TCM's Summer Under the Stars features a star a day every day in August. August 17 features the films of Lee J. Cobb beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 6 a.m. the next morning. I'm pleased to be taking part in the 2015 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon. Please check out Journeys in Classic Film and read some great articles by Kristen and also follow the links to other interesting material on the classic stars featured this month on TCM.
Lee J. Cobb (December 8, 1911 – February 11, 1976) was an American character actor of stage, screen, and television. He is best known for his performances in 12 Angry Men (1957), On the Waterfront (1954), and one of his last films, The Exorcist (1973). He also played the role of Willy Loman in the original Broadway production of Arthur Miller's 1949 play Death of a Salesman (he repeated his performance in a 1966 TV version). On television, Cobb costarred in the first four seasons of the western series The Virginian. He typically played arrogant, intimidating, abrasive characters, and menacing villains, but often had roles as respectable figures such as judges, police officers, business executives, or community leaders. He was twice nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscars for his work in On the Waterfront (1954) and The Brothers Karamazov (1958).
Cobb was born Leo Jacob or Jacoby in The Bronx, New York City. As a child, Cobb showed artistic promise as a virtuoso violinist, but any hope for a musical career was ended by a broken wrist and consequent lack of muscular control in his hand. By the time he graduated from high school in 1929, Cobb had a new dream of becoming an actor.
He went to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding work in films but made no progress. He soon returned to New York City, where he worked selling radio tubes and acting in radio dramas during the day and took classes in accounting at City College of New York at night. In 1931 he set out again for Los Angeles and a second try at breaking into the movies. Although he did not have success in Hollywood, he did land a job with the Pasadena Playhouse, where he worked as an actor and director from 1931 to 1933. After this period of apprenticeship, he spent another two years acting with various touring companies and on the New York stage.
His big break came in 1935, when he was asked to join the Group Theatre, a New York City theatre collective formed in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg. It was intended as a base for the kind of theatre they and their colleagues believed in—a forceful, naturalistic and highly disciplined artistry. They were pioneers of what would become an "American acting technique," derived from the teachings of Konstantin Stanislavski (so-called Method acting). The company included actors, directors, playwrights, and producers.
The Group included Elia Kazan, Harold Clurman, Harry Morgan (billed as Harry Bratsburg), Stella Adler (a founding member), Robert Lewis, John Garfield (billed as Jules Garfield), Canada Lee, Franchot Tone, Frances Farmer, Phoebe Brand, Ruth Nelson, Will Geer, Howard Da Silva, John Randolph, Joseph Bromberg, Michael Gordon, Oscar Saul, Paul Green, Clifford Odets, Paul Strand, Morris Carnovsky, Sanford Meisner, Marc Blitzstein, Anna Sokolow, Lee J. Cobb, Roman Bohnen, Jay Adler, Luther Adler, Robert Ardrey, Don Richardson and many others.
Cobb played a variety of parts in the Group productions of Waiting for Lefty (1935), Till the Day I Die (1935), Johnny Johnson (1936), and Golden Boy (1937), one of the Group's greatest successes. Cobb played the role of Mr. Carp in Golden Boy.
Cobb's first major film role was in 1939's Golden Boy. He played the role of Mr. Bonaparte, the protagonist's father, despite the fact that he was not yet 30 years old. The role of a patriarch suited him, and he'd play many more in his film career.
Between 1939 and 1943, Cobb moved back and forth from the stage to films. He acted in such plays as The Fifth Column (1940) and Clash by Night (1941) and had parts in the films Men of Boys Town (1941) and The Song of Bernadette (1943). In 1943, Cobb enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. Because of his theatrical talents he was assigned to a radio production unit in California. Cobb served until the end of the war.
Cobb achieved immortality by giving life to the character of Willy Loman in the original 1949 Broadway production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Cobb later won an Emmy nomination as Willy when he played the role in a made-for-TV movie of the play in 1966. Arthur Miller said that he wrote the role with Cobb in mind.
Cobb's film career eventually included roles in some eighty movies. His facial features and his large physique caused him to be typecast as a powerful and often villainous character; he became one of the most reliable heavies in the business. His parts in On the Waterfront (1954), The Left Hand of God (1955), 12 Angry Men (1957), Man of the West (1958), and Party Girl (1958) demonstrate some of his best work in this mode. He was not, however, always cast as the villain; over the course of his long career he also had the opportunity to play a prime minister, a newspaper editor, a scientist, a judge, a race car driver, a businessman, a cop (on numerous occasions), and even a playwright.
