Edward G. Robinson Jr. was a Hollywood actor who followed in the footsteps of his famous father, Edward G. Robinson, one of the most iconic stars of the golden age of cinema. However, his life and career were marred by personal troubles, legal issues, and alcoholism, which eventually led to his premature death at the age of 40. In this article, we will explore the life and death of Edward G. Robinson Jr., and how he struggled to cope with the pressure of being the son of a legend.
Early Life and Career
Edward G. Robinson Jr. was born on March 19, 1933, in Los Angeles, California, to Edward G. Robinson and Gladys Lloyd, both actors. He was nicknamed “Manny” by his father, who was of Romanian-Jewish descent and had changed his name from Emanuel Goldenberg to avoid discrimination in Hollywood. His mother was of Welsh and English ancestry and had also changed her name from Gladys Lloyd Cassell.
Robinson Jr. grew up in a wealthy and privileged environment, surrounded by celebrities and luxury. He attended prestigious schools and had access to the best tutors and coaches. However, he also suffered from the constant comparison with his father, who was one of the most respected and admired actors of his time, known for his roles in films such as Little Caesar (1931), Double Indemnity (1944), and The Ten Commandments (1956).
Robinson Jr. wanted to be an actor like his father, but he lacked the talent and charisma that made his father a star. He made his film debut in 1952 with Invasion U.S.A., a low-budget sci-fi thriller that was critically panned. He then appeared in minor roles in films such as Screaming Eagles (1956), Bus Stop (1956), Tank Battalion (1958), and Some Like It Hot (1959), where he played the killer of George Raft’s character.
He also tried his hand at television, appearing in series such as Wagon Train, Laramie, Gunsmoke, and Markham. However, he never achieved any significant success or recognition as an actor, and was often overshadowed by his father’s fame and reputation.
Personal Troubles and Legal Issues
Robinson Jr.’s personal life was also turbulent and troubled. He was married three times, but none of his marriages lasted long or ended well. His first wife was Frances Chisholm, whom he married in 1952 and divorced in 1955. They had a daughter named Francesca, who later became an actress herself.
His second wife was Ruth Elaine Menold Conte, whom he married in 1963 and divorced in 1965. She was the ex-wife of director Frank Capra Jr., and had two children from her previous marriage.
His third wife was Nan Elizabeth Morris, whom he married in 1970 and remained with until his death. She was a former model and actress who had appeared in films such as The Wild One (1953) and The Big Heat (1953).
Robinson Jr. also had another daughter named Shawn, who was born in 1966 to Lucille Kass, a secretary who worked for his father’s lawyer. Robinson Jr. denied paternity at first, but a court-ordered blood test proved that he was the biological father. He was ordered to pay child support and visitation rights to Kass.
Robinson Jr.’s career and reputation were also damaged by his frequent brushes with the law. He was arrested several times for drunk driving, assault, battery, disorderly conduct, and drug possession. He also faced lawsuits from creditors, landlords, ex-wives, and business partners.
He tried to rehabilitate his image by publishing his autobiography in 1958, titled My Father, My Son, co-written with William Dufty. The book revealed his struggles with alcoholism, depression, and insecurity, as well as his admiration for his father and his desire to make him proud.
However, the book did not help him much in reviving his career or improving his relationships. His father was disappointed by the book’s sensationalism and lack of accuracy, and felt that it exploited his name and fame for publicity.
Death by Heart Attack
Robinson Jr.’s health declined in the early 1970s due to his long battle with alcoholism. He suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, diabetes, and heart problems.
On February 26, 1974, he was found unconscious by his wife Nan in their West Hollywood home. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a heart attack at age 40.
His death came only one year after the death of his father, who had died of cancer at age 79. The two had reconciled shortly before the elder Robinson’s death, and had expressed their love and respect for each other.
Robinson Jr. was buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, next to his father. His grave marker reads: “He did his best.”
Legacy and Influence
Edward G. Robinson Jr. was a tragic figure who lived in the shadow of his father and never found his own identity or happiness. He was a victim of his own demons and the expectations of others.
However, he also left behind some positive contributions to the world of entertainment and culture. He was one of the first celebrities to openly discuss his addiction and mental health issues, and to seek help for them. He also inspired some fictional characters and stories based on his life and experiences.
For example, he was reportedly the model for the character Eddie G. in Blonde (2001), a mini-series based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, which depicts the life of Marilyn Monroe. Eddie G. is a troubled actor who has a sexual threesome with Monroe and a character called Cass Chaplin, who is based on Charles Chaplin Jr.
He was also portrayed by Evan Williams in the 2022 Netflix film Blonde, which is another adaptation of Oates’ novel, starring Ana de Armas as Monroe.
Robinson Jr.’s life and death serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who wants to pursue fame and fortune in Hollywood, and a reminder of the importance of finding one’s own voice and purpose in life.