The Best Films of Edward G. Robinson

1. Scarlet Street
2. Key Largo
3. Little Caesar
4. The Woman in the Window
5. Double Indemnity
6. The Stranger
7. The Sea Wolf
8. The Ten Commandments
9. The Whole Town’s Talking
10. The Cincinnati Kid
11. Our Vines have Tender Grapes
12. All My Sons
13. Five Star Final
14. Soylent Green
15. Barbary Coast

The Stranger (1946)

f6c39-the_stranger_filmIn a whirlwind, the film goes from a moody foreign locale to a quaint American town called Harper, but it never ceases to be a gripping film noir. Considered Orson Welles‘ weakest project thus far, The Stranger is still thoroughly enjoyable thanks to the performances of Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young and Welles himself. Much like Shadow of a Doubt, this film shows that noir thrillers can still take place in middle America, and they can be pulse-pounders all the same. Also, an evil man can easily exist in a mundane environment and still be evil.

The reason we end up in Harper of all towns has to do with an “escaped” Nazi war criminal. He was allowed to escape and investigator Mr. Wilson (Robinson) follows him. It’s an idyllic little town and one of its most respected members is professor Charles Rankin (Welles), who is soon to be wed to pretty Mary Longstreet (Young). Little does she know that he is former Nazi war criminal Franz Kindler, and he is the man the escaped Konrad Meinike is looking for. Mr. Wilson is very interested in his whereabouts too.

Meinike soon disappears but not before deterring Wilson. However, not one to shy away from his duty, Wilson soon ingratiates himself with the local people, especially the newly married Mary and her kindly family. He is eager to learn more about the professor and at first, the gentleman seems above reproach, but something lurks underneath his calm exterior. Soon the beloved family dog Red is killed, an increasingly manic Rankin confesses his predicament to his wife and conveniently leaves out a few facts. Now constantly paranoid, Mary’s life is in far more peril than she realizes, and Wilson takes all the precautions he can. The clanging of the newly refurbished clock becomes a point of major contention, and it also serves as the perfect locale for a final climatic showdown (Put aside the absurdity and just watch it).

The whole town turns out for the show and finally after getting conked on the head and nearly killed during the case, Mr. Wilson finally has time to relax. Welles is not quite as memorable as Harry Lime here but still a sophisticated villain of sorts.  Likewise, Barton Keyes is a bit more memorable but Edward G. Robinson still brings his personality, iconic voice, and memorable mug to the table. Loretta Young has a radiant face and eyes like always. In other words, they do what they do. It works in making The Stranger a worthwhile thriller with the expected melodramatic music and shadowy facades of a film-noir. This is undoubtedly an oversimplification, but  then again, Orson Welles needs no introduction, and he certainly does not need me to vouch for creative genius.

4/5 Stars

Key Largo (1948) – Film-Noir

5b446-key_largo432Starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall,  with director John Huston, the film takes place on a sweltering day during the hurricane season. Bogart is passing through Florida to say hello to the relations of a dead war buddy. In the process he and the others at the hotel are held hostage by the mobster Johnny Rocco (Robinson). Bogart seems to back away from conflict but he is only biding his time with the villainous gangster. Through a series of events the war veteran is supposed to pilot the mobsters to Cuba, however he ultimately turns on them and brings justice. This is a fairly good film with Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, and Jay Silverheels in support. It must be mentioned that this was the final film pairing of Bogey and Bacall. Get ready to sweat it out in Key Largo.

4/5 Stars

In honor of Lauren Bacall

Double Indemnity (1944) – Film-Noir

If the Maltese Falcon was the first great film-noir then this film has to be a refining and improvement of the genre. Billy Wilder put together a crime film that is still intriguing today with its femme fatale and other techniques in storytelling and cinematography.

*May Contain Spoilers

Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson, this is a classic film-noir. Walter Neff is your average American insurance salesman. However while trying to sell some accident insurance he falls for a woman who is married to a former widower. Together they plot and carry out a murder on her irritable husband trying to cash in on a double indemnity clause. Although everything goes as clockwork the two of them must stay apart and Neff’s colleague is hot on their trail. Through a series of visits with Deitrichson’s depressed step-daughter, Neff himself finds out Phyllis was seeing someone else. In their final confrontation he figures out she killed her husband’s first wife . Then she preceded to use Neff for her own purposes.Following their confrontation Neff feels guilt and so he records all he knows for his colleague Keyes to hear later. This movie was definitely full of suspense as well as great characters. Directer Wilder utilizes the voice over with flashback very effectively to tell the story.

5/5 Stars

 

Scarlet Street (1945) – Film-Noir

Similar to Woman in the Window, this film-noir was directed by Fritz Lang and it stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea. Chris Cross is a shy employee who has been working for the same man 25 years. While walking home Chris rescues a beautiful woman from an assailant, not knowing it is her brutish boyfriend. Amused Kitty agrees to have coffee and Chris who is an amateur artist, begins talking art, but Kitty gets the idea he is a wealthy painter. Because Chris is stuck in a hopeless marriage he becomes infatuated with kitty and she takes full advantage. Chris scrounges for money to pay Kitty’s rent and unbeknownst to him, Kitty’s boyfriend tries to sell the artist’s work. A critic is impressed and so Kitty masquerades as the artist. Chris finds out eventually and confronts her but the conniving femme fatale manipulates him again. Chris is delighted his work is appreciated and he is content with Kitty continuing to take the credit. An unexpected turn of events mean he can leave his wife and marry Kitty finally. However, he finds her with Johnny and after his genuine proposal she belittles him.An enraged Chris commits murder but it is pinned on Johnny. A miserable wanders the streets without a job or recognition for his art. Furthermore, he must live with his guilty conscience tormenting him until the end of his days. Woman in the Window is good but this film is more biting and powerful when it is all said and done.

4/5 Stars

The Woman in the Window (1944) – Film-Noir

Starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett, this film-noir involves an ordinary psychology professor and a beautiful woman. The story begins at the club where the professor and his friends begin to discuss an enchanting portrait of a woman in a store window. He stays behind for a while longer and before he leaves he takes one last look at the painting. And there he meets the woman herself who then invites him over for a drink. However, her angry boyfriend comes by and he is left dead after a scuffle. Now the two perpetrators must cover up their murder and dispose of the body. That task goes to the professor and he naively dumps it out in the country leaving behind numerous clues. One of the professor’s friends is the district attorney and so he finds himself invited back to the scene of the crime. The professor is not suspected but the woman is blackmailed by a low life ex-cop who threatens to expose them if he doesn’t get his money. Much to the woman’s relief the blackmailer is killed but it comes too late for the professor. Or does it? This noir directed by Fritz Lang focuses on a mysterious woman and psychology. It also has one of the most abrupt, out of the blue endings. Every movie should not be resolved this way but I rather liked it one time around.

4/5 Stars