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Edward Goldenberg Robinson, Sr. (born Emanuel Goldenberg; ; December 12, 1893 – January 26, 1973) was an Americanmarker actor born in Romaniamarker. Although he has played a wide range of characters, he is best remembered for his roles as a gangster, most notably in his star-making film Little Caesar.

Birth and education

Born to a Yiddish-speaking Jewish family in Bucharestmarker, he emigrated with his family to New York Citymarker in 1903. He had his Bar Mitzvah at First Roumanian-American congregationmarker, and attended Townsend Harris High School and then City College of New Yorkmarker. An interest in acting led to him winning an American Academy of Dramatic Arts scholarship, after which he changed his name to Edward G. Robinson (the G. signifying his original last name).


He began his acting career in 1913 and made his Broadwaymarker debut in 1915. He made his film debut in a minor and uncredited role in 1916; in 1923 he made his named debut as E. G. Robinson in The Bright Shawl. One of many actors who saw his career flourish in the new sound film era rather than falter, he made only three films prior to 1930 but left his stage career that year and made 14 films in 1930-32.

An acclaimed performance as the gangster Rico Bandello in Little Caesar (1931) led to him being typecast as a "tough guy" for much of his early career in works such as Five Star Final (1931), Smart Money (1931; his only movie with James Cagney), Tiger Shark (1932), Kid Galahad (1937) with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, and A Slight Case of Murder and The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938). In the 1940s, he expanded into psychological dramas including Double Indemnity (1944), The Woman in the Window (1945) and Scarlet Street (1945); but he continued to portray gangsters such as Johnny Rocco in John Huston's Key Largo (1948), the last of five films he made with Humphrey Bogart.

After a hiatus, Robinson returned to the screen in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 Biblical epic, The Ten Commandments, in which he played Dathan. Afterward, Robinson's most notable roles were in A Hole in the Head (1959) opposite Frank Sinatra and The Cincinnati Kid (1965), which showcased Robinson alongside Steve McQueen. Director Peter Bogdanovich was considered as a possible director for The Godfather in 1972, but turned it down, later remarking that he would have cast Robinson in the role ultimately played by Marlon Brando. Robinson indeed tried to talk his way into the part (which was how he had won the role of Little Caesar 40 years earlier), but Francis Coppola decided on Brando instead, over the initial objections of the studio.

Robinson was popular in the 1930s and 1940s and was able to avoid many flops during a 50-year career that included 101 films. His last scene was a euthanasia sequence in the science fiction cult film Soylent Green (1973) in which he dies in a euthanasia clinic while watching nature films on a wall-sized screen.

Robinson was never nominated for an Academy Award, but in 1973 he was awarded an honorary Oscar in recognition that he had "achieved greatness as a player, a patron of the arts, and a dedicated citizen ... in sum, a Renaissance man". He died from cancer at the age of 79, two months before the award ceremony.

Edward G. Robinson is buried in a crypt in the family mausoleum at Beth-El Cemetery in Ridgewood, New Yorkmarker.

Personal life

Robinson married his first wife, stage actress Gladys Lloyd, in 1927; born Gladys Lloyd Cassell, she was the former wife of Ralph L. Vestervelt and the daughter of Clement C. Cassell, an architect, sculptor, and artist. The couple had one son, Edward Goldenberg Robinson, Jr. (a.k.a Manny Robinson, 1933-1974), as well as a daughter from Gladys Robinson's first marriage.

On three occasions in 1950 and 1952, he was called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee and was threatened with blacklisting. Robinson took steps to clear his name, such as having a representative go through his check stubs to ensure that none had been issued to subversive organizations. He also gave names of Communist sympathizers and his own name was cleared, but thereafter he received smaller and less frequent roles. Still, anti-communist director Cecil B. DeMille cast him in The Ten Commandments in 1956.

Robinson built up a significant art collection, especially of abstract modern art. In 1956, he sold it to Greekmarker shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos to raise cash for his divorce settlement with Gladys Robinson; his finances had suffered due to underemployment in the early 1950s.

Legacy and tributes

  • In Robinson's final film, Soylent Green, he plays a depressed and disillusioned man who commits suicide to escape from the apocalyptic future world in which he lives; his death scene features him speaking with co-star Charlton Heston whose character weeps silently as he sees Robinson's videos of a pre-destroyed Earth. The tears were real; Heston was at that time the only one who knew of Robinson's terminal cancer.



  1. Epstein , p. 249.
  2. [1] Awards for Edward G. Robinson at the International Movie Database
  3. Sabin, Arthur J. In Calmer Times: The Supreme Court and Red Monday, p. 35. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.
  4. ibid.; Bud and Ruth Schultz, It Did Happen Here: Recollections of Political Repression in America, p. 113. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
  • Epstein, Lawrence Jeffrey.Edge of a Dream: The Story of Jewish Immigrants on New York's Lower East Side, 1880-1920, John Wiley & Sons, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7879-8622-3

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