Edward G. Robinson

Active - 1916 - 1973  |   Born - Dec 12, 1893 in Bucharest, Romania  |   Died - Jan 26, 1973 in Hollywood, CA  |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Comedy

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Biography

Born Emmanuel Goldenberg, Edward G. Robinson was a stocky, forceful, zesty star of Hollywood films who was best known for his gangsters roles in the '30s. A "little giant" of the screen with a pug-dog face, drawling nasal voice, and a snarling expression, he was considered the quintessential tough-guy actor. Having emigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was ten, Robinson planned to be a rabbi or a lawyer, but decided on an acting career while a student at City College, where he was elected to the Elizabethan Society. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on a scholarship, and, in 1913, began appearing in summer stock after changing his name to "Edward G." (for Goldenberg). Robinson debuted on Broadway in 1915, and, over the next 15 years, became a noted stage character actor, even co-writing one of his plays, The Kibitzer (1929). He appeared in one silent film, The Bright Shawl (1923), but not until the sound era did he begin working regularly in films, making his talkie debut in The Hole in the Wall (1929) with Claudette Colbert. It was a later sound film, 1930's Little Caesar, that brought him to the attention of American audiences; portraying gangster boss Rico Bandello, he established a prototype for a number of gangster roles he played in the ensuing years. After being typecast as a gangster he gradually expanded the scope of his roles, and, in the '40s, gave memorable "good guy" performances as in a number of psychological dramas; he played federal agents, scientists, Biblical characters, business men, bank clerks, among other characters. The actor experienced a number of personal problems during the '50s. He was falsely linked to communist organizations and called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (eventually being cleared of all suspicion). Having owned one of the world's largest private art collections, he was forced to sell it in 1956 as part of a divorce settlement with his wife of 29 years, actress Gladys Lloyd. Robinson continued his career, however, which now included television work, and he remained a busy actor until shortly before his death from cancer in 1973. His final film was Soylent Green (1973), a science fiction shocker with Charlton Heston. Two months after his death, Robinson was awarded an honorary Oscar "for his outstanding contribution to motion pictures," having been notified of the honor before he died. He was also the author of a posthumously published autobiography, All My Yesterdays (1973).

Movie Highlights

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Factsheet

  • Emigrated from Romania with his family in 1903 and settled on New York's Lower East Side.
  • Made his Broadway debut in 1915 in the play Under Fire and his (uncredited) film debut a year later in Arms and the Woman
  • Achieved stardom as a "tough guy" in the 1931 gangster drama Little Caesar.
  • Made five films with Humphrey Bogart, most notably Key Largo. 
  • Significant films include Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940), Double Indemnity (1944) and The Ten Commandments (1956)
  • Threatened with blacklisting during the McCarthy era, he cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee and was cleared of any ties to Communist organizations.
  • Awarded an honorary Oscar in 1973, but died two months before the ceremonies. 
  • Finished his final film, Soylent Green, less than two weeks before his death from cancer.
  • Pictured on a 33-cent U.S. stamp as part of the U.S. Postal Service's "Legends of Hollywood" series.