Jewish People in Show Business

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1.
Bud Abbott
Long acknowledged as one of the best "straight men" in the business, Bud Abbott was born William Alexander Abbott in Asbury Park, New Jersey, to Rae (Fisher) and Harry Abbott, who had both worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He himself worked in carnivals while still a child and dropped out of school in 1909...
 
2.
Mason Adams
Actor, Lou Grant
Mason Adams was well known for playing Pepper Young on the popular radio soap opera series Pepper Young's Family throughout the 1940 and 1950s. He was also heard on most of the successful radio programs during radio's "Golden Age." In the 1970s, Adams was frequently heard on Himan Brown's CBS Mystery Theater radio series...
 
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Luther Adler
Actor, D.O.A.
The actor and Broadway director Luther Adler was born into a Yiddish theatrical dynasty. One of the six children born to Jacob P. and Sara Adler, he made his debut in the world in New York City on May 4, 1903, originally billed as Lutha J. Adler. His full siblings Charles, Jay, Julia, and Stella (the famous acting teacher) as well as his half-siblings Celia and Abram Adler all appeared on Broadway...
 
5.
Charlie Adler
Charles is an Emmy Award winning Dialogue Director, Annie Award Acting Nominee, Dramalogue Winning Actor, Helen Hayes Award Acting Nominee and Casting Director. Successfully going from genre to genre, he has lent his Dialogue Direction talents to the remake of "The Nutty Professor" starring legend Jerry Lewis...
 
6.
Jack Albertson
A former song-and-dance man and veteran of vaudeville, burlesque and Broadway, Jack Albertson is best known to audiences as "The Man" in the TV series Chico and the Man, for which he won an Emmy. In 1968 Albertson, the brother of actress Mabel Albertson, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Subject Was Roses, a part which also won him the Tony award during its Broadway run.
 
7.
Jason Alexander
Actor, Seinfeld
Jason Greenspan adopted the stage name Jason Alexander while still in high school in New Jersey. He was soon appearing in Broadway plays and movies, then in the hit TV series, Seinfeld, from 1990 to 1998. Alexander also directs and produces films.
 
8.
Woody Allen
Writer, Annie Hall
Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, to Nettie (Cherrie), a bookkeeper, and Martin Konigsberg, a waiter and jewellery engraver. His father was of Russian Jewish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Austrian Jewish immigrants. As a young boy...
 
9.
Morey Amsterdam
Born in Chicago, Morey Amsterdam started in vaudeville at the age of 14, as a straight man for his piano-playing brother. His father, a concert violinist who worked with the Chicago Opera and the San Francisco Symphony, wanted Morey to pursue a career in classical music but Morey had other plans. By the time he was 16...
 
10.
Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson
American actor-director-writer-producer Gilbert M. Anderson, father of the movie cowboy and the first Western star, was born Maxwell Henry Aronson in Little Rock, Arkansas. His parents, Esther (Ash) and Henry Aronson, were from New York. His father was from a German Jewish family, and his mother was the daughter of Russian Jewish parents...
 
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Alan Arkin
Actor, Argo
Alan Arkin is an Academy Award-winning American actor who is also an acclaimed director, producer, author, singer and composer. He was born Alan Wolf Arkin on March 26, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York. His family were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Germany. In 1946 the Arkins moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles...
 
16.
Tom Arnold
Actor, True Lies
Tom Arnold was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, to Linda (Graham) and Jack Arnold. After his parents divorced, he was raised by his father. In 1983, he got his first taste of stand-up comedy when he performed at open microphone nights at the University of Iowa. Tom's comedy career had its ups and downs over the next several years until 1988...
 
18.
David Arquette
The youngest of five, David Arquette was born in Winchester, Virginia and is part of the illustrious Arquette family, whose work has spread over several generations. His parents, Lewis Arquette, an actor, and Brenda Denaut (née Nowak), an acting teacher and therapist, had 4 other children: Rosanna Arquette...
 
19.
Edward Asner
Actor, Up
Ed Asner is a television legend, the winner of seven acting Emmy Awards (which puts him tied with Mary Tyler Moore, both of whom rank second to their "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star, Cloris Leachman who has nine). In all, he has been nominated 20 times for an Emmy Award, with 17 nods for a Primetime Emmy and three for a Daytime award...
 
