New York-born actress appeared in some 200 productions written by husband Jacob Kalich in the 1920s, later starring opposite Topol in ‘Fiddler on the Roof.
June 1, 1898, is one of two birthdays that were claimed by Molly Picon, the beloved performer best known for her work in Yiddish theater, whose career spanned more than eight decades. (One version says that her actual date of birth was February 28, and that her grandmother invented June 1 so that Molly could celebrate her birthday twice each year.)
Margaret Pyekoon was the daughter of Clara Ostrovsky and Louis Pyekoon, both immigrants to New York’s Lower East Side from what is today Ukraine. Clara was a wardrobe seamstress in the theater, and the little-present Louis a shirtmaker who had neglected to divorce his first wife before leaving for America. Molly later described her father as being “just ‘anti’: anticapitalist, antireligion, antilabor, and antigirls,” until he finally “faded out of our lives.”
At the age of 5, Molly competed in and won a talent show at a theater in Philadelphia, where the family had moved after her father’s departure. As a teenager, she gave up her studies at William Penn High School so she could perform with a Yiddish repertory troupe and help support the family – Clara and her mother, and Molly’s sister, Helen. The company switched between Yiddish and English, depending on the composition of their audience.
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