Wednesday, December 12, 2012
BORN ON THIS DAY: EDWARD G. ROBINSON
Robinson was born as Emanuel Goldenberg to a Yiddish-speaking Romanian Jewish family in Bucharest on December 12, 1893, the son of Sarah (née Guttman) and Morris Goldenberg, a builder. After one of his brothers was attacked by an antisemitic mob, the family decided to emigrate to the United States. Robinson arrived in New York City on February 14, 1903. He grew up on the Lower East Side, had his Bar Mitzvah at First Roumanian-American congregation, and attended Townsend Harris High School and then the City College of New York. 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 Broadway debut in 1915. He made his film debut in a minor 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 between 1930-1932.
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. In 1956 he was divorced from his wife. In 1958 he married 38-year-old Jane Bodenheimer, a dress designer known as Jane Arden.
Robinson spoke seven languages. He built up a significant art collection. In 1956, he sold it to Greek 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. One of his chief pastime was collecting records of the world's leading concerts. An inveterate cigar smoker, Robinson smoked cigars in many of his movie roles to accentuate his character.
A liberal Democrat, he attended the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, California. Robinson died of bladder cancer in 1973, and is buried in a crypt in the family mausoleum at Beth-El Cemetery in the Ridgewood area of the borough of Queens in New York City. For all of the gangster roles he played throughout his career, Edward G. Robinson was a kind and gentle man. That gentleness should be a part of his legacy as much as his vast contribution to movies...