Edward G. Robinson

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You know, I've always figured the waiting is what I get paid for. The acting I do free.

Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg; December 12, 1893 — January 26, 1973) was a Romanian-born American actor. A star of stage and screen during "Hollywood's Golden Age", he appeared in 40 Broadway plays and more than 100 films during a 50-year career. He is best remembered for his tough-guy roles as a gangster, such as his star-making film Little Caesar and Key Largo.


  • George M.,
    In spite of the fact that this fight has taken on such profound dimensions my deep affection for you insists on keeping you a very central figure. Only the fact that I am deeply moved will excuse me from this note which I am writing with great respect.

    At the Equity meeting yesterday afternoon the thought occurred to me often, notwithstanding the thrill and fine feeling of the occasion itself, that it was not perfect without you, that I couldn't get the idea out of my mind that you would be happier if you were there. This occurs to me as so possible a course for you that from my modest position I am going to suggest it: that you do now, with the situation locked, forgive some things that have offended you and acknowledge—with the humility which will exalt the high position that your people, the actors, have so generously given you—that you yourself did temporarily lose your way.

    As I said in the beginning of this note, my deep affection for you will surely absolve me from an attempt to instruct you impertinently. I am honestly tying to serve you.

    Very hopefully yours,
  • You can tell them that I live passionately. In fact, you may go further and say that unless a human being lives passionately, he may almost as well be dead. Now passion and sex are usually confused, but life without a passion for living is a pretty dull procedure. I have a passion for acting, for music, for art and, thank God, I have the opportunity to express myself in the first and to indulge myself in the other two.
    • As quoted in "Little Caesar on Sex: Wise Comments Noted" by Grace Wilcox, Screen and Radio Weekly (June 13, 1937), p. 10
  • I was not alone. The atmosphere, after the joys of the armistice, was strange and foreboding for those of us who sought a world of peace and international comity. Woodrow Wilson had, as Martin Luther King had, a dream, and I shared that dream—all fourteen points of it—and watched it come to nothing. (I was in the press gallery of the House of Representatives when President Woodrow Wilson returned from Europe and addressed Congress. I saw Senator Henry Cabot Lodge avoiding him. I heard Wilson's muted passion, and I cried.) What a splendid vision the League of Nations was; how sickening to watch it scuttled.
    • All My Yesterdays: An Autobiography (1973), p. 56
  • You know, I've always figured the waiting is what I get paid for. The acting I do free.
  • He's the greatest bull artist in the world—and only occasionally the greatest artist in the world.
    • On Picasso; as quoted in Leonard Spigelgass's epilogue to All My Yesterdays: An Autobiography (1973), by Edward G. Robinson, p. 276
  • Did it ever occur to anyone how boring his pictures are?
  • I'm told he's no longer a hero and he could have done more for the Jews, that he had a mistress. Well, count up the score. He turned the twentieth century around; without him, I think we'd all be ruled by a commissariat.
    • On FDR; op. cit.
  • He may yet turn out to have greatness in him despite himself. I think his kind of ambition is indeed a grievous thing; now that he cannot be reelected, maybe he'll let his humanity emerge. There simply has to be more to the man than he lets us see.
  • I love everything he stands for; I just wish he didn't love it so much. He needs a director to tell him when he's made his point. I think he'd have been a good President.
  • I always keep four or five books on my bed table, and each night I read a little of each; I guess I can't concentrate on any one at a time. But I always finish them.
    • Op. cit., p. 278
  • I hated every minute of it and couldn't stop crying.
  • I think it should be declared illegal. I don't think we should gamble on wheat futures.
  • I went to see one. It did nothing for me. But I think that has to do with my age, not my morals.
  • I think he means everything he says, but he says it so badly that he sounds like a ventriloquist's dummy. His ambition was also grievous.
  • He belonged to more causes than I did. I think I had a letter from him every other day asking for money. I always responded.
  • It's the word I dislike, not the food. Give me a piece of bread and butter and I'll enjoy it. Now tell me it's margarine and I'll throw up.
    • Op. cit., p. 280
  • I think he, Christ and Marx are responsible for the world being the way it is—and I confer my thanks upon all of them, as I withhold it.
  • The first symptom is that hair grows on your ears. It's very disconcerting.
  • No matter how big you get, check out all the props. Make certain they're where they're supposed to be. In The Racket, I was supposed to be gunned down. One night the poor actor shooting me had no blanks in his pistol, so I had no cue. Improvising out of pure desperation, I changed Bart Cormack's play and died of a heart attack. It was simulated, but it was almost real.
    • Op. cit., p. 282
  • I'm breaking all the rules, but I have to say you have been my idol. I admit being jealous of an actor. How I would like to have been what you are. How I wish my career had approximated yours. You have never deserted or failed to serve our profession. Sir, to be presented an award by you gives me infinite pride. You, being a Lord, have raised me to a slightly higher position. I don't feel that I'm quite such a commoner. But, more important, I'm Eddie and you're Larry. And how much easier that is.
    • Portion of never-delivered acceptance speech—addressed to prospective presenter Laurence Olivier—for what eventually proved to be Robinson's posthumously awarded Honorary Oscar; op. cit.

Quotes about

  • I was invited to do a picture—a nineteen-day marvel called Big Leaguer, with Edward G. Robinson as a baseball manager. Eddie Robinson was a marvelous actor and a brilliant man, but he was physically uncoordinated. He would walk to first base and trip over home plate.
    • Robert Aldrich, discussing his first feature film directorial assignment in "Dialogue on Film," American Film (November 1978), pp. 51–62; reproduced in Robert Aldrich: Interviews (2004), edited by Eugene L. Miller and Edwin T. Arnold, p. 144
  • In one scene where I'm driving in a convertible with Eddie Robinson and Ann Sothern in the back, I'm supposed to imitate all these bird tweets. We did the scene against a transparency, then Eddie rushes to the director, Lloyd Bacon, and barks, "Ralph is interpolating bird whistles not in the script. He's trying to steal the scene with those tweets." We all dissolved in laughter but Eddie was dead serious.
    • Ralph Bellamy, speaking with James Bawden in either 1978, 1983 or 1988, recalling an incident on the set of Brother Orchid (1940); as quoted in Classic Film Actors: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era (2016) by Bawden and Ron Miller, p. 35
  • Edward G. Robinson can play an innocent man inadvertently confused in crime as no one else. Whether it's Mr. Robinson's face, character, or plain old ability, or perhaps all three, we can't decide. Anyway, he shines again in just such a role—a mild, home-loving professor with a corpse on his hands, and in the home of a beautiful woman not his wife, to boot.
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