Sunday, August 19, 2012

The often sad life of Edward G. Robinson

Ed here: Edward G. Robinson is one of my three favorite actors. I will watch him in ANYTHING, the worst film ever made, knowing that even if he's not quite at his best he will be better than anything else in the picture. This is a long, fine biography of the man from that most excellent site Where Danger lives.

It’s fitting that so many of the movies Edward G. Robinson made after he parted ways with Warner Bros. were film noirs: persecuted by red-baiters, alienated from the film community, and fated to a terribly unhappy home, Robinson’s personal life had taken on the dimensions of a real-life film noir. He was living an ordeal often worse than those of the men he portrayed on screen. And regardless of what anyone would consider an avalanche of bad luck, Robinson himself was partly to blame. He suffered from imperfections that led him to make foolish decisions that resulted in tremendous personal grief: He was na├»ve, incautious, and overly trusting. He cared — perhaps too much — about his image and what people thought of him. He didn’t fit the mold of the typical Hollywood leading man, so it was important to him that he be accepted and liked — even admired. He failed to anticipate problems, and then ignored them, hoping that they would simply go away. Yet if these qualities hurt him personally, they benefitted him greatly in his craft. Fritz Lang understood him well: “Each part he plays he enriches with deep and warm understanding of human frailties and compels us to pity rather than condemnation, always adding vivid color to the intricate mosaic of motion picture reality.” Even when he broke into the movies playing gangster parts, audiences were always able to sense the weakness and fear lurking just beneath the surface sheen of cartoonish bravado; as he branched off into other kinds of roles, he imbued his characters with aspects of his own personality that gave them a depth and subtlety surprising for the era. And although Robinson was embarrassed to star in many of the fifties crime films that enthusiasts now covet, his unique combination of talent and imperfection helped him become one of the great protagonists of film noir.

Robinson was born Emmanuel Goldenberg (hence the ‘G’) in 1893 in Bucharest. When the anti-Semitism that beset Romania at the time struck close to home, his father knew it was time to get out. So like nearly half of all Romanian Jews, the Goldenbergs began the arduous process of immigrating to the United States. Theirs is the quintessential story: unable to afford passage for all at once, they saved their pennies and sent one family member at a time. Goldenberg would arrive last, along with his younger brother, his mother, and his grandmother. The crossing was rough: the ten-year-old boy was forced to endure the hell of steerage for twenty-three days, constantly seasick. He was so depleted upon docking in New York that he had to be carried from the ship.
For the rest go here:


pattinase (abbott) said...


David Cranmer said...

Thanks for this, Ed. I've always enjoyed his acting.

Mathew Paust said...

Ed, much appreciate this. My dad introduced me to Edward G., taking me to every movine he was in that came to the only theater in our small town (Columbus, Wis.) and occasionally to one in Madison if we happened to be in there for some reason. We saw all of his, Bogie's (often in the same film) and Robert Mitchum's.

Charlieopera said...

Fascinating. Never knew any of this.

Anonymous said...

The bio is thorough but not exhaustive, in particular it leaves out his radio career. Did he particularly enjoy radio acting? and why undertake it? In the old-time radio serials I have heard, he is not very convincing in the role given to him, but maybe it's the fault of the scripts.