So I am watching an episode of the 1960’s Batman series that I recorded with my over-the-air DVR, and this pops up:

It took me a moment to realize that that’s Edward G. Robinson! He was an art collector. Sadly, he was forced to liquidate an amazing collection in the 1950’s to pay for a divorce settlement and because his career suffered in the 1950’s when he made enemies during the McCarthy hearings. (It’s complicated, and he’s not entirely a victim.)

He was on the Fox lot to audition for a little movie called “Planet of the Apes.” Here are a pitch and a makeup test. He’s in there a few minutes in:

Planet of the Apes is, in my opinion, one of the best science-fiction movies ever made. Good science fiction has themes and Planet of the Apes is about race, politics, truth, and life in a hierarchal society.

If you watch this entire video you can see some of the changes it went through. The original script, co-written by science-fiction giant Rod Serling, called for a more modern society for the apes but budget cuts led to what we eventually saw. The dialogue also improved with rewrites.

Even with the stripped-down sets, the core themes stay, and may even be better served with a less flashy film.

Even though Maurice Evans’ performance as Dr. Zaius is superlative, can you imagine it with Edward G. Robinson’s menace? Wow.

It was largely Robinson’s performance in the test that sold the movie to Fox. So in a way, Little Caesar gave us Andy Serkis’ Caesar, in the rebooted franchise:

The new franchise (we won’t talk about that other movie that Burton guy made) has stuck to the themes and 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was an outstanding addition to the franchise. I am looking forward to War.