21.
Jean-Pierre Aumont
Another in the long line of dramatically handsome foreign imports who made an immediate impact on WWII Hollywood was debonair French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont. The epitome of grace and sophistication, the stylish leading man went on to have a long and respectful career on stage, film and TV, both here and abroad...
 
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Carl Ballantine
Part of the motley crew commandeered by Ernest Borgnine on the popular 1960s TV series McHale's Navy, tall, gangly, beady-eyed, bulb-nosed comic actor Carl Ballantine was better known in other ports as the ultimate "magician". Billed as "The Amazing Ballantine," "The Great Ballantine" and "Ballantine: The World's Greatest Magician" during his long career...
 
24.
Martin Balsam
Martin Henry Balsam was born on November 4, 1919 in the Bronx, New York City, to Lillian (Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, a manufacturer of women's sportswear. He was the first-born child. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and his mother was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents. Martin caught the acting bug in high school where he participated in the drama club...
 
25.
John Banner
John Banner, who achieved television immortality for his portrayal of the Luftwaffe POW camp guard Sergeant Schultz in the TV series Hogan's Heroes. He was born on Tuesday, January 28th, 1910 in Vienna. Vienna was the capital of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The 28-year-old Banner...
 
26.
Gene Barry
With effortless class and elegant charm, Gene Barry took 50s and 60s TV by storm after a rather lackluster start on the musical stage and in films. Born Eugene Klass in New York City on June 14, 1919, the son of Martin, an amateur violinist, and Eva Klass, an amateur singer, he showed a gift at an early age as a violin virtuoso during adolescence (obviously inherited from his father)...
 
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Richard Belzer
A social misfit, was kicked out of every school he ever attended, due to his uncontrollable wit. His mother (Frances) died of breast cancer when Richard was 18. His father (Charles) committed suicide when he was 22. A dedication is written to him in Richard Belzer's "UFO's, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Believe" (Ballantine Books, 1999).
 
32.
Jack Benny
The son of a saloonkeeper, Jack Benny (born Benny Kubelsky) began to study the violin at the age six, and his "ineptness" at it later become his trademark (in reality, he was a very accomplished player). When given the opportunity to play in live theatre professionally, Benny quit school and joined vaudeville...
 
33.
Paul Ben-Victor
Actor, Don Jon
Actor Paul Ben-Victor has built a career on the small and big screen with rolls in over 60 films like Get Hard with Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell, Grudgematch with Robert De Niro, Daredevil with Ben Affleck, A Civil Action with John Travolta, The Rookie directed by Clint Eastwood, Houseguest, The Corrupter...
 
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Milton Berle
Milton Berle was born Milton Berlinger on July 12, 1908, in New York City. He was educated at New York Professional Children's School and began performing at age 5. His first stage appearance was in "Florodora" in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He appeared at the Palace Theater in New York in 1931, then in nightclubs and theaters...
 
38.
Shelley Berman
Shelley Berman began studying acting shortly after he was honorably discharged from the US navy. He enrolled as a drama student at Chicago's Goodman Theater, where he met Sarah Herman, another aspiring thespian. They fell in love and were married in 1947. After graduating from the Goodman Theater, Shelley joined the Woodstock Players...
 
39.
Herschel Bernardi
Actor, Peter Gunn
The character actor Herschel Bernadi was born into a theatrical family on October 30, 1923 in New York, New York. The Yiddish-language theater in the United States was centered in New York City's Lower East Side, on Second Avenue, and the Bernardi family were stage people who plied their craft in Yiddish...
 
40.
Joe Besser
Joe Besser was born on August 12, 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri. Short, chubby, balding, childish character actor who began his career on the vaudeville circuit before breaking into films in the early 1930s. He was a frequent foil of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in their films and played Stinky on their 1950s situation comedy...
 
41.
Turhan Bey
Popular leading man in 1940's Hollywood who, with his suave demeanor, exotically handsome looks and well-modulated voice, was first called upon to portray mysterious or villainous characters. Soon he would be teamed with other "exotics" (e.g. Maria Montez and Sabu) in a series of escapist adventures...
 