Cobb was accused of being a Communist in 1951 testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee by Larry Parks, himself a former Communist Party member. Cobb was called to testify before HUAC but refused to do so for two years until, with his career threatened by the blacklist, he relented in 1953 and gave testimony in which he named 20 people as former members of the Communist Party USA.
Later, Cobb explained why he "named names," saying:
When the facilities of the government of the United States are drawn on an individual it can be terrifying. The blacklist is just the opening gambit—being deprived of work. Your passport is confiscated. That's minor. But not being able to move without being tailed is something else. After a certain point it grows to implied as well as articulated threats, and people succumb. My wife did, and she was institutionalized. The HUAC did a deal with me. I was pretty much worn down. I had no money. I couldn't borrow. I had the expenses of taking care of the children. Why am I subjecting my loved ones to this? If it's worth dying for, and I am just as idealistic as the next fellow. But I decided it wasn't worth dying for, and if this gesture was the way of getting out of the penitentiary I'd do it. I had to be employable again.Other major films in which Cobb appeared include The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), The Three Faces of Eve (1957), The Brothers Karamazov (1958), Exodus (1960), Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), and How the West Was Won (1962).
In 1968 Cobb returned to the stage for one last time, giving a remarkable series of performances as King Lear at New York City's Lincoln Center.
In addition to his frequent supporting roles in film, Cobb often appeared on television. He played Judge Henry Garth on The Virginian from 1962-66 and also had a regular role as the attorney David Barrett on The Young Lawyers from 1970-71. Cobb also appeared in made-for-TV movies and made frequent guest appearances on other TV shows. His last major Hollywood movie role was that of police detective Lt. Kinderman in The Exorcist (1973).
Cobb married Yiddish-theater and film actress Helen Beverley on February 6, 1940, and the couple had two children, Vincent and Julie. His daughter with Beverley, Julie Cobb, is an actress. The marriage ended in divorce on July 28, 1952. On June 27, 1957, Cobb married schoolteacher Mary Brako Hirsch, and they also had two children, Tony and Jerry. On February 11, 1976, Cobb died of a heart attack in Woodland Hills, California, and was buried in Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. He died while preparing to repeat in Exorcist II: The Heretic the role of investigating detective he played in the original film.
Trailers and Full Films Featuring Lee J. Cobb
12 Angry Men (1957) - Theatrical Trailer
Sidney Lumet's first effort as a film director, 12 Angry Men is an adaptation of the 1954 Studio One television series episode of the same name and covers the deliberations of a jury at the trial of a young man from the slums for premeditated murder.
12 Angry Men - Testing the Knife, and Juror #7 changes his mind.
A sequence from 12 Angry Men, as seen in the original 1954 Studio One TV production, the 1957 film, and the 1997 TV movie.
Juror #3: Franchot Tone
Juror #5: Lee Phillips
Juror #7: Paul Hartman
Juror #8: Robert Cummings
Juror #11: George Voskovec
Juror #3: Lee J. Cobb
Juror #5: Jack Klugman
Juror #7: Jack Warden
Juror #8: Henry Fonda
Juror #11: George Voskovec
Juror #3: George C. Scott
Juror #5: Dorian Harewood
Juror #7: Tony Danza
Juror #8: Jack Lemmon
Juror #11: Edward James Olmos
Fighter, The (1952) - Full Film
The Fighter is a 1952 American boxing film based on the short story "The Mexican" by Jack London. The film is directed by Herbert Kline and produced by Alex Gottlieb. Kline and Aben Kandel wrote the adapted screenplay. It was photographed by James Wong Howe. The film was released by United Artists in the United States on May 23, 1952.
Golden Boy (1939) - Full Film
Golden Boy is a 1939 black-and-white Columbia Pictures drama film based on the Clifford Odets play of the same name. It features William Holden in his film debut, the role that made him a star: a promising violinist who wants to be a boxer. Barbara Stanwyck plays his love interest. The supporting cast included Lee J. Cobb (in an unusual role as the bewhiskered Italian immigrant father of Holden's character) and Adolphe Menjou.
