in the stage play "The Kibitzer"
| This play is Edward G. Robinson's
sole credit as a dramatic writer. Under not unsimilar circumstances,
the making of "The Red House" (1947) was the only time he functioned
as a film producer. He had no particular aspirations to be either a writer
or producer, much less a film director, like so many other actors of
his time... Nevertheless, he did write "The Kibitzer" with Jo Swerling.
Swerling had written the play that Robinson played in Atlantic
City in the summer of 1927. Robinson had high regard for Swerling's skill
as a playwright, and he was pleased that the well-written character of
Lazarus afforded him star billing for the first time.
The script, unfortunately, wasn't strong enough to sustain a long run. Robinson was convinced that the play could be saved. Working with Swerling, he acted out various scenes while the author made changes. Ultimately, the title page of the revised play bore the name of a co-author --- a surprised Edward G. Robinson!
"Robinson loved doing a part that was both comic and sentimental," noted Foster Hirsch. "He thought it would be his insurance policy for years." But the stock market crash and the Depression, together with the exciting developement of talking films, lessened the play's impact. Robinson lost the role of Lazarus in the film to Harry Green.
The re-written script for the play was very successful: NY TIMES: "...by virtue of Robinson's presence (it is)...an enjoyable piece of theatre..a mechanical, highly colored comedy which at times is more than a little preposterous. But it is also infectiously good-natured and human...with a fair share of amusing lines and situations. The play is entirely Mr. Robinson and his performance. The portrayal..by the actor of finish and variety is full length, revealing him in nearly all his moods and aspects. So credible an impersonation is it that you often wish that the play were a little more believable... For Mr. Robinson it constitutes a minor sort of triumph, another scalp added to his list of histrionic achievements."
THEATRE ARTS MONTHLY commented: "Hardly a season fails to demonstrate Robinson's astonishing talents as a character actor."
THE NATION said: "Mr. Robinson brings his usual excellent technique and gift for characterization to 'The Kibitzer.' He is so completely the shabby little trader..that one begins to doubt if he were ever anyone else."