Robinson and the Art of Scarlet Street

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For Scarlet Street, director Fritz Lang commissioned John Decker to complete fourteen paintings that would be used in the film for Edward G. Robinson’s character.

Decker was well-respected and actors, such as John Wayne, Anthony Quinn, Errol Flynn, Greta Garbo, and the Marx Brothers, also commissioned him to paint their portraits.

Since Robinson’s character was an amateur artist, Decker used a primitive style inspired by painters Henri Rousseau and Camille Bombois.

During the production, Decker also served as a technical advisor and showed Robinson the in’s and out’s of painting.

Robinson was an art lover himself, and his success in gangster films allowed him the opportunity to entertain his passion.

“Here is a paradox: Turn killer and you have the means to satisfy your thirst for beauty,” he said “When Hollywood conveyed me, through devious and sin-stained roles, to a succession of sizzling electric chairs, the paintings began to appear. Crime, it seems, sometimes does pay.”

Robinson even built an art gallery in his home and allowed visitors inside to look at the masterpieces – with tours given by the household staff.

“Paintings never really belong to one of us. If we are fortunate, as I have been, we are allowed at most a lovely time of custody," Robinson said.