Help sustain virtual community and online resources that are vital in this time of isolation and uncertainty. Donate today to support JWA before our June 30 year-end. Thank you!
Close [x]

Show [+]

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.

Topics: Television, Film, Theater

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

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

Bronx, NY
United States

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sylvia Sidney." (Viewed on June 2, 2020) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

The JWA Podcast

Can We Talk?

listen now

Get JWA in your inbox