Thursday, January 26, 2012


On January 26th, 1973, actor Edward G. Robinson died from cancer at the age of 79.  Despite being well known for playing gangsters and hard men throughout his career, Robinson was a kind and generous man and beloved by everyone.

Born Emanuel Goldenberg in 1893, he changed his name to Edward G. Robinson after attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  He began a career on Broadway with small roles that eventually led to feature films.

Rico in Little Caesar
It was his portrayal of tough guy Caesar Enrico Bandello that became the archetype for the 20th century American gangster.  The role was followed by numerous gangster roles, including the character of Johnny Rocco opposite Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo.

Johnny Rocco in Key Largo
He appeared in a hundred or so films and tried to take on a variety of different roles.  His portrayal of Wolf Larsen in The Sea Wolf is thought by many to be an academy award worthy performance, but Robinson was never nominated during his long and storied career despite great turns in dozens of films.

Wolf Larsen in Sea Wolf
He was called to testify in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee to answer for allegations of communist ties. His name was eventually cleared, but in the aftermath he was relegated to B-movie titles and his career languished as a result.

In 1956, Cecil B Demille cast him as Dathan in the Ten Commandments.   A role that pulled him back up to the majors, but a role that many still feel he was terribly miscast for.  In the sixties, he had an amazing resurgence with films like My Geisha with Yves Montand and Shirley MacClaine and The Cincinnati Kid playing opposite mega star Steve McQueen.

In My Geisha
His last film in 1973 was Soylent Green.  His body was already racked with cancer, but he told no one on the film that he was sick.  At least not at first.  When the final euthanasia scene with Charleston Heston was ready to be shot, Robinson admitted to Heston that he had cancer and probably had weeks to live, it's said the tears Heston shed in the film were genuine.

Soylent Green

Edward G. Robinson died twelve days later.


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