Edward G Robinson

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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).
  5. Warren William, Employees’   Entrance, 1933.      Wrong slant again. Complained Darryl Zanuck: “You must have some faith in us.”
  6. 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. 
  7. 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!
  8. 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.”
  9. 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.
  10. 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. “Insist Bogart play Mantee; no Bogart, no deal.” Bogie called his first daughter,  Leslie, in honor of the man who gave him his first big Hollywood break.
  11. Edward Arnold, Sutter’s Gold, 1936.     Universal’s delightful idea, Robinson and Charles Laughton, became the lower-key Arnold and Lee Tracy.
  12. Humphrey Bogart, Black Legion, 1936.       Ironically, for a film against racism, the Warner suits felt Eddie G looked… too foreign! Bogie took over the average working stiff, mislead into the murderous legion, like thousands of Midwesterners swearing “in the name of God and the devil to exterminate the anarchists, Communists, the Roman hierarchy and their abettors.”  In their five films , Robinson kills Bogart once, Bogart kills Robinson once, and they kill each other twice.
  13. 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.” 
  14. Victor Jory,  Bad Men of Missouri, 1941.    “Are you kidding me?” rasped Humphrey Bogart when told he’d be playing Cole Younger, leader of the pro-Confederate bushwacker-turned-outlaw brothers. (Hewas promptly suspended… until The Maltese Falcon needed a Sam Spade).   Edward G wasn’t  in love  with  the crooked banker William Merrick, either.  PS Cole  Younger, (1884-1916)   ended his days as  a tombstone salesman. Sounds about right.
  15. 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.
  16. Akim Tamiroff, For Whom The Bell Tolls,1942.   Eddie G  was among the veritable A List  for important  support roles: Edward Arnold, Wallace Beery, Lee J Cobb, Charles Laughton, and  Thomas Mitchell.  Plus two graduates  of Vienna’s Academy of Music and  Dramatic Arts: Oscar Homolka and Fritz Kortner – and the Spanish-born opera singer-playwright-novelist-composer Fortunio Bonanova.
  17. 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.
  18. Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.       Peck’s breakthrough… Producer David O Selznick gave up and sold the AJ Cronin novel to Fox when he could not find the perfect 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.
  19. 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.”
  20. 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.

  21. Vincent Price, The Baron of Arizona, 1949.      Ten years earlier, Anatole Litvak was due to direct Eddie G in what was then called Prince of Imposters – as the (real) master swindler James Addison Reavis, jailed for trying to steal most of Arizona by forgery. Sam Fuller directed his version with Price.
  22. David Wayne, Wait Until the Sun Shines, Nellie, 1951.       Eddie G and his oddly chosen partner in Thalia Productions, Tarzan producer Sol Lesser, snapped up Ferdinand Reyher’s novel in 1946 as a lighter Robinson vehicle. Said vehicle lost its wheels and the rights passed to Fox – for Anne Baxter and Dan Dailey, who became Wayne and Jean Peters.
  23. Broderick Crawford, Scandal Sheet, 1951.    Or The Dark Pagewhen Sam Fuller wrote his first novel – headed towards Broderick Crawford with William Holden or John Payne – before  Howard Hawks paid $15,000 for it. After completing Red River, 1946, The Silver Fox planned the Fuller thriller (reporter investigates his editor’s crime) for Cary Grant and Eddie G. Or Cary and Humphrey Bogart!!! Or, Orson Welles and Dennis O’Keefe. Hawks  dropped it. Phil Karlson picked it up to reunite the 1949 stars of All The King’s Men, John Derek and Crawford.  
  24. 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…
  25. Tony Curtis, Houdini, 1953.      Before producer George Pal got hold of the subject, it had been a potential Robinson biopic.
  26. 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 BannionDirector Fritz Lang had other ideas. 
  27. 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.
  28. 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).
  29. Rod Steiger, The Harder They Fall, 1955.    RKO bought Budd Schulberg’s boxing exposé  in 1947 – for Humphrey Bogart as the ex-sports writer hired as a publicist by Eddie G’s  crooked boxing promoter.  Previously.producer Dore Schary had Joseph Cotten and Robert Mitchum – in what sadly became co-star Humphrey Bogart’s 84th and final role.
  30. 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.
  31. Everett Sloane, Marjorie Morningstar, 1957.  Novelist Herman Wouk’s heroine is the proverbial Jewish-American princess.  Her parents, the Morgensterns, were first due to be Bette Davis-Edward G Robinson but churned into the extremely effective Claire Trevor-Everett Sloane.

  32. 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,

  33. 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 Robinson.
  34. Thomas Mitchell, Pocketful Of Miracles, 1961.    Directing legend Frank Capra never knew this re-make of his 1933 Lady for a Day  would be his final  film. Or he would have tried harder…  and found a better business partner than his star, Glenn Ford…  Burl Ives,Charles Laughton, Fredric March and Edward G. Robinson were in the frame for Judge Henry Blake which went to Jack Oakie… who had quit due to “a lingering intestinal virus.”  And so, Hizzoner became  Thomas Mitchell, a Capra regular.
  35. Maurice Evans, The Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  36. Fredric March, Middle of the Night, 1959.  Broadway and TV writer Paddy Chayefsky adapted his play for his second movie (after The Bachelor Party, 1956). But he refused to let Eddie G  repeat his New York stage success as the mid-aged businessman chasing a young divorcee.  Enter: March, a renowned  chaser. 
  37. 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.
  38. Zero Mostel, The Angel Levine, 1970.     Although 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.
  39. Melvyn Douglas, I Never Sang For My Father, 1970.       In all, 50 years in movies and just the one Oscar nomination.
  40. Marlon Brando, The Godfather,  1971.
  41. 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.


 Birth year: 1893Death year: 1973Other name: Casting Calls:  41