Joseph Edward Bromberg (December 25, 1903 – December 6, 1951) was a Romanian-born American character actor in motion picture and stage productions dating mostly from the 1930s and 1940s.
Life and career
Born Josef Bromberger in Temeschburg (Temesvár), Austria-Hungary (now Timişoara, Romania), he was five years old when his family immigrated to the United States, settling in New York City. After graduating from Stuyvesant High School, he went to work to help pay for acting lessons with the Russian coach Leo Bulgakov, who had trained with Constantin Stanislavski. By virtue of his physique, the short, somewhat rotund actor was destined to play secondary roles. Bromberg made his stage debut at the Greenwich Village Playhouse and in 1926 made his first appearance in a Broadway play. The following year, Bromberg married Goldie Doberman, with whom he had three children.
Occasionally credited as Joseph Bromberg, he performed secondary roles in 35 Broadway productions and 53 motion pictures until 1951. For two decades, Bromberg was highly regarded in the New York theatrical world and was a founding member of the Civic Repertory Theatre (1928–1930) and of the Group Theatre (1931-1940).
Bromberg made his screen debut in 1936 under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox. The versatile actor played a wide variety of roles ranging from a ruthless New York newspaper editor (in Charlie Chan on Broadway) to a despotic Arabian sheik (in Mr. Moto Takes a Chance). Although he spoke with no trace of an accent, he was often called upon to play humble immigrants of various nationalities. When Warner Oland, the actor who played Charlie Chan, died in 1938, Fox considered J. Edward Bromberg as a suitable replacement, but the role ultimately went to Sidney Toler. Fox began loaning Bromberg to other studios in 1939 and finally dropped him from the roster in 1941. He kept working for various producers, including a stint at Universal Pictures in the mid-1940s.
Bromberg's most outstanding attribute was his facility with sensitive character roles; he could take a standard, undistinguished supporting part and make it unforgettably sympathetic. In Hollywood Cavalcade he's Don Ameche's friend who knows he will never get the girl; in Three Sons he's the lowly business associate who longs to be given a partnership; in Easy to Look At he's the once-great couturier now reduced to night watchman.
In September 1950, the anti-communist magazine Red Channels accused Bromberg of being a member of the American Communist Party. Subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in June 1951, Bromberg refused to answer any questions in accordance with his Fifth Amendment rights. As a result, he was blacklisted from Hollywood. He suffered enormous stress from the ordeal; friends noted that he aged considerably in a very short time. In 1951 Bromberg sought work in England, but died within the year of a heart attack while working in the London play The Biggest Thief in Town. He was just a few weeks short of his forty-eighth birthday.
In 1952, he and seven other Group Theater members were named by Elia Kazan as Communist Party members in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
- Princess Turandot (1926) as Tartaglia and as Ishmael
- House of Connelly (1931) as Duffy
- Night Over Taos (1932) as Pablo Montoya
- Both Your Houses (1933) as Wingblatt
- Men in White (1933) as Dr. Hochberg
- Gold Eagle Guy (1934) as Guy Button
- Awake and Sing! (1935) as Uncle Morty
- Jacobowsky and the Colonel (1945) as Szabuniewicz
- The Big Knife (1949) as Marcus Hoff
- Ladies in Love (1936)
- Stowaway (1936)
- Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937)
- Second Honeymoon (1937)
- Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938)
- Suez (1938)
- The Baroness and the Butler (1938)
- Hollywood Cavalcade (1939)
- Jesse James (1939)
- Strange Cargo (1940)
- The Mark of Zorro (1940)
- Pacific Blackout (1941)
- Phantom of the Opera (1943)
- Son of Dracula (1943)
- Chip Off the Old Block (1944)
- The Missing Corpse (1945)
- The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1946)
- Cloak and Dagger (1946)
- Arch of Triumph (1948)
- Guilty Bystander (1950)