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Adler, Jacob (1855–1926), actor, was born on 1 January 1855 in Odessa, Ukraine, the son of Feivl Abramovich, an Orthodox Jewish wheat merchant, and his wife, Hesye. Of the twelve children of Hesye and Feivl (she had one son with her first husband, whom she divorced), only ...

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Banbury, (Frederick Harold) Frith (1912–2008), actor, theatre director, and producer, was born on 4 May 1912 at 8 The Terrace, The Hoe, Plymouth, the elder child of Captain Frederick Arthur Frith Banbury (1874–1951), naval officer, and his wife, Winifred, née Fink (1876/7–1960). His sister ...

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Thompson Cooper

revised by John Wells

Barnett, Morris (1800–1856), actor and playwright, was of Jewish descent. He trained as a musician, and the earlier part of his life was spent in Paris. Having resolved to earn his living as an actor, he went as a comedian to Brighton and then to ...

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Bass, Alfred [Alfie] [formerly Abraham Basalinsky] (1916–1987), actor, was born on 10 April 1916 at 7 Gibraltar Walk, Bethnal Green, London, the youngest among the ten children of Jacob Basalinsky, a cabinet-maker, and his wife, Ada Miller. After an elementary school education he followed his father's trade, but was also engaged in local boys' club dramatics. He was early on active in supporting the labour movement, often attended union meetings, and took part in the battle of ...

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Feinman, Sigmund [real name Asher-Zelig Feinman] (1862–1909), actor and playwright, was born Asher-Zelig Feinman on 28 April 1862 in Intshest, Ukraine. Since both his grandfathers had prominent roles in the synagogue, it was natural for Feinman to receive a traditional religious education. His father, however, was a manufacturer, and thus receptive to influences from beyond the Jewish sphere, so he sent his son to secular schools as well....

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Sir Augustus Henry Glossop Harris (1852–1896) by Walery, before 1891 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Harris, Sir Augustus Henry Glossop (1852–1896), actor and theatre manager, was born on 18 March 1852 in the rue Taitbout, Paris, one of five children of the theatre manager Augustus Glossop Harris (1826–1873) and his wife, née Maria Ann Bone, a theatrical costumier....

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Harvey, Laurence [real name Hirsch Moses Skikne] (1928–1973), actor and film director, was born on 1 October 1928 in Joniskis, Lithuania, the youngest of the three sons of Orthodox Jewish parents, Ber Skikne (1895/6–1974) and his wife, Ella Zotnickaita (1897/8–1974). In 1929, endeavouring to improve his prospects as a building contractor, his father emigrated to ...

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Sidney James (1913–1976) by unknown photographer © National Portrait Gallery, London

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James, Sidney [Sid] [real name Sidney Joel Cohen] (1913–1976), actor, was born on 8 May 1913 in Hancock Street, Johannesburg, South Africa, the second of the two sons of Laurie Cohen (b. 1878) and his wife, Reine Solomon. His parents were both Jewish music-hall entertainers who had moved to ...

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David Kossoff (1919–2005) by unknown photographer, 1987 Rex Features

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Kossoff, David (1919–2005), actor and broadcaster, was born on 24 November 1919, at the Mothers' Hospital, Clapton, London, the son of Lewis (Louis) Kossoff, tailor, and his wife, Annie, née Shaklovich. At the time of his birth registration his parents, Russian Jewish immigrants, lived at ...

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Milton, Ernest Gianello (1890–1974), actor and author, was born in San Francisco, California, USA, on 10 January 1890, the son of Martin Lichtenstaater Milton and Selma, née Wolff. He was educated at Clement Grammar School, San Francisco, and privately. His first performance on stage was in October 1912 at the ...

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Pinter, Harold (1930–2008), actor, playwright, and director, was born on 10 October 1930 at Tudor House, Newington Green, London, the only child of Hyman (Jack) Pinter (1902–1997), ladies' tailor, and his wife, Frances, née Moskowitz (1904–1992). At the time of his birth his parents lived at ...

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Harold Pinter (1930–2008) by Justin Mortimer, 1992 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Samuel Wanamaker (1919–1993) by Robin Mayes, 1993 © News International Newspapers Ltd

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Wanamaker [formerly Watenmaker], Samuel [Sam] (1919–1993), actor and director, was born Samuel Watenmaker on 14 June 1919 in Chicago, USA, the second son of Morris Watenmaker, later Wanamaker, and his wife, Molly, née Bobele. His parents were first generation Russian-Jewish immigrants. It is quite possible that his stage début as a teenager in a plywood and paper replica of the ...