Edward G. Robertson (1893 -1973)

Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:


"Mother of mercy," gasps the mortally wounded gangster, "is this the end of Rico?" With those words, the talkies' first antihero, the protagonist of Little Caesar (1930), died-granting screen immortality to the actor playing that part. Short and squat, with his pudgy face, broad mouth, and nasal voice, Edward G. Robinson shot to stardom overnight and, while hardly a matinee idol, became a popular leading man at his home studio, Warners, where he toiled for more than a decade. As a youthful immigrant he considered becoming a rabbi, but his love of the theater drew him instead to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and then to a stage career.

Edward G. Robinson, c. 1968Robinson first acted on-screen in The Bright Shawl a 1923 silent, but made his mark on movie audiences in 1929's The Hole in the Wall opposite Claudette Colbert. Little Caesar not only cast Robinson in the role with which he was forever identified, it in fact launched the hugely successful line of crime films produced during the early 1930s. He maintained his stardom for decades with such varied roles as a conscience-stricken tabloid editor in Five Star Final (1931), a Chinese executioner in The Hatchet Man (1932), a Colorado empire-builder (patterned after real-life Horace Tabor) in Silver Dollar (1932), a comically reformed gangster in Little Giant (1933) and A Slight Case of Murder (1938), a murderous actor in The Man With Two Faces (1934), a dance-hall boss in Barbary Coast (1935), a boxing manager in Kid Galahad (1937), the inventor of a cure for syphillis in Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940), the crazed captain of The Sea Wolf (1941), a wily insurance investigator in Double Indemnity a hapless professor in The Woman in the Window (both 1944), a Nazi-hunter in The Stranger (1946), a gangster in Key Largo (1948), a father harboring a terrible secret in Arthur Miller's All My Sons (1948), a ruthless banker in House of Strangers (1949), a TV researcher in The Glass Web (1953), a cattle baron in The Violent Men (1955), a turncoat Jew in The Ten Commandments (1956), a tyrannical movie director in Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), a legendary poker player in The Cincinnati Kid (1965), and an aging survivor in the futuristic Soylent Green (1973, his last film).

The quality of Robinson's performances seldom faltered; dynamic and aggressive though he frequently was, especially in his 1930s films, he also showed tenderness and sensitivity when the role demanded. Although beset with personal problems (including blacklisting during the witch-hunt days) in later years, Robinson worked steadily right up until his death from cancer in 1973. Astoundingly, he was never even nominated for an Oscar, but was given an honorary Academy Award that was presented posthumously. His autobiography, "All My Yesterdays," was also published after his death in 1973.

OTHER FILMS INCLUDE: 1930: East Is West, The Widow From Chicago1931: Smart Money(his only pairing with fellow "gangster" James Cagney); 1932: Two Seconds, Tiger Shark1933: I Loved a Woman1934: Dark Hazard1935: The Whole Town's Talking1936: Bullets or Ballots1937: Thunder in the City, The Last Gangster1938: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, I Am the Law1939: Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Blackmail1940: Brother Orchid, A Dispatch From Reuters1941: Manpower, Unholy Partners1942: Larceny, Inc., Tales of Manhattan1943: Destroyer, Flesh and Fantasy 1944: Tampico, Mr. Winkle Goes to War 1945: Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, Scarlet Street1947: The Red House1948: The Night Has a Thousand Eyes1952: Actors and Sin1953: Vice Squad, Big Leaguer1954: Black Tuesday1955: Tight Spot, A Bullet for Joey, Illegal, Hell on Frisco Bay1956: Nightmare1959: A Hole in the Head1960: Seven Thieves1962: My Geisha1963: A Boy Ten Feet Tall, The Prize1964: Good Neighbor Sam, Robin and the Seven Hoods(cameo), The Outrage, Cheyenne Autumn1967: Grand Slam1968: The Biggest Bundle of Them All, Never a Dull Moment1969: Mackenna's Gold1970: Song of Norway, The Old Man Who Cried Wolf(telefilm).

"Manpower" Edward G. Robinson & Marlene Dietrich 1941/Warner

Personal quotes

"'Little Caesar' becomes at Robinson's hands a figure out of a Greek tragedy, a cold, ignorant, merciless killer, driven on and on by an insatiable lust for power, the plaything of a force that is greater than himself." - The New York Times

"If I were just a bit taller and I was a little more handsome or something like that. I could have played all the roles that I have played, and played many more. There is such a thing as a handicap, but you've got to be that much better as an actor. It kept me from certain roles that I might have had, but then, it kept others from playing my roles, so I don't know that it's not altogether balanced."

On Double Indemnity (1944): "It was, in fact, the third lead. I debated accepting it. Emanuel Goldenberg told me that at my age it was time to begin thinking of character roles, to slide into middle and old age with the same grace as that marvelous actor, Lewis Stone... The decision made itself... It remains one of my favorites."

"I have not collected art. Art collected me. I never found paintings. They found me. I have never even owned a work of art. They owned me."

"To last you need to be real."

"To be entrusted with a character was always a big responsibility to me."

"To my mind, the actor has this great responsibility of playing another human being... it's like taking on another person's life and you have to do as sincerely and honestly as you can."

"Ah yes, I remember well what it was like to be a true collector, that soft explosion in the heart, that thundering inner 'yes' when you see something you must have or die. For over thirty years I made periodic visits to Renoir's 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' in a Washington museum, and stood before that magnificent masterpiece hour after hour, day after day, plotting ways to steal it."

"I remember just before going onto the soundstage, I'd look in my dressing room mirror and stretch myself to my full 5'5" or 5'6" - whatever it was - to make me appear taller and to make me able to dominate all the others and to mow them down with my size."

"Of course, I started as a collector. A true collector. I can remember as if it were only yesterday the heart- pounding excitement as I spread out upon the floor of my bedroom The Edward G. Robinson Collection of Rare Cigar Bands. I didn't play at collecting. No cigar anywhere was safe from me. My father and uncles and all their friends turned their lungs black trying to satisfy my collector's zeal. And then came cigarette cards, big-league baseball players. I was an insatiable fiend, and would cheerfully trade you three Indian Joes for one of that upstart newcomer, Ty Cobb."

"Paintings never really belong to one of us. If we are fortunate, as I have been, we are allowed at most a lovely time of custody."

"Acting and painting have much in common. You begin with the external appearance and then strip away the layers to get to the essential core. This is reality and that is how an artist achieves truth. When you are acting, you are playing a part, you are being somebody else. You are also, at the same time, being yourself."

"[Robinson] only has to enter a room to dominate it." - Raymond Chandler, co-author of the screenplay for Double Indemnity (1944)

"One of the dearest men I know. He is a great humanitarian and a great actor having made Little Caesar (1930) as well as Five Star Final (1931) with me. There is nothing that I could say about this great artist that would really praise him enough. I wish there were more actors in the world like him and more who had his heart." - Mervyn LeRoy "Some people have youth, some have beauty - I have menace."

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