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Sylvia Sidney

In contrast to the helpless waif she played so perfectly on screen, in real life Sylvia Sidney was a strong, opinionated woman who was unafraid to challenge some of the top Hollywood directors of her time. Sidney attended the Theatre Guild School in Manhattan before making her Broadway debut at age sixteen in The Squall. She signed with Paramount for her1931 breakout film, City Streets, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, one of her teachers at the Theatre Guild, and began playing a series of roles as troubled girls wrongfully convicted of crimes. While she disliked playing the victim, her vulnerability and working-class persona resonated with audiences. Over the course of her career, she worked with directors that included Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock, and with leading men such as Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, and Cary Grant. She returned to the stage in 1956, and when she came back to film in 1973, her choice of roles was more varied. She earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, took on a comic role as the caseworker in Beetlejuice, and played a sympathetic grandmother in one of the first TV movies about AIDS, An Early Frost.

Sylvia Sidney in "The Wagons Roll at Night," 1941
Full image
Cropped screenshot of Sylvia Sidney from the trailer for the film The Wagons Roll at Night, 1941.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc./Wikimedia.
Date of Birth
August 8, 1910
Place of Birth
Bronx, New York
Date of Death
July 1, 1999

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sylvia Sidney." (Viewed on January 23, 2018) <>.


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