42.
Theodore Bikel
Theodore Bikel is one of the most versatile and respected actors and performers of his generation. A master of languages, dialects and accents, he has played every sort of film villain and semi-bad guy imaginable, and always adds depth, dimension and even sympathy to characters that would end up as cardboard cutouts in the hands of lesser actors...
 
43.
Joey Bishop
Perpetually glum standup comedian Joey Bishop was born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb on February 3, 1918, in the Bronx, New York. He was the youngest of five children of Chana "Anna" (Siegel) and Jacob Gottlieb, a bicycle repairman. His father was an Austrian Jewish immigrant and his mother was a Romanian Jew...
 
44.
Jack Black
Jack Black was born Thomas Jacob Black in Santa Monica, California, to Judith Love (Cohen) and Thomas William Black, both satellite engineers. He is of British-German (father) and Russian Jewish (mother) ancestry. Black attended the University of California at Los Angeles. While at UCLA, he was a member...
 
45.
Mel Blanc
Mel Blanc, known as "The Man of Thousand Voices" is regarded as the most prolific actor to ever work in Hollywood with over a thousand screen credits. He developed and performed nearly 400 distinct character voices with precision and a uniquely expressive vocal range. The legendary specialist from radio programs...
 
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Larry Blyden
Genial, dark-haired, often bespectacled Ivan Lawrence Blieden (pronounced Blee-den), better known as actor Larry Blyden, was born in Houston, Texas, the son of a lawyer. He developed an early interest in acting, appearing in various theater productions as a teen but never entertained the notion of pursuing a career...
 
50.
Sorrell Booke
Sorrell Booke was born in Buffalo, New York in 1930, the son of a local physician. He found his calling early in life, like most actors, when his family encouraged him to entertain relatives by doing impressions and telling jokes. He went on to study at Yale and Columbia University, and mastered five languages...
 
51.
Richard Boone
Actor, Medic
Richard Allen Boone was born in Los Angeles, California, to Cecile Lillian (Beckerman) and Kirk Etna Boone, a wealthy corporate lawyer. His maternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants, while his father was descended from a brother of frontiersmen Daniel Boone and Squire Boone. Richard was a college student...
 
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Zach Braff
Actor, Scrubs
Zach Braff was born and raised in South Orange, New Jersey, to Anne Hutchinson (Maynard), a clinical psychologist, and Harold Irwin Braff, a trial attorney. His father is from a Jewish family (from Russia and Austria), while Zach's mother, who is from a Yankee family with deep roots in New England, converted to Judaism...
 
55.
Matthew Broderick
A slight comic actor chiefly known for his boyish charm, Matthew Broderick was born on March 21, 1962 in New York City, to Patricia Broderick (née Biow), a playwright and painter, and James Broderick, an actor. His father had Irish and English ancestry, and his mother was from a Jewish family (from Germany and Poland)...
 
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Adrien Brody
Adrien Nicholas Brody was born in Woodhaven, Queens, New York, the only child of retired history professor Elliot Brody and Hungarian-born photographer Sylvia Plachy. He accompanied his mother on assignments for the Village Voice, and credits her with making him feel comfortable in front of the camera...
 
57.
Adam Brody
Adam Jared Brody was born and raised in San Diego, California, the son of Valerie Jill (Siefman), a graphic artist, and Mark Alan Brody, a lawyer. His parents, both originally from Michigan, are both from Jewish families (from Russia and Poland). Adam spent a lot of his teen years hanging out with his friends...
 
58.
J. Edward Bromberg
J. Edward Bromberg was a founding member of the legendary Group Theatre. His appearance being rather short and stocky, Bromberg from the start was known as a character actor who was very respected by his peers. He was primarily a stage actor but in the mid-thirties made his way into film where he further enhanced his reputation as a diverse character actor...
 
60.
Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. He served in WWII, and afterwards got a job playing the drums at nightclubs in the Catskills. Brooks eventually started a comedy act and also worked in radio and as Master Entertainer at Grossinger's Resort before going to television...
 
64.
Red Buttons
Although Red Buttons is best known as a stand-up comic, he is also a successful songwriter, an Academy Award-winning actor (and has been nominated for two Golden Globe awards) and an accomplished singer. Born Aaron Chwatt in New York City's Lower East Side, Buttons (who got his name from a uniform he...
 
