Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg; December 12, 1893 — January 26, 1973) was one of the most famous and respected actors of The Golden Age of Hollywood.
Robinson was born in Bucharest, Romania. When he was ten, his family emigrated to the United States to escape persecution after one of his brothers was attacked by an antisemitic mob. He began acting on the stage as a teenager, while adopting a much less Jewish-sounding Stage Name: Edward G. Robinson. (His middle initial "G." stood for his original surname, Goldenberg.) Robinson got a couple of parts in silent movies but hit it big after the transition to talking films led to Hollywood producers looking for fresh talent. His Star-Making Role came in the smash hit gangster film Little Caesar in 1931. Robinson's portrayal of the brutal, murderous gangster Rico Bandello wound up typecasting the actor – a soft-spoken, educated man who in Real Life could speak seven languages and collected fine art pieces – as a tough guy. His manner of speaking in that film, including the Verbal Tic of ending sentences with "See?" (and to a lesser degree, starting them with "M'yeah!"), also helped to establish a stereotype of wiseguy gangster talk, which was iconic enough to be parodied in a number of Looney Tunes shorts and even used as a gag 80 years later in The Muppets (2011). It also served as the inspiration for the voice of Chief Wiggum on The Simpsons, and even broke through to early phases of Dick Gumshoe's localisation in the first Ace Attorney game.
In the 1940s Robinson was able to branch out to some extent from his tough-guy roles, playing such characters as a humble Norwegian immigrant farmer in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, a pathetic bank clerk manipulated by a prostitute in Scarlet Street, a shrewd insurance fraud investigator on the heels of Fred MacMurray's murderer in Double Indemnity, and a UN war crimes agent tracking down Orson Welles's Nazi fugitive to college-town Connecticut in The Stranger. He even sent up his earlier gangster image in such comedy films as Larceny, Inc. and A Slight Case of Murder. However, in spite of the breadth and quality of his screen performances Robinson was sadly never presented with – or even nominated for – a competitive Academy Award during his long career.
He very nearly played Dr. Zaius in Planet of the Apes (1968), and there does exist some test footage of him in the orangutan makeup, but he found it too uncomfortable and ultimately backed out of the role.
Robinson was a committed liberal and an anti-Nazi activist. His political activism got him in trouble during The Hollywood Blacklist era and he spent the better part of the 1950s unemployed, but then enjoyed a career bounce-back late in life. He died 12 days after finishing his last film role, in Soylent Green, and two months before he received an Honorary Academy Award.
Edward G. Robinson on TV Tropes:
- Little Caesar (1931)
- Five Star Final (1931)
- The Man with Two Faces (1934)
- The Whole Town's Talking (1935)
- Bullets or Ballots (1936)
- Kid Galahad (1937)
- The Last Gangster (1937)
- A Slight Case of Murder (1938)
- Brother Orchid (1940)
- The Sea Wolf (1941)
- Moscow Strikes Back (1942) (documentary narrator)
- Double Indemnity (1944)
- The Woman in the Window (1944)
- Scarlet Street (1945)
- The Stranger (1946)
- Key Largo (1948)
- The Ten Commandments (1956)
- Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
- Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
- The Outrage (1964)
- The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
- Batman (1967) (episode "Batman's Satisfaction")
- Grand Slam (1967)
- The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968)
- Mackenna's Gold (1969)
- Night Gallery (1971) (segment "The Messiah on Mott Street")
- Soylent Green (1973)