April 9, 2012

Mother of Mercy: Edward G. Robinson and Film Noir




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 naïve, 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.

He grew up among the tenements and pushcarts of the Lower East Side, and as a youth briefly considered becoming a Rabbi before discovering a gift for public speaking. During high school he campaigned for mayoral candidate William Randolph Hearst; and said of the experience, “I cannot report with total candor that it was solely passion over the issues that led me to stump for Hearst; additionally, there must have been mixed up in it my delight at standing on a soapbox and addressing an audience.” Goldenberg left high school with a growing fascination with acting and enrolled at the City College of New York, where he joined the dramatic society and discovered Broadway. He later transferred to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and began to seriously develop his craft — he also dropped his given name in favor of the Anglo-sounding Edward G. Robinson. He found the post-graduation job market thin, but eventually talent won out, and by 1915 he was a working actor.

In the late twenties Broadway lacked air conditioning, so Robinson spent his summers in traveling shows or otherwise looking for work. Like most actors he considered the stage the pinnacle of his profession, and looked down on the movies. Yet a film role could pay the equivalent of many weeks theatrical work, and in advance. Hollywood was interested in him, and he was ready to listen. His first real movie part cast him as a gangster in The Hole in the Wall (1929), an early talkie starring Claudette Colbert. He played a mobster again in Universal’s Night Ride (1929) before doing A Lady to Love (1930) for Irving Thalberg, who by then wanted Robinson for a long-term deal at MGM. He met with the young mogul, but it didn’t go well. Thalberg offered a contract worth a million dollars, but theater work was forbidden. It was a deal-breaker for Robinson, who was so shocked after nixing the offer that he vomited on the sidewalk outside Thalberg’s office. He retreated to New York fed up with Hollywood, only to find Hal Wallis waiting for him — Warner Bros. was willing to meet his terms, including time off to do plays. The moguls had salivated over his fictionalized Al Capone in the stage version of The Racket, and they had their hearts set on Edward G. Robinson playing similar characters in their films. So with his wife’s blessing he signed the deal and returned to California.

Kid Galahad
Mervyn Leroy’s landmark 1930 film Little Caesar wasn’t Robinson’s first for Warner Brothers. He played a vice baron in a forgettable picture called The Widow from Chicago before Wallis offered him the part of Rico. Little Caesar was an immediate smash — Robinson had created the definitive screen gangster, making him a national sensation. His success was surprising considering how almost everything about him was peculiar for a leading man. When one ponders the obstacles he overcame on the way to such a lofty career, it isn’t hard to fathom why he was perpetually insecure about his celebrity. A stocky Jewish immigrant from Romania, by way of Manhattan, he seemingly had more in common with the moguls themselves than he did with their employees. He considered his lack of height and good looks “handicaps,” but his size was actually a crucial aspect of his image: audiences hated the cigar-chewing little hoodlum with the pinstripes and the machine gun even more because he was short, knowing that without the gat and the goons he was nothing. Robinson disliked portraying racketeers, and was surprised at his ability to render them so vividly: “In order to play a part, you have to have some kind of identification with the role; I had little understanding of larceny and murder. I was forced to invent the gangster because I had no yardstick by which to play him. I didn’t want to do it ….”  Through his thirteen-year association with Warner Bros. he starred in nearly thirty successful films. When he and the studio finally parted ways in 1943, most of Hollywood thought his time had passed. On the wrong side of fifty, Robinson recognized that he couldn’t play crime bosses forever, and without studio backing he would have to accept smaller roles in order to preserve his position in Hollywood.

