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Soylent Green was quite the milestone for Edward G. Robinson. It was his 101st film, a feat so few actors reach.
In honor of this, MGM celebrated the veteran actor on October 20, 1973 with a party that included friends and celebrities.
Director George Cukor, who wasn’t able to attend, wired, “The first 200 are hardest. From here on in, it will be easy sledding.”
Charlton Heston also paid tribute to “Eddie.” The pair worked together in two prior movies and had continued a casual friendship since appearing in The Ten Commandments. He called him “a remarkable member of my profession.”
When the man of the hour went on stage, Robinson joked, “I’m going for 120 and three specials!”
Robinson wanted to be in Soylent Green because, as he told his wife, he felt the film was “about something.” He received $62 thousand for the part.
Despite his star status, he didn’t want special treatment, even though the director insisted. Instead, he waited in line at lunchtime with his fellow castmates.
Leigh Taylor-Young said, “Working with Edward G. Robinson was one of the thrills of my life.”
What makes his behavior even more remarkable is that he was suffering from cancer at the time.
His contract specifically stated his work day ended at 5pm due to his condition. However, even after Robinson’s scenes were finished, he would stay and sit in the director’s chair to watch the others.
Despite his illness, he also still delivered a dynamic performance, so much so that he brought Heston to tears during his climactic scene. Heston considered Soylent Green to be one of his best films because of Robinson.
Just twelve days after filming completed, on January 26, 1973, Robinson died. Heston read the eulogy, and Frank Sinatra, George Burns, former studio head Jack L. Warner, director Mervyn Leroy, and producer Hal B. Wallis were among those who served as pallbearers.
Reflecting on his career, Robinson once said, “To work, to create, to grow and to give of yourself – that is one of the chief aims in life. To have experienced it once, that’s a great experience. To do it 101 times, that’s really a small miracle.”