65.
James Caan
A masculine and enigmatic actor whose life and movie career have had more ups and downs than the average rollercoaster and whose selection of roles has arguably derailed him from achieving true superstar status, James Caan is New York-born and bred. He was born in the Bronx, to Sophie (Falkenstein) and Arthur Caan...
 
66.
Sid Caesar
Actor, Grease
Comedian, saxophonist, composer, actor and musician, he performed within the orchestras of Charlie Spivak, Shep Fields and Claude Thornhill as saxophonist. Later, as super-hip jazz musician "Cool Cees" in television skits, he played tenor saxophone, and sang with the satirical trio "The Hair Cuts" (with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris)...
 
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Howard Caine
At the age of 13 Howard Caine (family name Cohen) moved with his family from his hometown of Nashville, TN, to New York City, where he began studying acting. Learning to erase his Southern accent, he went on to became a master of 32 foreign and American dialects. After service in the Navy during WWII...
 
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Eddie Cantor
Soundtrack, Cinderella Man
Singer, songwriter ("Merrily We Roll Along"), comedian, author and actor, educated in public schools. He made his first public appearance in Vaudeville in 1907 at New York's Clinton Music Hall, then became a member of the Gus Edwards Gang, later touring vaudeville with Lila Lee as the team Cantor & Lee...
 
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Morris Carnovsky
Morris Carnovsky was one of the more prominent victims of the Hollywood blacklist, being named as a Communist party member by both Elia Kazan -- the most infamous of the informers who sang before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the era blacklistee Lillian Hellman called the "Scoundrel Time" -- and Sterling Hayden...
 
71.
Jeff Chandler
Jeff was born in Brooklyn and attended Erasmus High School. After high school, he took a drama course and worked in stock companies for two years. His next role would be that of an officer in World War II. After he was discharged from the service, he became busy acting in radio drama's and comedies until he was signed by Universal...
 
72.
Maury Chaykin
The award-winning Canadian-American character actor Maury Chaykin was born on July 27, 1949 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Professor Irving J. Chaykin and his wife Clarice. Irving Chaykin, an American citizen, taught accountancy at the City College of New York. The former Clarice Bloomfield, his mother...
 
73.
Dane Clark
Dane Clark was born Bernard Elliot Zanville in Brooklyn, New York City, to Rose (Korostoff) and Samuel Zanville, who were Russian Jewish immigrants. He graduated from Cornell University and St. John's Law School (Brooklyn). When he had trouble finding work in the mid-1930s he tried boxing, baseball...
 
74.
Robert Clary
Born in France, Robert Clary early suffered the pangs of war, being interned in a Nazi concentration camp as a child. After WWII he became a singing star in France, and in 1949 came to the United States to promote his career. He appeared on The Ed Wynn Show; still learning English he performed in a French language comedy skit...
 
76.
Lee J. Cobb
Lee J. Cobb, one of the premier character actors in American film for three decades in the post-World War II period, was born Leo Jacoby in New York City's Lower East Side on December 8, 1911. The son of a Jewish newspaper editor, young Leo was a child prodigy in music, mastering the violin and the harmonica...
 
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Irwin Corey
Professor Irwin Corey, "The World's Foremost Authority," was born on July 29, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York. He and his five siblings were wards of the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum, and during the Great Depression, he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corp. Possessing brawn as well as brains, Professor...
 
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Ricardo Cortez
Ricardo Cortez was born Jacob Krantz in New York City, New York, the son of Sarah (Lefkowitz) and Moses/Morris Krantz, Austrian Jewish immigrants who moved to New York just before he was born. His brother was cinematographer Stanley Cortez, who also changed his surname. Cortez worked a number of jobs while he trained as an actor...
 
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Billy Crystal
Billy Crystal was born on March 14, 1948 in Long Beach, Long Island, New York. He is the youngest of three sons born to Helen (Gabler) and Jack Crystal. His father was a well-known concert promoter who co-founded Commodore Records and his mother was a homemaker. His family were Jewish immigrants from Russia...
 
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Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz, the eldest of three children of Helen (Klein) and Emanuel Schwartz, Jewish immigrants from Hungary. Curtis himself admits that while he had almost no formal education, he was a student of the "school of hard knocks" and learned from a young age that the only person who ever had his back was himself...
 
