Molly Picon

Active - 1923 - 1984  |   Born - Jun 1, 1898   |   Died - Apr 5, 1992   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Pixieish singer-comedienne Picon began her career in the Yiddish theatre at age 6 in her native Philadelphia. After Picon's New York debut at the Arch Street theatre in 1912, she ascended to stardom with the Second Avenue Yiddish Stage, then toured vaudeville in an act called The Four Seasons. Such was her popularity in the 1920s that many of her stage vehicles had the name "Molly" incorporated in their titles; in 1931, she opened a theatre bearing her name. In films from the silent era, Molly is most fondly remembered for her Yiddish-language vehicles of the 1930s. Her all-time best feature was 1936's Yidl with the Fiddle, a captivating musical directed on location in Poland by Joseph Green; Molly was never more charming than as the itinerant Jewish musician who disguises herself as a boy to fend off unwanted male advances. Back in the U.S. when war broke out, Picon made her English-language stage debut in 1940. She alternated between the Yiddish and "mainstream" stage throughout the 1950s and 1960s; on Broadway, she starred in Neil Simon's first play Come Blow Your Horn and in the 1961 musical Milk and Honey. It was in the film version of Come Blow Your Horn that Picon first spoke English on the big screen (she had previously made several delightful TV appearances, notably in the recurring role of unflappable Bronx widow Mrs. Bronson on Car 54, Where are You?) Among her very few film roles of the 1970s was Yente the Matchmaker in 1971's Fiddler on the Roof. The widow of Yiddish stage star Jacob Adler (who had been one of her first theatrical directors), Molly Picon summed up her life, work and philosophy in her two volumes of memoirs, So Laugh a Little and The Sound of Laughter.

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