Edward G Robinson (1893-1973)
- Richard Barthelmess, The Bright Shawl, 1923. The new movie fad offered more than Robinson made on-stage. He wasn't thrown by shooting scenes out of order, but the melo was silent and that troubled the man used to words. Invent them, he was told, and get your gestures right. Seeing rushes decided him to quit. Dorothy Gish persuaded him into a smaller role - credited as EG Robinson.
- George E Stone, Little Caesar, 1930. Producer Hal B Wallis had the New York stage actor tested for Otero, before realising he was the perfect Rico - Cesare Enrico Bandello, based not an Al Capone at all, but another Chicago gangster, Salvatore “Sam” Cardinella. Result: instant stardom and… many more gangsters. Too many.
- William Powell, Lawyer Man, 1932. Production chief Darryl F Zanuck didn't like Eddie playing hard to please at Warners. "The whole fault lies in the fact that you want to be a writer, to put your views into whatever subject we purchase... Lawyer Man is the best picture Powell has ever made and it would have been a perfect vehicle for you."
- Paul Lukas, Grand Slam, 1933. Ever the writer, Robinson said that Darryl Zanuck took the wrong slant of a good idea." (Eddie made an Italo-Spanish-West German concoction called Grand Slam in 1967).
- Warren William, Employees' Entrance, 1933. Wrong slant again. Complained Darryl Zanuck: "You must have some faith in us."
- Wallace Beery, Viva Villa, 1933. Clark Gable’s was the surprise name in the mix for the Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa - alongside the more expected Edward G and Paul Muni. Beery had been Villa before in the 15-chapter silent serial, Patria… in 1917.
- Paul Muni, Dr Socractes, 1935. Robinson delighted in picking up a role intended for Muni - the Yiddish Theatre star who took over Robinson's first English-speaking stage role when he quit We Americans in 1926. Horrified that Eddie was given the film, Muni snatched it back... and Robinson refused a support role of yet another gangster. And so, their New York rivalry became a Hollywood feud, particularly when Muni played Juarez, l939, and Eddie's great stage role of Diaz (promised him in his Warners contract) was excised!
- James Cagney, G Men, 1935. A better choice, as proved by James Cagney's line: "I seen too many back alleys as a kid to want to go back to them."
- Claude Rains, Anthony Adverse, 1935. Robinson and Basil Rathbone were both in the Warner frame for Don Luis. They would not have bettered Rains’ supreme villain. Director William Dieterle was axed in favour of Mervyn LeRoy, who just happened to the the son-in-law of Harry, oldest of the three Warner brothers.
- Edward Arnold, Sutter's Gold, 1936. Universal's delightful idea, Robinson and Charles Laughton, became the lower-key Arnold and Lee Tracy.
- Humphrey Bogart, The Petrified Forest, 1936. Warners bought the Broadway hit for Eddie. He always said he refused "yet another gangster!" Truth is, he lost it for the same money and top billing given to the play’s star, Leslie Howard - and the fact that Howard repeatedly cabled Jack Warner, demanding Bogie keep his stage role of Duke Mantee. Bogie called his first daughter, Leslie, in honor of the man who gave him his first big break.
- Humphrey Bogart, High Sierra, 1940. Refused for his usual reasons - not interested in Muni cast-offs. “Eddie claimed he was unattractive and he needed beauty around him,” said Fred Zinnemann. “I think it was the same with Sam [Spiegel]. When surrounded by good-looking people, he felt better.”
- Raymond Massey, Action in the North Atlantic, 1942. Robinson passed the merchant navy skipper to Massey, and George Raft passed the mate to Humphrey Bogart. Big mistakes! Both were great as they helped the crew survive after their oil freighter is sunk by a German U-boat. Massey’s wife was Ruth Gordon, also his wife in Abe Lincoln In Illinois, 1939.
- Akim Tamiroff, For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1943. The battle was a royal one between Edward Arnold, Wallace Beery, Lee J Cobb, Albert Dekker, even Charles Laughton.
- Akim Tamioff, Dragon Seed, 1943. Insulting! Pearl Buck’s book had a point - exposing Japanese atrocities in China. MGM made it a farce, with the unlikeliest-looking Chinese ever spawned by Hollywood. With taped eyelids for Hepburn, Hurd Hatffield, Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Akim, Tamiroff… Many others failed to pass their Eurasian tests: Robinson, Edward Arnold, Faye Bainter, Donald Crisp, Greer Garson, Van Heflin, Hedy Lamarr, Frank Morgan, Walter Pidgeon Donna Reed. Of 33 speaking roles, three only were played by Orientals. And co-director Jack Conway admitted he could not tell difference between Chinese and Japanese.
- Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944. Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick gave up after two years and sold out to Fox when he couldn’t find the perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. Contenders included Dana Andrews, Joseph Cotten, Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles… plus the most unlikely Catholic missionaries of all: Edward G and Alan Ladd! Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz selected Peck in July 1943 for his second film - and first Oscar nomination.
- Peter Lorre, The Beast With Five Fingers, 1946. If Lorre could replace Humphrey Bogart, why not Robinsxon, too? Hardly a serious Warners offer, a B-movie designed for him to reject and therefore help Warners get rid of a troublesome 50-year-old still contracted for "principal roles."
- Walter Huston, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, 1947. When director John Huston first started working on it in 1941, it was for George Raft, Eddie Robinson or John Garfield. When Huston came back from WWII documentaries, the world - and stars - had changed. And, anyway, Huston had written the role for his dad.,.. and his dad’s Oscar. As Humphrey Bogart famously said. "One Huston is bad enough, but two are murder." Robinson played a similar old prospector in McKenna's Gold, 1969.
