The present study aims to investigate the contribution that actor Edward G. Robinson brought to the American film industry, beginning with his iconic role as gangster Little Caesar in Mervyn Le Roy’s 1931 production, and continuing with widely-acclaimed parts in classic film noirs such as Double Indemnity, The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street. Edward G. Robinson was actually a Romanian Jew, born Emmanuel Goldenberg in Bucharest, in 1893, a relatively little known fact nowadays. By examining his biography, filmography and his best-known, most successful films (mentioned above), I show that Edward G. Robinson was one of classical Hollywood’s most influential actors; for instance, traits of his portrayal of Little Caesar (one of the very first American gangster films) can be found in almost all subsequent cinematic gangster figures, from Scarface to Vito Corleone. In the same vein, the doomed noir characters he played in Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street are still considered by film critics today to be some of the finest, most nuanced examples of noir heroes. Therefore, the main body of my article will be dedicated to a more detailed analysis of these films, while the introductory section will trace his biography and discuss some of his better-known films, such as Confessions of a Nazi Spy and Key Largo. The present study highlights Edward G. Robinson’s merits and impact on the cinema industry, proving that this diminutive Romanian Jew of humble origins was indeed something of a giant during Hollywood’s classical era.
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