One of the first freelance jobs to come his way was in Billy Wilder’s criminal masterwork, Double Indemnity. Robinson was reluctant to accept the job, as it would mean a demotion to third billing behind Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. It had been years since he had played such a small part, but he liked the script and was ready to “begin thinking of character roles.” In the years since its release Double Indemnity has come to be regarded as a canonical American film, regardless of genre, and the consummate film noir. To top it all off he steals the show. Although New York Times grouch Bosley Crowther, not surprisingly, was lukewarm on the movie, he had nothing but praise for Robinson: “The performance of Mr. Robinson … is a fine bit of characterization … With a bitter brand of humor and irritability, he creates a formidable guy. As a matter of fact, Mr. Robinson is the only one you care two hoots for in the film. The rest are just neatly carved pieces in a variably intriguing crime game.” Crowther’s comment about Double Indemnity hints at the brilliance of Robinson’s performance as the hyperkinetic Barton Keyes. He is the only one you care “two hoots” about because he is the most human character in the film. Forget about Walter and Phyllis — they know all along what they’re getting themselves into and do it anyway, straight down the line. The schmuck in Double Indemnity is Keyes. He’s the only character naïve enough not to see what’s happening right in front of him (other than Mr. Dietrichson, of course, but in his case it happened behind him), and thus the person truly wounded by Walter’s betrayal. It’s not the bluster of Barton Keyes that makes the character so indelible, but the humanity of Edward G. Robinson.

Robinson was next offered the lead in Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window. He signed a two-picture deal just to work with the director, but he later remembered the shoot as very tense. Raymond Massey and Joan Bennett were both vocal members of Hollywood’s conservative, anti-Roosevelt camp; Robinson situated himself much farther to the left. Although the war was ongoing and the Russians were still, technically, our allies, Massey and Bennett engaged cast and crew in anti-Soviet banter between takes. When Robinson tried to defend “the defenders of Stalingrad” he was chastised, and retreated to his dressing room for the bulk of the filming. Not for the first time in his life he considered it a better tactic to run away from confrontation rather than stay and fight.

Scarlet Street was the source of much controversy in the weeks leading up to its release. Robinson plays an impotent husband pulled by the nose to his doom by femme fatale Joan Bennett. The film was originally banned in New York, with censors demanding cuts be made before the premiere. They found the scene in which Robinson stabs Bennett with an ice pick too grisly, and were also gravely concerned that his character actually survives the film. (Irony not lost on Robinson, who complained that he died in too many of his movies.) Scarlet Street, particularly with its expressionistic denouement, may have simply been ahead of its time. It didn’t fare that well commercially, though Fritz Lang considered it his best American picture. Robinson found both the film and his character “monotonous,” and couldn’t wait to move on. His choice of words is very telling. It’s fair to suggest that both roles were an approximation, though exaggerated, of his off-screen situation at the time; and consequently offer an explanation of why he interprets them so perfectly. Bennett, regardless of their political differences, recalled their relationship fondly, “He was going through a terrible time with his wife, Gladys. She was being given shock treatments, and despite his personal problems, he was always a sweet, kind man.”
 
Robinson bracketed the war with roles as Nazi Hunters. In 1939 he headlined Confessions of a Nazi Spy, and upon his return from entertaining the troops in Normandy he starred in Orson Welles’s The Stranger. In need of a mainstream project with strong box office appeal, Welles agreed to shoot from a studio-approved script and with a studio-approved final edit. Although the film gave Welles the boost he needed, it’s clear that his heart wasn’t in it. Neither, it appeared, was Robinson’s, who referred to the affair as “bloodless,” though unemotional may be a batter word. Loretta Young’s histrionics aside, the rest of the performances seem rote; which is surprising considering the idea of playing a Nazi hunter so soon after the war would have been close to Robinson’s heart. Whether he was carefully guarding his feelings or not, they are noticeably absent from his performance. The film’s biggest problem is that it’s as chock-full of in-jokes and winks at the camera as any other Welles project, and they just aren’t appropriate to the subject matter. It’s hard to imagine any circumstances under which Robinson would have approved.

Robinson’s co-produced his next project, The Red House. The film is more spook-fest than noir, about a murderer who raises his victims’ daughter while trying in vain to keep her from discovering his crime. As her realization becomes inevitable, his character disintegrates under the strain. It isn’t his best performance, but it improves as the films grinds towards the climactic moment, when Robinson is actually quite frightening. He was flippant about the movie, saying, “It was a moody piece, got moody notices, but I think it made a few bucks.” Unfortunately a good print of The Red House is hard to come by, as it has fallen into the dregs of the public domain. Judith Anderson and Robinson relied greatly on facial expression to enhance their acting; so much of the nuance of the film is lost to those without access to a quality print.

