Performing Arts: Film
As an actress, director, and teacher, Stella Adler transformed a generation of American actors. After achieving stardom in films and on stage, Adler traveled to Paris to rethink the possibilities of Method acting with Stanislavsky. She transmitted the new acting techniques to her students and energized a generation of younger actors who shared her passion for the theater.
French actress Anouk Aimée is perhaps best known for her remarkable presence as an icon of cool, sophisticated beauty in more than seventy films across seven decades. She brilliantly dramatized her identity as a Jewish woman affected by the burden of history in her 2002 role as a Holocaust survivor returning to Auschwitz in La Petite prairie aux bouleaux (The Little Meadow of Birch-Trees).
Israeli writer, actress, and filmmaker Gila Almagor’s acclaimed 1988 autobiographical film Summer of Aviya and its sequel Under the Domin Tree bought attention to post-Holocaust trauma and depression, which were often scorned by Israeli society. Almagor is also a founder of the Israeli Union of Performing Artists, the Tel Aviv International Film Festival, and the Gila Almagor Wishes Foundation.
Anna Appel was known for her performance of motherly characters in Yiddish and English roles and had a successful career in Yiddish vaudeville, film, and on Broadway. Appel had her big break in 1918 in Morris Schwartz’s popular Yiddish Art Theater; she performed there for ten years, before moving to Yiddish film. In 1928 she made her Broadway debut and performed until 1959.
Eve Arnold was a groundbreaking photographer and writer, known for photographing fashion in Harlem, the McCarthy hearings, the civil rights movement, and Marilyn Monroe, as well as life in China, England, and the Soviet Union. Arnold was the first American woman accepted into Magnum Photos and is credited with making a remarkable artistic contribution to twentieth-century photography.
In Britain, both feminism and feminist art took considerably longer to emerge and make their mark than in the United States, but when they did, many Jewish women artists created profound artistic work. British Jewish women artists generally hold both Jewishness and gender as central to their artistic output. Their art reveals the diverse ways in which women perceive their Jewishness in contemporary Britain.
The life of Ellen Auerbach was a constant journey of self-discovery. Auerbach was remarkable both for her avant-garde photography and for her innovative ringl+pit studio where she and fellow artist Grete Stern worked collaboratively. In addition to photography, Auerbach m,ade short films and worked as an educational therapist with learning-disabled children.
The first Jewish women, like the first Jewish men, arrived in Australia on the very first day of European settlement in 1788. Those convict pioneers were followed by free settlers who made Jewish communal and congregational life viable and helped to develop the vast continent. Jewish women have made significant contributions to Australia's national story.
Lauren Bacall’s 1944 Hollywood debut in To Have and Have Not catapulted her into instant stardom. Costarring with her husband-to-be, Humphrey Bogart, Bacall soon became known for her smoldering look. Throughout her career, Bacall felt pressure to relinquish her Jewish identity but held a strong allegiance to her first-generation Jewish immigrant family.
Belle Baker has been described as a famed torch singer and vaudeville star, as well as a Yiddish, Broadway, and motion picture actor. Among the songs associated with her are “Eli Eli” and “My Yiddishe Mama.” Her resonant voice made her the first choice of many composers to debut their songs, and she helped to introduce 163 songs to the public throughout her career.
Theda Bara was a film icon of sensuality and the exotic for generations. Bara’s magnetic performance in her debut film A Fool There Was made her an overnight success, and between 1915 and 1919 she starred in over forty films. Unfortunately, Bara’s dark exoticism was short-lived and she was passed over in favor of more “wholesome” starlets, but she remains a cinematic icon.
Writer, playwright, and screenwriter Vicki Baum is best known for her book, adapted into both the Broadway play and Oscar winning film, Grand Hotel. She wrote over 30 books and became one of the world’s best-selling authors of her time. Her works frequently depict powerful, self-reliant women.
Award-winning cultural anthropologist Ruth Behar has conducted groundbreaking research in Spain, Mexico, and her native Cuba. Her innovations in cultural representation have transformed ethnographic writing and reached a broad, non-academic audience through her film, poetry, personal essays, and young adult fiction.
Elisabeth Bergner, born in Austrian Galicia, was one of the most successful and popular stage and screen actresses in pre-World War II Germany, known for her superior artistic skills and wide variety of roles. During the war, she helped actors escape Germany. She was honored with the Schiller Prize of the City of Mannheim, the Ernst Lubitsch Prize, and the Austrian Cross of Merit for Science and Art.
Miriam Bernstein-Cohen was an influential actor, director, poet, and translator in Europe and Israel. She was a versatile actor, appearing successfully both in comedies and in serious plays with the Ohel, Matateh, and Haifa Municipal Theater companies. In addition to her theater work, she wrote books and essays on theater and literature throughout her life.
Glika Bilavsky’s activities ran the gamut of secular Yiddish culture, from her political activism to her theatrical career. She fled Poland with her fiancé, Morris Bilavsky, in 1907 and settled in Copenhagen, where the pair married and created a Yiddish theater troupe. In 1921, the couple moved to New York, where Bilavsky performed and volunteered for Hadassah, United Jewish Appeal, and the women’s auxiliary of Mizrahi.
A beautiful and accomplished stage and screen actress, Joan Blondell was known for playing character roles as a wisecracking, working-class girl. Blondell toured all over the world, performed on Broadway, and eventually ended up in Hollywood doing movie and television work. In 1972 she wrote a novel, Center Door Fancy, based on her own life and career.