Johnny O'Clock (1947) - Full Film
Johnny O'Clock is a 1947 American film noir written and directed by Robert Rossen, based on a story by Milton Holmes. The drama features Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, and Lee J. Cobb, with Jeff Chandler making his film debut in a small role.
Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, The (1956) - Theatrical Trailer
Man of the West (1958) - Theatrical Trailer
Man Who Cheated Himself, The (1950) - Full Film
The Man Who Cheated Himself is a 1950 American crime film noir directed by Felix E. Feist, and starring Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt and John Dall. It was shot on location in San Francisco.
Song of Bernadette, The (1943) - Theatrical Trailer
Lee J. Cobb on Television
Death of a Salesman (1966) - Act One
Death of a Salesman (1966) - Act Two
Death of a Salesman is a 1966 CBS television film adapted from the play of the same name by Arthur Miller. It was directed by Alex Segal and adapted for television by Miller. It received numerous nominations for awards, and won several of them, including three Primetime Emmy Awards, a Directors Guild of America Award and a Peabody Award. It was nominated in a total of 11 Emmy categories at the 19th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1967. Lee J. Cobb reprised his role as Willy Loman from the original 1949 stage production. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance. Mildred Dunnock, who had co-starred in both the original stage version and the 1951 film version, again repeated her role as Linda, Willy's devoted wife, and earned an Emmy nomination. In addition to being Emmy-nominated, Cobb and Dunnock were Grammy Award-nominated at the 9th Grammy Awards in 1967 in the category of Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording.
Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman, Mildred Dunnock as Linda Loman, James Farentino as Happy Loman, George Segal as Biff Loman, Gene Wilder as Bernard.
Edward Andrews as Charley, Albert Dekker as Uncle Ben, Marge Redmond as Woman in Hotel, Bernie Kopell as Howard Wagner, June Foray as Jenny, Stanley Adams as Stanley, Marc Fiorini as Stanley, Joan Patrick as Miss Forsythe, Karen Steele as Letta.
Lights Out | "The Veil" | Originally Aired - October 29, 1951
Lights Out is an American radio program devoted mostly to horror and the supernatural. Lights Out became a regular NBC-TV series in 1949. It aired live. "The Veil" stars Lee J. Cobb and Arlene Francis.
Medic | "Break Through the Bars" | Originally Aired - March 14, 1955
Medic is an American medical drama that aired on NBC from 1954 to 1956. Medic starred Richard Boone. "Break Through the Bars" stars Richard Boone, Lee J. Cobb, Lillian Culver, King Donovan, Forrest Lewis, James Hyland, Russ Whiteman, James Anderson, and Lester Dorr.
Tales of Tomorrow | "Test Flight" | Originally Aired - October 26, 1951
Tales of Tomorrow is an American anthology science fiction series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. "Test Flight" stars Lee J. Cobb, Vinton Hayworth, Cameron Prud'Homme, and Harry Townes.
Lee J. Cobb on the Radio
"The Song of Bernadette" on Hollywood Star Time: April 21, 1946 with Vincent Price, Lee J. Cobb, Vanessa Brown, Charles Bickford.
"Johnny O'Clock" on Lux Radio Theatre: May 12, 1947 with Dick Powell and Lee J. Cobb.
"The Bet" on Suspense: November 8, 1945 with Lee J. Cobb.
TCM's Summer Under the Stars - Lee J. Cobb - August 17, 2015
Men of Boys Town (1941)
D: Norman Taurog. Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Bobs Watson, Larry Nunn, Darryl Hickman, Henry O'Neill, Lee J. Cobb. Father Flanagan continues to fight for his pioneering orphanage. Lee J. Cobb plays Dave Morris, Father Flanagan's pawnbroker pal.
Brothers Karamazov, The (1958)
D: Richard Brooks. Yul Brynner, Maria Schell, Claire Bloom, Lee J. Cobb, Richard Basehart, William Shatner, Albert Salmi. Set in 19th-century Russia, film version of Dostoyevsky's tragedy revolving about death of a dominating father (Cobb) and effect on his sons: fun-seeking Brynner, scholarly Basehart, religious Shatner, and epileptic Salmi. Exceptionally well scripted by Brooks. William Shatner's first film.
