Performing Arts: Theater
Celia Adler’s popularity as a Yiddish actor made her a force in the Yiddish art theater movement, where she was loved for her ability to combine pathos and charm. In 1918, she joined Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theater, and in 1919 she founded the Jewish Art Theater with several other actors. Her successful performance career lasted until her last film, Naked City, in 1948.
In her powerful performances of plays ranging from Shakespeare’s tragedies to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Sara Adler helped elevate the possibilities of Yiddish theater. Although her reputation as an artist must have benefited from the association with her husband, Jacob P. Adler, Sara Adler was an admired actor and a strong presence on the Yiddish stage.
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.
She has appeared in approximately forty Israeli feature films, dozens of stage plays and television dramas. Her starring roles in films include Siege, 1969; Highway Queen, 1971; House on Chelouche Street, 1973; My Mother the General, 1979; Summer of Aviya, 1988; Life According to Agfa, 1992; Sh’chur, 1994; and Passover Fever, 1995.
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.
Arthur will probably always be best known for portraying liberal Maude Findlay, the “women’s libber” who stuck it to Archie Bunker on television’s All in the Family and then dominated her own situation comedy, Maude, throughout the 1970s. Arthur’s imperious and controversial Maude left a lasting imprint on American television and feminism.
Lauren Bacall’s 1944 Hollywood debut in To Have and Have Not catapulted this young Jewish actress into instant stardom. Costarring with her husband-to-be, Humphrey Bogart, Bacall soon became known for “The Look”—downturned head, eyes looking up, suggestive of a young woman sexually wise beyond her years. She and Bogart were one of Hollywood’s most famous couples, both on screen and off, and Bacall was famous for her characterizations of women whose strong will complemented, rather than detracted from, their sexual attraction.
Cora Baird was half of the world-renowned Bil & Cora Baird Marionettes.
Belle Baker has been described as a famed torch singer and vaudeville star, as well as a Yiddish, Broadway, and motion picture actor.
Long before Mae West, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlowe, and Madonna vamped their way across the silver screen, there was Theda Bara—the original celluloid “vamp.”
Winner of several Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress awards from the Israel Institute of Cinema, the multi-talented Michal Bat Adam was the first Israeli woman to direct a feature film.
Upon her arrival in Palestine in 1923, nineteen-year-old Mita Gutgeld tried her hand at house plastering, tractor driving—and writing plays. As Shulamith Bat Dori, she pioneered the kibbutz theater and staged major theatrical performances which, at the beginning of the 1950s, were attended by ten percent of the country’s population.
Nora Bayes was a star in vaudeville and musical comedy in the early twentieth century. Known for her lush singing voice and hilarious acting, Bayes was a part of the Ziegfeld Follies, the Keith vaudeville circuit, and had her own one-woman show. Bayes had many arguments with male producers, theater administrators, and businessmen, as she often questioned the traditional role of women and asserted her independence.
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.
An exception in the entertainment industry, which is dominated by brash individuals in their twenties and thirties, Berman is a thoughtful fortyish mother of twins, best known for her work on Broadway and for bringing positive portrayals of women to television. She is also an entertainment executive renowned for bringing stability to desperately unstable situations.
The French actress Sarah Bernhardt, named by her fans the “Divine Sarah,” is recognized as the first international stage star.
In the world of theater, Aline Bernstein is remembered as one of the most important designers of the first half of the twentieth century.
Miriam Bernstein-Cohen, actor, director, poet and translator, was born in Kishinev in 1895.
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.
Anita Block helped to found one of the first socialist newspapers in the United States, the New York Call, serving as the editor of its women’s page and as its drama critic from 1903 until 1923, when the paper closed during the antiradical, anti-immigrant sentiment following World War I.
A beautiful and accomplished stage and screen actress, Blondell was born on August 30, 1906 (some accounts say 1909) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
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.
Helen Abrahams Blum was an artist who developed a passion for theater. Blum exhibited her work in various galleries throughout the United States and designed scenery and costumes for the Little Theater Movement. She was an active member of the Rodeph Shalom Sisterhood and the international peace movement.
Brazil is home to the second largest Jewish community in South America. Jewish women played important roles in the absorption of Jewish immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and also made important contributions to Brazilian intellectual and artistic life.