Robinson was back on the Warner Bros. lot in 1948, in what must have seemed like old times. He was once again cast as a gangster in a prestige production, playing alongside Humphrey Bogart in director John Huston’s Key Largo. The only difference this time was the billing: Bogart was now the bigger star. It’s easy to imagine that the pair would have a strained relationship, but they didn’t. After all, in Robinson’s glory days at Warner Bros. he made four films in which Bogart offered support. Now that the younger actor was on top Robinson found him magnanimous, “Let me tell you something about Bogie. On that set he gave it all to me. Second billing or no, I got the star treatment because he insisted on it — not in words but in action. When asked to come to the set, he would ask: “Is Mr. Robinson ready?” He’d come to my trailer dressing room to get me.”

Key Largo was a hit. Robinson offered an evolved take on his gangster persona — this time very much in keeping with film noir. The movies of the thirties explored gangsters as a threat to the social order, chronicling their rise and inevitable fall from power. A film noir like Key Largo shifts the focus to the inner workings of the criminal at the end of his rope. Robinson’s work is viciously physical, subtly intellectual, and buoyed by the actor’s own dark circumstances. The underlying weakness that colored Rico Bandello becomes cruel desperation in Rocco — only Robinson had the depth and nuance to pull it off, not to mention the life experience. Most amazing is his range — it’s difficult to believe this is the same actor who fawns over Joan Bennett’s toenails in Scarlet Street. The reviews were the best of his career. The New York Herald-Tribune commented, “Robinson is Little Caesar all over again … In a story of modern crime, his acting might seem extreme, but here its touch of the Twenties is exactly what is required of a brutish has-been ….”

Robinson returned to Paramount in 1948 to play a vaudeville mentalist who discovers he can actually see the future in the low budget Night Has a Thousand Eyes. The story is an eye-roller that waffles between film noir and parlor mystery. Robinson referred to the project as “unadulterated hokum,” and insisted he only did it for the money. It’s a peculiar film, and not a particularly good one — frankly of more interest for the presence of another sad Tinseltown figure, leading lady Gail Russell. He does fine work though, offering a melancholy portrait of alienation and loneliness. He followed up with a plum part in Joseph Mankiewicz’s House of Strangers at 20th Century Fox, playing a Sicilian immigrant who makes it big in banking, but is eventually indicted and imprisoned, leaving his ungrateful sons to vie for control of the family business. House of Strangers is a fine social melodrama, though it hasn’t aged well. Robinson’s performance is offbeat, all bluster and over the top accent. Critics liked the film but were cool towards him. The New York Herald-Tribune noted, “Robinson gives [Manetti] an ominous quality, but he lingers too fondly over reminiscences of his youth as a barber on Mulberry Street and makes far too much of an Italian accent.” Ironically, the film afforded him the only acting award of his long career: He was named best actor at the Cannes Film Festival.

Following the completion of House of Strangers, Robinson’s already troubled personal life fell apart. Dating back to his schoolboy days as a campaign speaker for Hearst, he had cultivated an active political life. He was a far-left liberal and avid Roosevelt supporter. He considered himself a grateful American citizen who stood up for the causes he believed in. As a Jew who had witnessed anti-Semitism in Europe first-hand, he hated Hitler and during the war years he worked tirelessly to combat Fascism: he contributed his wealth and his name to practically every organization that claimed to be anti-Germany, whether that organization was openly pro-Soviet or not. He didn’t ask questions; he didn’t investigate. He just wrote the checks and hosted the get-togethers, believing all along that everything was on the square and that his patriotism was beyond reproach. However all of Robinson’s subtlety was spent in his performances — he failed to grasp how Americans could be both anti-Germany and anti-Russia at the same time. The time had come when his lack of insight would cost him much more than money.

