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Acting

Film Industry in the United States

The history of Jewish women’s contribution to the Hollywood film industry has been one of gradual progression toward ever higher levels of participation. For most of Hollywood’s history, the dominant tendency was to achieve a universal image that revealed no traces of ethnic heritage. This trend held until the 1960s and affected all ethnic groups. Only a few dozen Jewish actors were able to make their way into stardom under these constraints. Since the 1960s, however, Hollywood films have reflected a higher degree of ethnic diversity. The result of this change is that increasing numbers of Jewish actors have been able to establish careers in Hollywood.

Rose Eytinge

Notorious for her fiery temperament, Rose Eytinge became one of the most popular female stars of the 1860s and 1870s. She was reputedly the first on the American stage to command a three-figure salary.

Louise Dresser

Louise Dresser was a celebrated singer in vaudeville and musical comedy, as well as a star in early motion pictures. She adopted the stage name of Louise Dresser after the songwriter Paul Dresser, an acquaintance of her father, encouraged her to use his name as a strategy for her to gain greater recognition on stage. This ruse, along with several of Paul Dresser’s famous songs, indeed improved Dresser’s drawing power in vaudeville, and she was often believed to be the sister both of Paul Dresser and novelist Theodore Dreiser (Paul Dresser’s brother). Known largely for her rendition of Paul Dresser’s song “My Gal Sal,” she also sang his “On the Banks of the Wabash.”

Selina Dolaro

A woman of gusto and talent, Selina Simmons Belasco Dolaro was an exceptional performer and single mother in late nineteenth-century England and America. Through her income from singing, dancing, acting and writing, she raised and supported four children.

Lili Darvas

International actor Lili Darvas won acclaim in her adopted country, the United States, on stage, in films, and on television. Born in Budapest on April 10, 1902, to Alexander and Berta (Freiberger) Darvas, both of whom were Jewish, she was educated at the Budapest Lyceum. She made her professional debut at age twenty, playing Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the Magyar Szinhas in Budapest. Married to one of Hungary’s outstanding playwrights, Ferenc Molnar, Darvas appeared in a range of modern and classical works and became one of Budapest’s leading actors. Molnar, inspired by her talent, created a series of sparkling plays for her, including Riviera, Olympia, and The Girl from Trieste. In 1926, Darvas joined the acting troupe of the German impresario Max Reinhardt, even though she had learned to speak German only two years earlier, by reciting classical German verse plays for hours at a time.

Shoshana Damari

Shoshana Damari was born in 1923 in the city of Dhamar, Yemen. With the outbreak of anti-Jewish persecution in Yemen in 1924, the family set out on foot for the Land of Israel. Reaching the port of Aden, they continued by ship to Palestine and settled in Rishon le-Zion, where Damari’s father found work as a teacher at a local [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:417]talmud Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary].

Betty Comden

Beginning with On the Town (1944) and continuing with The Will Rogers Follies (1991), Betty Comden’s long career as librettist and lyricist for Broadway and Hollywood has included many classics of American musical comedy. With her partner Adolph Green, Comden has written lyrics and/or librettos for such hits of stage and screen as The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Wonderful Town (1953), The Band Wagon (1953), Peter Pan (1953), Bells Are Ringing (1956), the film version of Auntie Mame (1958), Say Darling (1958), Applause (1970), and On the Twentieth Century (1978).

Zaharirah Charifai

Zaharirah Charifai is a stage and screen actress and director.

Fanny Brice

One of America’s great clowns, Fanny Brice built her career on a Yiddish accent and a flair for zany parody.

 

Claire Bloom

Since her first film role in Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight literally propelled her into the limelight, Claire Bloom has been one of the most iconic and popular actresses of her generation.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Acting." (Viewed on January 28, 2015) <http://jwa.org/topics/acting>.

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