Lee J. Cobb was born under the name Leo Jacoby to a Jewish family in New York. His father was a newspaper editor.
At a young age it was clear that Cobb was a musical prodigy. He was an especially talented violin and harmonica player. Cobb broke his wrist as a teenager and his violin career was over. At the age of seventeen, Cobb ran away to Los Angeles to try to become an actor. Finding himself unlucky in Hollywood, Cobb returned to his hometown to take accounting classes at the City College of New York. At the same time, Cobb acted in radio dramas during the day.
Cobb gave a few more attempts to acting and, in his early years, had little luck in both Hollywood and on Broadway.
In 1935, Cobb joined Group Theater - a politically left-wing theater group. Many of the members were black-listed during the McCarthy era.
In 1937, Cobb played in the western films North of the Rio Grande and Rustler's Valley
Cobb's biggest break came in 1949 when he starred in the original broadway production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
After his fame, Cobb too was accused of Communist allegiances. Being called to the Un-American Activities Committee in 1953, Cobb gave over names so as to protect his career and his family.
In 1954, Cobb was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the film On the Waterfront.
Cobb played major roles in Exodus (1960), How the West Was Won (1962), Our Man Flint (1966) and The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970) among others. His last major Hollywood film role was his participation in The Exorcist (1973).
Cobb died on February eleventh, 1976, afte suffering from a heart attack. He is buried in Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.