D: Otto Preminger. Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Ralph Richardson, Peter Lawford, Lee J. Cobb, Sal Mineo, John Derek, Hugh Griffith, Gregory Ratoff, Felix Aylmer, Jill Haworth, David Opatoshu, Marius Goring, George Maharis. Leon Uris' sprawling history of Palestinian war for liberation becomes sporadic action epic. Newman as Israeli resistance leader, Saint as non-Jewish army nurse aren't a convincing duo; supporting roles offer stereotypes. Best scene shows refugees escaping Cyprus detention center, running British blockade into homeland. Ernest Gold won an Oscar for his score. Super Panavision 70.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The (1962)
D: Vincente Minnelli. Glenn Ford, Ingrid Thulin, Charles Boyer, Lee J. Cobb, Paul Henreid, Paul Lukas, Yvette Mimieux. This 1962 film is a remake of Valentino's 1921 film of the same name. The World War I setting of the original Blasco-Ibanez novel has been updated to World War II, but the basic plot remains the same. A well-to-do Argentinian family, rent asunder by the death of patriarch Lee J. Cobb, scatters to different European countries in the late 1930s. Before expiring, Cobb had warned his nephew Carl Boehm that the latter's allegiance to the Nazis would bring down the wrath of the titular Four Horsemen: War, Conquest, Famine and Death.
How the West Was Won (1962)
D: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall. Spencer Tracy (narrator), Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, many others. Three generations of pioneers take part in the forging of the American West. Filmed in panoramic Cinerama, this star-studded, epic Western adventure is a true cinematic classic.
Thieves' Highway (1949)
D: Jules Dassin. Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb, Barbara Lawrence, Jack Oakie, Millard Mitchell, Joseph Pevney. Tough postwar drama of a returning vet seeking to avenge his trucker/father's treatment at the hands of a crooked fruit dealer in San Francisco. Masterfully directed; script by A. I. Bezzerides, from his novel. Only the ending seems pat.
12 Angry Men (1957)
D: Sidney Lumet. Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, George Voskovec, Robert Webber, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney. Brilliant film about one man who tries to convince 11 other jurors that their hasty guilty verdict for a boy on trial should be reconsidered. Formidable cast (including several character-stars-to-be); Lumet's impressive debut film. Script by Reginald Rose, from his television play. Remade for TV in 1997.
On the Waterfront (1954)
D: Elia Kazan. Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning, Eva Marie Saint, Leif Erickson, Tony Galento, John Hamilton, Nehemiah Persoff. Budd Schulberg's unflinching account of N.Y.C. harbor unions (suggested by articles by Malcolm Johnson), with Brando unforgettable as misfit, Steiger his crafty brother, Cobb his waterfront boss, and Saint the girl he loves. That classic scene in the back of a taxicab is just as moving as ever. Winner of eight Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Brando), Supporting Actress (Saint), Story & Screenplay, Cinematography (Boris Kaufman), Art Direction-Set Decoration (Richard Day), and Editing (Gene Milford). Leonard Bernstein's music is another major asset. Film debuts of Saint, Martin Balsam, Fred Gwynne, and Pat Hingle. Adapted as a Broadway show decades later. Lee J. Cobb's electrifying performance as Friendly—a bully destined to crumble and fall when one man becomes determined to defy him—remains every bit as impressive as those of Brando and Steiger.
Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
D: John Cromwell. Irene Dunne, Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Lee J Cobb, Gale Sondergaard, Mikhail Rasumny. Sumptuous production chronicling the experiences of a British governess in 19th-century Thailand, and her battle of wits with strong-willed ruler. Based on Margaret Landon's book about real-life Anna Leonowens (renamed Anna L. Owens in the movie). Dunne and Harrison (in his Hollywood debut) are superb; won Oscars for Cinematography (Arthur Miller) and Art Direction/Set Decoration (then known as "Interior Decoration"). Screenplay by Talbot Jennings and Sally Benson. Later musicalized as The King and I; remade as Anna and the King.
They Came to Rob Las Vegas a.k.a. Las Vegas 500 Milliones (1969)
D: Antonio Isasi Isasmendi. Gary Lockwood, Elke Sommer, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Palance, Jean Servais. A casino blackjack dealer plots to hijack and rob an armored car.