A distinguished performer, Bertha Kalich performed 125 roles in seven languages and became the first actress to make the transition from Yiddish theater to mainstream American drama in film, radio, and on stage. Kalich studied at the Lemberg Conservatory before joining the chorus of a local Polish theater at thirteen. She quickly became a star of Yiddish theater, performing in Budapest and Romania, where even anti-Semitic audiences who had come to harangue her ended up throwing flowers instead. She moved to the US in 1894 and began pressing the vaudevillian Yiddish theater community for higher artistic standards and serious dramatic material, performing starring roles in new plays to much critical acclaim. In 1905, she performed in her first English language part, the title role in Fédora, and began working to remove her foreign accent. She performed in both Yiddish and English roles on stage and in silent movies until her retirement in 1931, but continued acting in historical radio plays, rehearsing for hours due to her declining eyesight to maintain the high standards she set for her craft.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Bertha Kalich." (Viewed on July 21, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/kalich-bertha>.