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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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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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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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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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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 ...