As victory in Europe was assured, the government looked homeward, becoming preoccupied with the threat of subversive activity, particularly in the film industry.  In 1947 the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) formed to investigate the potential threat of domestic communism to national security. Robinson knew that he had been the subject of innuendo and whisperings for quite some time, but chose to ignore the rumors, believing his good name was unimpeachable. He was wrong. The potent but circumstantial amalgam of his committee memberships, political history, and donations — including an ill-fated check to the struggling family of jailed writer Dalton Trumbo, led to the listing of his name in the infamous Red Channels pamphlet of 1950, which accused him of affiliation with a dozen communist fronts. Before Robinson knew what hit him he was getting hammered with negative publicity in both industry publications and the mainstream national press.

Robinson was never actually blacklisted, as there was no legitimate evidence against him, but he was graylisted — or guilty by suspicion. The film offers dried up and he was forced to scramble to recover his reputation — the loss of status affected him deeply. Consequently he wanted to appear in Washington and be asked if he was a member of the communist party — but HUAC refused to issue a subpoena. It took a great deal of maneuvering before he could arrange to testify and exonerate himself. To satisfy the vipers on the committee Robinson was required to openly admit that he had been duped and made a fool of by industry subversives. It was at this time that he eloquently said, “Either snap my neck or set me free. If you snap my neck I’ll still say ‘I believe in America.’” HUAC considered him a schmuck — and told him so. Chairman John Stevens Wood chastised him as, “… a very choice sucker. I think you are number one on the sucker list in this country.”  Robinson got off the hook, but left Washington as damaged goods. It would be a long time before mainstream Hollywood would welcome him back.
 
Compounding his problems in the early fifties were the ongoing concerns with his family. He had married Gladys Lloyd in 1927. She was the daughter of a well-known sculptor and came from a blue-blooded family of Pennsylvania Quakers. In his book Robinson called it “Love At First Sight,” but then listed all the arguments against marrying her. Not only was she not Jewish, which bothered him; he suspected she didn’t appreciate that he was. She was also divorced with a child, which troubled him as well. He further described her as cool, reserved, manipulative, and enigmatic. In listing her attributes he described her as “aristocratic” and “groomed.” He seemed to desire her more as a status symbol than a partner, and in wanting her he failed to notice that something wasn’t quite right with Gladys. Yet in typical Robinson fashion, he married her anyway and simply ignored the negatives — until once again it was too late. It’s very telling that it took him two years to finally propose, and that he was unable to reveal his marriage to his parents until months after his father had passed away. Gladys was an undiagnosed manic-depressive who would rail against her Hollywood life, and during her rough periods would sue for divorce numerous times. She would spend much of their marriage institutionalized. Robinson, terrified of her and embarrassed about her illness, explained away her absences as visits to “health spas.”

Marriage left Robinson miserable, and he escaped his problems through work. The only catch was that he now had a son. He married believing that Gladys couldn’t have another child, but in 1933 Edward G. “Manny” Robinson Jr. was born. Fatherhood came as a surprise to him. He wanted desperately to be a good dad, but just didn’t quite know how. Robinson was happier at the studio than he was at home, so the actor and his son seldom spent time together. He tried to mend fences with expensive gifts, but Manny was as troubled as his mother. By the time he turned twelve he was drinking and bouncing from school to school, by twenty he was an alcoholic who couldn’t hold down a job. By thirty he had married, divorced, and done time. He wouldn’t live to enjoy his forties.

One source of escape for Robinson was collecting art. It was beneficial to his personal life because it was something he and Gladys could do together, and to his professional life because collecting accorded him a certain status in Hollywood. The Robinsons amassed the finest collection of impressionist paintings in the country, and built a beautiful custom home in which to display them. But by 1956 he was exhausted with Gladys and finally allowed her divorce demands to go through. California law stipulates an equal division of property, so Robinson was forced to sell his beloved canvases — he would spend the rest of his life trying to buy them all back. (Gladys died in 1971. Afterwards he came clean about their relationship in his autobiography. In it he also reaches out to his semi-estranged son, writing, “All of us Goldenbergs live to our eighties. You’ve got forty-one years more. Enjoy yourself, but make it work for you.” It wasn’t meant to be. Manny would die of a heart attack thirteen months later, at the age of forty.)

