A Musical Salute to Molly Picon, Star of the Yiddish Theatre
Molly Picon (1898-1992) was a native New Yorker raised in Philadelphia and a Yiddish icon, for her seven-decade work in film, radio, television and on the stage. She is probably most known for her films Yidl Mitn Fidl (Yidl with His Fiddle) (1936), Come Blow Your Horn (1963) with Frank Sinatra, and Fiddler on the Roof (1971), where she played the matchmaker, Yente. She began entertaining at age 6 and her young face and expressive talent helped to popularize Yiddish culture and bring it into the American mainstream. She was arguably the biggest star of Yiddish theater in the early 20th century, but eventually also did many English-language films, Broadway productions and even television shows such as Car 54, Where Are You?, Gomer Pyle, USMC and The Facts of Life. But her biggest impact was in Yiddish theatre and film. Many stage shows purposely incorporated her name directly into the show’s title and by 1931 the Second Avenue Theater, where she often performed, even changed the name of the theater to her name, a strong testament to her popularity. Often referred to as the “Jewish Charlie Chaplin” and “Jewish Helen Hayes,” Molly was also an ardent humanitarian performing throughout WWII for soldiers and at refugee camps and orphanages, and was also active in the Foster Parents’ Plan for war children.
See examples of Molly Picon’s work in film and on television:
The Facts of Life, “From Russia with Love” episode, 1981:
Dr. Diane Cypkin has appeared in many Yiddish language musical productions spanning more than two decades. She was Sheyne, opposite Joseph Buloff in Ossip Dymov’s Yoshke muzikant (Joseph the Musician) at the Folksbiene Playhouse; Beylke, David Opatoshu’s daughter, in Sholom Aleichem’s Dos groyse gevins (The Big Winner) at the Eden Theatre; Gitale in Ben Bonus’s production of Light, Lively, and Yiddish at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway; and Tsirl in the Mary Soriano presentation Di yidishe tsigaynerke (The Jewish Gypsy) at Town Hall in New York. Dr. Cypkin has done a great deal of concert work. Some highlights: in New York, in conjunction with her exhibition at Lincoln Center entitled, Molly Picon: Yiddish Star, American Star, she presented a lecture/concert on “Molly Picon and Her Yiddish Music”; in Washington DC, she gave a concert of her father’s—Abraham Cypkin’s—songs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum when the museum presented an exhibition on the Kovno Ghetto of Lithuania. Diane is a child of survivors. In 1981, she sang at the World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Cypkin has worked in the English-speaking theatre as both singer and actor in shows at the Soho Repertory Theatre, the New York Theatre Workshop, the Jan Hus Playhouse, and the Three Muses Theatre. In addition, she has directed productions of The World of Sholom Aleichem, The Theatre of Peretz, and Green Fields. For almost ten years she was Yiddish Theatre Consultant at the Museum of the City of New York and curated the highly successful exhibition, A Celebration: 100 years of Yiddish Theatre in New York. For the past twenty years, Dr. Cypkin has reviewed books for Martyrdom and Resistance, a newspaper published by Yad Vashem. Dr. Cypkin is presently Professor of Media, Communication, and Visual Arts at Pace University in New York.
Refreshments will be served.
This program is supported by the Friends of the Morristown & Morris Township Library.