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Asherson, Renée [real name Dorothy Renée Ascherson] (1915–2014), actress, was born on 19 May 1915 at 2 Cornwall Gardens, Kensington, London, the younger daughter of Charles Stephen Ascherson (1877–1945), a shipowner of German Jewish descent, and his second wife, ...

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Bernhardt, Sarah Henriette Rosine (1844–1923), actress, was born, probably on 22 or 23 October 1844, in Paris, the first of the three daughters of Julie Bernhardt (d. 1876), a Jewish courtesan from Amsterdam. The identity of her father remains unknown, although he is sometimes given as ...

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Sarah Henriette Rosine Bernhardt (1844–1923) by Histed private collection

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Félix, Elisa [performing name Rachel] (1820/21–1858), actress, was born at Mumpf, a small village in northern Switzerland, the daughter of Jacob Félix, an itinerant pedlar, and his wife, Esther Haya Félix, a dressmaker. Her precise birth date is uncertain: some claim it was 24 March 1820; others prefer a slightly later date, 28 February 1821. The family was passing through on its way to ...

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Elisa Félix [Rachel] (1820/2121–1858) by Édouard-Louis Dubufe, 1850 © Collections de la Comédie-Française

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Gingold, Hermione Ferdinanda (1897–1987), actress, was born in London on 9 December 1897, the elder daughter (there were no sons) of James Gingold, stockbroker, who had emigrated from Austria, and his wife, Kate Walter. She claimed Viennese, Turkish, and Romanian blood on her father's side. Her mother was Jewish....

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Hermione Ferdinanda Gingold (1897–1987) by Francis Goodman, 1945 © reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Karlin, Miriam [real name Miriam Samuels] (1925–2011), actress, was born on 23 June 1925 at 1 Lawn Mansions, Hampstead, London, the younger child of Harry Samuels (1893–1976), barrister, and his wife, Céline, née Aronowitz (d. 1983). Her elder brother, Michael Samuels (1920–2010)...

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See Leon, Jack de

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Adah Isaacs Menken (1835?–1868) by Sarony & Co. © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Menken, Adah Isaacs (1835?–1868), actress and poet, is thought to have been born on 15 June 1835 in New Orleans. At various times in her life she produced different versions of her parentage, giving her father's name as James McCord, Richard Spencer...

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Neilson, Julia Emilie (1868–1957), actress and theatre manager, was born in Tottenham Court Road, London, on 12 June 1868, the only child of Alexander Ritchie Neilson, a silversmith and jeweller, and his wife, Emily Davis, who was one of an unusually gifted Jewish family of five sisters, no fewer than seven of whose offspring became professional actresses. Her widowed mother later married ...

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Julia Emilie Neilson (1868–1957) by Barraud, pubd 1889 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

Norsa, Hannah (d. 1784), singer and actress, was the daughter of Issachar Norsa (d. 1748?), a Jewish tavern keeper. She made her stage début as Polly in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera on 16 December 1732 in the newly opened Covent Garden Theatre...

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Ingrid Pitt (1937–2010) by Bill Zygmant, 1975 © Bill Zygmant / Rex Features

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Pitt, Ingrid (1937–2010), actress and writer, was born on 21 November 1937 in Poland, the daughter of a German father and a Polish Jewish mother. Many biographical accounts give her birth name as Ingoushka Petrov, although the origin of this is unclear. She herself gave her father's name as ...

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Taylor, Dame Elizabeth Rosemond (1932–2011), actress, was born on 27 February 1932 at Heathwood, 8 Wildwood Road, Hampstead, London, the younger child and only daughter of Francis Lenn Taylor (1897–1968), art dealer, and his wife, Sara Viola, née Warmbrodt (1895–1994), a former actress (under the stage name ...

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Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor (1932–2011) by Cecil Beaton, 1954 © Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby's

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Mary Stephens Wells (1762–1829) by John Downman © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Wells [née Davies; other married name Sumbel], Mary Stephens (1762–1829), actress, one of the three daughters of Thomas Davies, a carver and gilder in Birmingham, was born in that city on 16 December 1762. Her father died in a madhouse while she was a small child. Her mother kept a tavern frequented by actors, including ...