Robinson didn’t work as regularly from the late forties through the mid fifties — while the HUAC smear and constant family issues wrecked his personal life, few in Hollywood were willing to take a chance on him. Meanwhile, his free moments were consumed with trying to restore his reputation. The only roles he could get were in low budget, often independent productions, so he entered what he described bleakly as “the ‘B’ picture phase of my career as a movie star — or former movie star, if that’s a better way of putting it, or has-been, it that’s still a better way…” He was even more blunt with his close friends, describing his work during the period as “crap.” Yet crime film enthusiasts are sure to disagree. Even if he was embarrassed by the roles and imagined himself just going through the motions, enough angst found its way onto film that his performances are some of his best, and among the most deeply felt in film noir. No one who has seen Black Tuesday (1954) could disagree.

In The Glass Web Robinson appears as a researcher for the television crime program. When his girlfriend, played in true Cleo Moore fashion by Kathleen Hughes, realizes he can’t advance her acting career and tells him off, Robinson murders her and frames screenwriter John Forsythe. Hoping to take Forsythe’s job, he uses the murder as fodder for the show, but only manages to incriminate himself. Filmed in 3-D and intended to negatively portray the world of television, the film flounders under its own overwrought narrative and, ironically, bland TV-style lighting.

1954’s Black Tuesday is almost certainly the best film of the period. It’s a punch in the teeth kind of movie, half prison break and half standoff. Although Robinson plays another crime boss, he’s once again able to reinvent himself. Paul Beckley wrote in his review in the New York Herald-Tribune, “Mr. Robinson is still the old pro in this kind of thing and at no point in the film imitates his own past portrayals but gives a fresh and convincing portrait of an egomaniacal killer.” It’s as if Robinson is somehow able to channel all of the rage of his personal life into the character of Vincent Canelli. Gone is the swagger and bravado of Rico Bandello, or even Johnny Rocco. Canelli is vicious, cruel, and altogether terrifying. Robinson’s interpretation is so coldly focused and angry that the film almost hurts to watch. Although the story occasionally strays into cliché, director Hugo Fregonese’s film is well made, well acted, and well worth tracking down.

Tight Spot offered another good part, as well as an important step on the road back to Hollywood respectability. The film also starred Ginger Rogers, whose mother Lela was a HUAC star witness and one of Tinseltown’s chief red-baiters. Everyone in Hollywood knew that Ginger would never appear opposite him without her mother’s stamp of approval. The movie itself is a knockout. Robinson plays a district attorney bent on jailing ruthless mobster Lorne Greene. Rogers, released from prison in order to testify against Greene, is the only witness remaining alive. The bulk of the film is concerned with the interaction between the two leads, as Robinson desperately tries to convince the streetwise girl to take the stand. Directed by Phil Karlson and shot by Burnett Guffey, the film has instant noir credibility. Well paced and tightly constructed, Tight Spot is marred only by a poorly telegraphed twist ending.

A Bullet for Joey gave Robinson the chance to appear once again beside George Raft, with whom he famously came to blows on the set of the Marlene Dietrich vehicle Manpower in 1941. Raft was also experiencing his share of troubles — though his sprung from booze and dice. More importantly however, the film cast Robinson as a G-Man (albeit Canadian) out to nab a network of communist spies intent on pilfering a nuclear physicist. The role gave him the opportunity to prove his patriotism to audiences. Unfortunately, A Bullet for Joey tanked. Robinson’s performance is one of his weakest, and he despised the film. Raft seems utterly lost.

Robinson does angst-ridden attorney in Illegal, a remake of a remake for Warner Bros. and A Bullet for Joey director Lewis Allen. Down and out over sending an innocent man to the chair, Robinson’s character dives into a bottle of booze. He gets a career renewal as a defense attorney, and finds redemption in saving the life of his unjustly accused assistant, played by Nina Foch. Noir stalwart Albert Dekker appears as the heavy. The film got fair notices, with The New York Times commenting, “The fact that this hard-bitten lawyer is played by Edward G. Robinson in his old vein of stinging sarcasm is a clue to what you may expect.”

