Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973) was one of the finest actors ever to grace a movie screen. Here are the first five of a list of ten Edward G. Robinson films you must see:
Little Caesar (1931), directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The movie that made Robinson a star, Little Caesar is a little slow and creaky, especially compared to the James Cagney gangster film The Public Enemy that came out the same year. Still, Robinson is riveting as Enrico “Rico” Bandello, a low-level hood who would work his way up to mob boss. His portrayal of the gangster was so mesmerizing in its day, Robinson would be known affectionately as “Little Caesar” for the rest of his life.
Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940), directed by William Dieterle. In what is arguably his greatest role, Robinson portrays the famed German doctor who discovered the cure for both diphtheria and syphilis. In a role as far removed from of “Little Caesar” as possible, Robinson proves to be not only a wonderful character actor, but one of the most versatile actors ever to work at the Warner Brothers studio.
Brother Orchid (1940), directed by Lloyd Bacon. A comedy-drama (Warner Brothers did a ton of them in the ‘30s and ‘40s), Brother Orchid has Robinson playing a gangster ousted from his own gang by his second in command, who then takes the ousted boss for a ride, shoots him and leaves him for dead. Robinson is rescued by a group of monks who allow him to become one of them. Does he stick with the religious life or go back to seek his revenge? See the movie, which features Humphrey Bogart as the second in command and Donald Crisp as Brother Superior.
The Sea Wolf (1941), directed by Michael Curtiz. In a film based on the novel by Jack London, Robinson plays Wolf Larsen, captain of the seal-hunting vessel The Ghost, as an amoral monster with little regard for human life or human dignity. It is one of his most frightening roles, one which makes "Little Caesar" look like the Outstanding Citizen of the Year. Supported by a fine cast featuring John Garfield, Ida Lupino, Barry Fitzgerald and Gene Lockhart.
Double Indemnity (1944), directed by Billy Wilder. In one of director Billy Wilder’s greatest movies, insurance salesman Fred MacMurray and bored housewife Barbara Stanwyck devise the perfect murder, killing off Stanwyck’s husband to collect the insurance. Robinson steals the film as the insurance investigator who cannot accept that the husband died accidentally and picks through the evidence piece by piece until it unravels. A perfect, flawless movie, one of several directed by Wilder.
The next article will offer five more films starring Edward G. Robinson that you must see.