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Howard Da Silva
Howard da Silva was one of 324 actors, writers and directors who fell victim to the Hollywood blacklisting of the early 1950s, and had his career halted in the blink of an eye. Originally was a steelworker before making his stage debut at age 20 in New York. He made a name for himself on Broadway before going to Hollywood...
 
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Rodney Dangerfield
Rodney Dangerfield was born Jacob Cohen on November 22, 1921 in Deer Park, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. He was the son of Dorothy "Dotty" (Teitelbaum) and Phillip Cohen, who performed in vaudeville under the name Phil Roy. His father was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents, and his mother was a Hungarian Jewish immigrant...
 
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Ray Danton
Handsome and smooth natured leading man who often played oily individuals, Ray Danton was born in New York and dramatically trained at Carnegie Tech. First debuted on-screen as a moody Native American in Chief Crazy Horse and regularly guest-starred in many 1950s TV shows including Playhouse 90, Wagon Train, and 77 Sunset Strip...
 
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Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr. was often billed as the "greatest living entertainer in the world". He was born in Harlem, Manhattan, the son of dancer Elvera Davis (née Sanchez) and vaudeville star Sammy Davis Sr.. His father was African-American and his mother was of Puerto Rican ancestry. Davis Jr. was known as someone who could do it all--sing...
 
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Don Devlin
Born February 26, 1930, The Bronx, N.Y. He was a graduate of De Witt Clinton High School, Bedford Park, Bronx, N.Y. He served in United States Army service 1947-1948. He was a member of Greenwich Village Dramatic Workshop, 1950; actor 1955 to 1960; was writer-producer 1960 to 1990. Father of writer-producer Dean Devlin. Don died of lung cancer at age 70, December 11, 2000.
 
92.
Don Diamond
Brooklyn-born Don Diamond's most famous role is probably that of the scheming and ambitious, but inept and somewhat cowardly, underling Crazy Cat to Frank DeKova's Chief Wild Eagle in the cult western comedy series F Troop. By the time he got that role he had been an actor for quite some time...
 
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Dustin Diamond
Attended Zion Lutheran School in Anaheim, California. While in fifth grade, he portrayed 8th-grader Samuel "Screech" Powers in the television series Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which evolved into Saved by the Bell and its various television movies and spin-offs. Also appeared in the television series The Wonder Years.
 
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Kirk Douglas
Actor, Spartacus
Cleft-chinned, steely-eyed and virile star of international cinema who rose from being "the ragman's son" (the name of his best-selling 1988 autobiography) to become a bona fide superstar, Kirk Douglas, also known as Issur Danielovitch Demsky, was born on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, New York. His parents...
 
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Richard Dreyfuss
Actor, Jaws
Richard Dreyfuss is an American leading man, who has played his fair share of irritating pests and brash, ambitious hustlers. He was born Richard Stephen Dreyfus in Brooklyn, New York, to Geraldine (Robbins), an activist, and Norman Dreyfus, a restaurateur and attorney. His paternal grandparents were Austro-Hungarian Jewish immigrants, and his mother's family was Russian Jewish...
 
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Zac Efron
Actor, 17 Again
Zachary David Alexander Efron was born October 18, 1987 in San Luis Obispo, California. He is the son of Starla Baskett, a former secretary, and David Efron, an electrical engineer. He has a younger brother, Dylan. His surname, "Efron", is a Biblical place name, and comes from Zac's Polish Jewish paternal grandfather...
 
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Jesse Eisenberg
Curly haired and with a fast-talking voice, Jesse Eisenberg is a movie actor, known for his Academy Award nominated role as Mark Zuckerberg in the 2010 film The Social Network. He has also starred in the films The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland, The Education of Charlie Banks, 30 Minutes or Less...
 
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Danny Elfman
Music Department, Corpse Bride
As Danny Elfman was growing up in the Los Angeles area, he was largely unaware of his talent for composing. It wasn't until the early 1970s that Danny and his older brother Richard Elfman started a musical troupe while in Paris; the group "Mystic Knights of Oingo-Boingo" was created for Richard's directorial debut...
 
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