing him of causing the failure of her own acting career (though 4 of her 6 movie credits were in her husband's early films) and of causing the mental illness of their only child, Emmanuelle "Manny" Robinson. In addition to enduring the pain of seeing his son's misunderstood psychiatric problems played up in the press, Robinson was forced by the divorce settlement to sell of nearly all of his prized art collection.
The same year that Robinson saw the end of his marriage, his career began a new phase with the cinematic masterpiece, "The Ten Commandments". Co-starring with such notable actors as Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Vincent Price, Robinson, then 62, could well have retired and still been assured status as a screen legend. Instead, the actor left films for three years to renew his work on Broadway, appearing in "In the Middle of the Night" and earning outstanding reviews. When he returned to film work in 1959, he had remarried and renewed his energies, making cameos in Marilyn Monroe's hit comedy "Some Like It Hot" and rolling into the Shirley MacLaine farce "My Geisha".
Robinson continued to demonstrate his diversity for the last 10 years of his career, leaping from the gangster spoof "Robin and the 7 Hoods" with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, to co-starring role in the Western "Cheyenne Autumn".
In 1973, though suffering with terminal cancer, Robinson completed the autobiography "All My Yesterdays" as well as a second (and final) project with Charlton Heston, "Soylent Green". The actor had begun preparation for a role in one of the successful "Planet of the Apes" pictures and was scheduled to receive a special Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1973 Oscar ceremonies, but did not survive to see either.
Edward G. Robinson
lost his battle with cancer on January 26th, 1973 in Hollywood, California,
and was awarded a posthumous Academy Award for his lifetime work in motion
pictures. Survived at his death by his wife Jane Adler and his son Manny,
who took the professional name Edward G. Robinson, Jr., for his own brief
acting career, the actor was interred at the Beth El Cemetery of Brooklyn,