- Broderick Crawford, Scandal Sheet, 1951. Or The Dark Page when Sam Fuller wrote his first novel and Howard Hawks paid $15,000 for it... After completingRed River, 1946, The Grey Fox planned the Fuller thriller(reporter investigates his editor’s crime) for Cary and Eddie. Or Cary and Humphrey Bogart!!! They were never available at the same time.Hawksdropped it. Phil Karlson picked it up to reunite the 1949 stars of All The King’s Men, Derek and Broderick Crawford.
- Jack Buchanan, The Band Wagon, 1952. The role? Jeffrey Cordova, a flamboyant director based on, well, take your pick: José Ferrer, George S Kaufman, Orson Welles… The choices? Edward G, Vincent Price or Clifton Webb. Gradually, Cordova churned into the UK Fred Astaire - dancing opposite the US Astaire. Imagine the horror of Eddie G singing "Triplets"! I guess he had to change his plans...
- Tony Curtis, Houdini, 1953. Before producer George Pal got hold of the subject, it had been a potential Robinson biopic.
- Glenn Ford, The Big Heat, 1953. Producer Jerry Wald first thought of going against type and selecting a famous baddy - Robinson, Paul Muni or George Raft - as the tough cop Dave Bannion. Director Fritz Lang had other ideas.
- John McIntyre, The Phenix City Story, 1954. Without stars (Edward G Robinson, George Raft fleeing another gangster story), it had a slashed budget and higher acclaim for its docu-style look at fighting crime in the real Alabama city. Robinson could hardly have bettered McIntire’s performance - quiet, homely, crisp, authoritative. Or plain brilliant, said New York Times critic Bosley Crowther.
- Luther Adler, Hot Blood, 1955. Director Nicholas Ray's first choice for the King of the Gypsies - father of Cornel Wilde. (Marlon Brando in the first draft).
- Rod Steiger, The Harder They Fall, 1955. Before director Mark Robson got his hands on Budd Schulberg’s novel, RKO chief Dore Schary had the rights and aimed the boxing expose at Joseph Cotten and Robert Mitchum - in what sadly became co-star Humphrey Bogart’s 85th and final role.
- Kirk Douglas, Lust For Life, 1956. According to Louella Parsons, the Hollywood gossip-hen (or bitch!) who overheard everything, Eddie discussed the Van Gogh role in 1937. Paul Muni was Warners bio-man, so Robinson never won his dream roles of Napoleon or Beethoven. He played Dr Paul Ehrlich and Paul Julius Reuter - two rare examples of gathering Muni’s leavings.
- Everett Sloane, Marjorie Morningstar, 1957. For the Morgensterns - parents of Natalie Wood’s starstruck Marjorie - head brotherJack Warner wanted Eddie G and Bette Davis. What they said about it has never been recorded. Unless you know different.
- Nehemiah Persoff, Some Like It Hot, 1958.
Shooting had begun, and his son, Eddie Junior,had been given a bit part to suagr the pill, when Eddie Senior refused to be Little Napoleon, the gangster that our two jazzmen heroes were hiding from (in an all girls’ band). Never said why. Never had to,. All Hollywood knew why... George Raft was also cast and he and Eddie G had history… When co-starring in Manpower, they both set out to bed their leading lady, Marlene Dietrich. They actually had a punch-upover her - caught by a Life magazine photographer. Robinson vowed never to work with Raft again. He never did.The time span between the two films was ...17 years! So there was a degree of revenge when junior Eddie played Johnny Paradise popping out of the cake to mow down Raft. Junior also pinched Raft’s coin flipping from Scarface,
- Paul Muni, The Last Angry Man, 1959. Apt title for a bad year. Eddie lost the screen version of his Broadway hit, Middle of the Night, to Fredric March. Then, this old, humanist medico went to another veteran having had a Broadway comeback - the final film Muni took from Robinso.
- Thomas Mitchell, Pocketful Of Miracles, 1960. Robinson, Burl Ives, Charles Laughton, Fredric March, Edward G Robinson… For what proved his last (and unhappiest) gig, director Frank Capra went through many possibilities for the perfect Judge Henry Blake. And when he got him, Jackie Oakie fell ill and his scenes were re-shot with Mitchell.
- Maurice Evans, The Planet of the Apes, 1967.
- José Ferrer, Cervantes/The Young Rebel, 1968. Turkish warlord Hassan Bey was among firm offers (after his success in The Cincinatti Kid). But he had ruptured his abdomen and spleen in the crash.
- Zero Mostel, The Angel Levine, 1970. mAlthough the project was delayed for his recovery, he contracted bladder cancer. His old Broadway pal played the aged Jewish character sent a black angel. Eddie did it later in his final TV work, The Messiah on Mott Street, a Night Gallery about an old Jewish man refusing to die until the coming of the Messiah.
- Melvyn Douglas, I Never Sang For My Father, 1970. In all, 50 years in movies and just the one Oscar nomination.
- Marlon Brando, The Godfather, 1971.
- John Houseman, The Paper Chase, 1975. Eddie was first choice - ruled out, alas, by his cancer. Melvyn Douglas, John Gielgud, James Mason, Paul Scofield passed. And so, John Houseman became Professor Kingsfield in his third film and copped an Oscar at 71! With Orson Welles, Houseman was co-founder of the Mercury Theatre Players on stage, radio, cinema.