Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Christopher Cross in Scarlet Street.
Robinson is out of his most known mold again here as the overly aptly named Christopher Cross who is an aged cashier who by chance comes across a young woman after he stops her from an apparent mugging. Where Robinson in his earlier effort in Lang played his character as an old man who just really was too old to get involved with such a plot, here Robinson has a completely meek role which is certainly different than his usual type of character. Robinson though is very interesting in his performance and changes his usual screen presence. Where Robinson usually plays parts with a firm voice and strong intensity in him here Robinson appropriately switches to a weaker somewhat wavering speech pattern, and in general his physical state is far more retiring than usual.
Christopher is a rather pathetic sort who we find being pushed around by his wife constantly, and his only solace is to pursue the younger woman who he fails to realize is just trying to extort as much money out of him as possible for some feigned affection. Robinson manages to be quite moving as Chris because although his intent is definitely to commit adultery he makes it easy to see that all Chris is looking for is some genuine affection from someone which he never gets from his wife and thinks he can get from this young woman. Robinson plays up the meekness just enough so that Chris does not become a parody, but makes it it extremely easy to see why it is that Chris is so easily tricked by always emphasizing that desire for some sort of greater comfort.
The only time that Christopher seems truly happy is when he painting or discussing painting, and Robinson pulls away the meekness to exemplify a stronger passion within the man, although never stronger enough to really come right out and do something for himself. Robinson is very effective by giving the truth to the situation as Christopher continually is mistreated over and over again and he basically just keeps going more and more. Robinson makes Christopher's yearning something very strong within Christoper as there is always a certain earnestness within him, yet at the same time he shows it as something that weakens him as the yearning forces him to do basically anything that he will believe will finally fulfill him.
Robinson finds the right dynamic for Chris in his early scenes and builds the intensity until soon enough that Christopher finds he has been misused the entire time, which leads him to the murder. Although I do think the scene he is earned by Robinson I do feel Lang's does not quite give the scene the impact it should have by the way it seems to rushed. Technically it could have either been faster paced for the purpose of being more dramatic or slower to build to the moment a little more but Lang's takes a slightly awkward approach which weakens Robinson's performance a bit. Luckily though the film immediately picks up afterwards though as for once in the 40's a murderer not only gets away with it even allows another man to be executed for it.
Christopher despite avoiding execution hardly gets to enjoy much of it as he losing his wife, his job, and can't even take credit for his paintings that have become popular lest it lead him to the execution chamber. Robinson's is excellent in these final scenes of the film as he portrays the complete degradation of Chris as he has to deal with both the guilt of his crime but as well be haunted by the fact that no one actually ever cared for him. It is remarkable to see Robinson play such a vulnerable cahracter but he absolutely pulls it off and creates a palatable despair in his characterization making it so the ending the film has the needed impact that was a bit lacking in the murder scene. This is a strong piece of work by Edward G. Robinson and proves his abilities went beyond the fierce quick talkers he is known for.