Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Arthur Ferguson Jones and "Killer" Mannion in The Whole Town's Talking.
The Whole Town's Talking offers Edward G. Robinson the chance to go far out of his type, but also play right into it. The out of it type is in the role of the clerk Arthur Ferguson Jones whose main worry at the beginning of the film is just getting to work on time. As usual Robinson proves his measure in yet another type of role here. I've covered him in somewhat meek roles before in his film noirs with Fritz Lang, but this is step away from those roles even. Robinson isn't just meek here he's hilariously meek. Robinson's great though in that he's not playing a guy who is pained in any way due to his modest nature, it's just the way he is. Robinson is delightful in throwing himself fully into playing the role to a tee with every little mannerisms, from his slight smile, to his unassuming physical posture, that just emphasize how much of a harmless man Jones is. There's even a particularly enjoyable scene early on where Jones attempts to fashion a more normalized Edward G. Robinson look, and Robinson is great in portraying Jones awkwardly attempting to contort his face into his normal gangster expression. Robinson though is wonderful though by just how endearing he makes everything about Jones, in just how earnest his depiction of every one of those mannerisms are. There's nothing difficult about them in Robinson's approach, they just are the normal behavior of this sweet clerk.
Many of the highlight scenes of the film are of Robinson acting against Robinson, this being a fairly early example of the single actor sharing chemistry with himself. He has a real way of acting terrifying while acting terrified at the same time, or acting vicious and gentle at the same time. Robinson has a great deal of fun in every one of these scenes developing a rather amusing dynamic with himself as Mannion misuses the poor clerk. Eventually though the best Robinson scene though does come alone when the meek Jones must pretend to be the tough gangster in order to save himself and his friends. Robinson is sort of outstanding in this sequence as he effectively portrays a struggle just to play his usual part in a most entertaining fashion. The best part being without a doubt when Jones has to brandish a Tommy gun himself and fires at Mannion's henchmen. Robinson is downright hilarious in portraying Jones almost crying as he shoots the gun, and wrenching in fear as he attempts to be menacing even for a moment. This is yet another terrific performance from Edward G. Robinson as he excels at not just one but two types of roles in this screwball comedy.
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