William Link and Richard Levinson, creators of TV's "Columbo", initially wanted Cobb to portray Lt. Columbo, but he was unavailable.
Arthur Miller offered him the lead role of Eddie Carbone in his Broadway play "A View from the Bridge." While an outsider might think that the politically progressive Miller would be hostile to the actor due to Cobb's friendly testimony before the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee, during which he "named names," Miller thought Cobb would be ideal for the role. Himself a target of the witch hunt for alleged Communists undertaken by the government, Miller believed that Cobb would bring real intensity to Carbone, who informs on his relatives to the immigration service, as he himself had been an informer. Cobb turned down the role, as he believed that to accept it would open him up to retaliation from the reactionary right and jeopardize his career.
Appeared with Harry Morgan, the father of his future son-in-law Christopher Morgan, in How the West Was Won (1962).
Featured in "Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir" by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry (McFarland, 2003).
Former father-in-law of Christopher Morgan.
Grandfather of Rosemary Morgan.
He was also an accomplished harmonica artist. He was a member of the famed Borrah Minevitch and His Harmonica Rascals, who appeared in the 1928 film, The Patriot (1928) starring Lewis Stone, and directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
His performance of 'King Lear' in 1968 is the longest-running production of the play in Broadway history.
In his autobiography "Timebends," Arthur Miller says that Lee J. Cobb was his favorite Willy Loman. He also says that Cobb was never really a leftist as he was apolitical, but that he had been attracted to left-wing and anti-Nazi causes during the Depression as had many people who were trying to do right. Thus, Miller never held the fact that he was a friendly witness before HUAAC against him. A decade after his testimony, Cobb's Willy Loman was captured for posterity, with the 1966 video version. By then, Miller had even worked again with Elia Kazan, the most famous and unrepentant of the people who knuckled under and "named names."
The part of Willy Loman in the stage play "Death of a Salesman" was written specifically for him by Arthur Miller.
Was a good friend with screenwriter Alvah Bessie, a Communist Party member who was one of the Hollywood 10, until Cobb refused to lend him $500 in the late 1940s. Bessie had been ruined financially by legal fees connected to his appeals of his contempt citation issued by the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC). Bessie and other members of the Hollywood 10 braved the Committee's inquisition into communists and fellow-travelers in the film industry by refusing to cooperate. When Cobb told him that $500 wouldn't solve his problems, their friendship was over. Cobb later turned out with hundreds of sympathizers of the Hollywood 10 to show their support for the members who were flying to Washington, D.C. for their trials on charges of contempt of Congress levied by HUAC. Later, Cobb would be a friendly witness before HUAC, naming names of fellow former communists and leftists from his Group Theater days in New York in the 1930s.
Was succeeded in two of his roles by the late George C. Scott. Cobb died shortly after playing Lt. Kinderman in The Exorcist (1973). Scott took over the part in the third film. Cobb played Juror #3 in 12 Angry Men (1957) and Scott played that part in the television remake. Scott also played Willy Loman in the Broadway revival of "Death of a Salesman," a part Cobb originated. 12 Angry Men (1997) (TV).