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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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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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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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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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Sheila Van Damm (1922–1987) by Lewis Morley, 1962 © Lewis Morley, courtesy of The Akehurst Bureau; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Damm, Sheila Van (1922–1987), rally driver and theatre director, was born on 17 January 1922 in Gloucester Terrace, Paddington, London, the youngest of three daughters (there were no sons) of Vivian Van Damm (d. 1960) and his wife, Natalie Lyons. Although her father had sponsored motorcycle speedway events in the 1920s, before inheriting the ...

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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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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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Goldfaden, Avrom (1840–1908), playwright and theatre director, was born in Old Constantine, Ukraine, on 12 July 1840, one of four sons born to Khayim Lipe Goldenfodem, a watchmaker, and his wife, Khane Rivke. Like his brothers, he was apprenticed to his father, but in an effort to take advantage of a new tsarist decree offering the sons of Jewish families an alternative to conscription, he was sent to the rabbinical academy in ...

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Lew Grade, Baron Grade (1906–1998) by Cornel Lucas, 1996 © Cornel Lucas; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Grade, Lew, Baron Grade (1906–1998), theatrical agent, television executive, and film producer, was born Louis Winogradsky on 25 December 1906 at Tokmak, near Odessa, Ukraine, the eldest of four children, three boys and a girl, of Isaac Winogradsky (c.1879–1935), and his wife, ...

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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 ...