Nightmare, based on the novel by Cornell Woolrich, was Robinson’s final film noir, and it may have been one too many. If he could have magically removed one film from his résumé, it would have been this one. Low rent director Maxwell Shane had already filmed this in 1947 as Fear in the Night, though the remake benefits from a more talented cast and location shooting. The New York Herald-Tribune liked him, but remarked that, “good acting does little more than remind one of the waste.” The film was a bust at the box office; Robinson biographer Alan Gansberg advises the film is “best forgotten.”

Robinson was still struggling under the weight of the smear, and it appeared that no end was in sight. Producers were simply unwilling to risk the profitability of their most prestigious projects by having his name attached. Cecil B. DeMille was casting The Ten Commandments when it was suggested to him that Robinson would be ideal as Dathan, if only he was politically “acceptable.” DeMille, the conservative grandfather of the Hollywood establishment, reviewed his case and realized he had been given a bum rap. He decided to offer Robinson the part over the reservations of his associates. He made the most of it, earning solid reviews and the respect of his costars. He was forever grateful to the director, remarking that, “Cecil B. DeMille returned me to films. Cecil B. DeMille restored my self-respect.” Finally, the sixty-three year-old was welcomed back into the Hollywood mainstream. From then until the end of his life he worked steadily, and even managed to buy back a few paintings.

Tight Spot
Film noir is often preoccupied with the cruel indifference of the universe — how a man can get knocked off his feet for no reason whatsoever, and then kicked in the gut while he’s down. Of course Edward G. Robinson enjoyed the wealthy life of a celebrity, but he paid for it playing characters he often held in contempt. And he was far more generous with his wealth and his free time than most stars. He made mistakes, many have been detailed here — but who hasn’t? He loved being an American and was instead called a traitor, eventually to be humiliated in front of the world. His family life was tragic. He found peace in collecting paintings, but even they were taken from him. It was as if Robinson was doomed to never receive the things from life he wanted and deserved, not even from the industry to which he had given so much. There had been buzz of an Oscar nomination for his work in The Ten Commandments, but it never amounted to anything. Though he was one of the most acclaimed actors in film history, Robinson was never even nominated for an Academy Award. There’s no blacker mark against the Oscars. He wasn’t even nominated for Double Indemnity, where he delivers one of the greatest supporting performances in motion picture history — a stinging injustice considering Barry Fitzgerald, the winner for Going My Way, was nominated for the same role in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories.

In 1973 the Academy finally decided to recognize him with an honorary statuette, but fate would deny the great man even this small moment of recognition: he died before he could be given the award. 



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This essay was originally published in Noir City, the magazine of the Film Noir Foundation. If the noir community has a hub, it’s the FNF. My pals over there are working hard to preserve original 35 mm prints of classic noirs, putting on the fantastic Noir City film festivals, and publishing a great magazine. Consider clicking the link and sending ’em a couple bucks. They’ll put it to good use — you’ll become a real part of film conservation, and get some cool swag too. 

11 comments:

  1. Great stuff, Mark. Thank you for the upload. :)

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  2. I really enjoyed this excellent article on Robinson. One of the greats of his era, how intriguing to present the tragic circumstances of his personal life to the stuff of film noir.

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  3. The Widow From Chicago isn't that awful from a Robinson perspective. Alice White is, true, but Eddie steals the film easily with a badass performance highlighted by his shootout with cops in a blacked-out speakeasy. The fact that his character gets taken alive and gets to exit with wisecracks seems like an early sign that Warners knew they had a winner. Otherwise, this is a great career summary; nice work.

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  4. I love Robinson and this was a great tribute to him, just as heartfelt and insightful as your post on Alan Ladd.

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  5. Great article and as always, I love your posters. Thanks.

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  6. Great article. I 'm rediscovering Mr Robinson, especially after seeing VICE SQUAD in which he plays a police captain going through a day in his busy working life.

    Vienna's Classic Hollywood blog

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    1. Thanks Vienna. I'm a big fan of Vice Squad. I wrote about it…somewhere…but I guess I never got around to publishing the article here! Robinson was one of the true greats.

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