Małka Opiekun
February 28, 1898
New York City, US
|Died||April 5, 1992 (aged 94)|
|Resting place||Mount Hebron Cemetery, New York City|
(m. 1919; died 1975)
Molly Picon (Yiddish: מאָלי פּיקאָן; born Malka Opiekun; February 28, 1898 – April 5, 1992) was an American actress of stage, screen, radio and television, as well as a lyricist and dramatic storyteller.
She began her career in Yiddish theatre and film, rising to a star, before transitioning into character roles in English-language productions.
Picon was born Malka Opiekun (Anglicized first to Pyekoon, later Picon) in New York City, to Polish-Jewish immigrants Clara (née Ostrow), a wardrobe mistress, and Louis Opiekun, a shirtmaker. Opiekun is a Polish language name meaning "guardian" or "caretaker". The family relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when she was three years old.
Picon began as a child actor in the Yiddish Theatre at age six. In 1912, she debuted at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia and became a star of the Yiddish Theatre District, performing in plays in the District for seven years. Picon was so popular in the 1920s, many shows had her adopted name, Molly, in their title. In 1931, she opened the Molly Picon Theatre.
Picon appeared in many films, beginning with silent movies. Her early films were made in Europe; among the first, and earliest to survive, was the Yiddish language East and West, a film adaptation of the 1921 play Mezrach und Maarev produced in Vienna in 1923. The film depicts a clash of New and Old World Jewish cultures. She plays a US-born daughter who travels with her father back to Galicia in East Central Europe. Her husband Jacob Kalich played one of her close relatives.
Picon's most famous picture, Yidl Mitn Fidl (1936), was filmed on location in Poland and shows her wearing male clothing throughout most of the movie. The story concerns a girl and her father who are forced by poverty to set out on the road as traveling musicians. For her safety, she disguises herself as a boy, which becomes inconvenient when she falls in love with one of the other musicians in the troupe. Another of her films, Mamele, was also shot in Poland.
In 1934, Picon had a musical comedy radio show, The Molly Picon Program, broadcast on WMCA in New York City. In 1938, she starred another radio program on WMCA, I Give You My Life. That program "combined music and dramatic episodes that purported to be the story of her life." Two years later, she starred in Molly Picon's Parade, a variety show on WMCA.
Picon made her English language debut on stage in 1940. On Broadway, she starred in the Jerry Herman musical Milk and Honey in 1961. In 1966, she dropped out of the disastrous Chu Chem during previews in Philadelphia; the show closed before it reached Broadway.
Picon had a bit part in the 1948 film The Naked City as the woman running a news-stand and soda fountain towards the climax of the film. Her first major Anglophonic role in the movies was in the film version of Come Blow Your Horn (1963), with Frank Sinatra. One of her best-known film roles was as Yente the Matchmaker in the 1971 film adaptation of the Broadway hit Fiddler on the Roof.
Picon appeared as Molly Gordon in an episode of CBS's Gomer Pyle, USMC and had a recurring role as Mrs. Bronson in the NBC police comedy Car 54, Where Are You?. In the comedy For Pete's Sake (1974), she appeared as an elderly madam ("Mrs. Cherry") who arranges a disastrous stint for Barbra Streisand on a job as a call girl. She later had television roles on the soap opera Somerset and appeared in a few episodes of The Facts of Life as Natalie's grandmother. Picon's final role was as Roger Moore's mother in cameo appearances in the comedies Cannonball Run and its sequel Cannonball Run II in 1981 and 1984, respectively.
Picon wrote So Laugh a Little (1962), a biography about her family. In 1980, she published her autobiography, Molly!.
Picon was married to actor and playwright Yankel (Jacob) Kalich from 1919 until his death from cancer in 1975. They had no children.
Picon died on April 5, 1992, aged 94, from Alzheimer's disease in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She and her husband are interred in the Yiddish Theater section of the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, New York City.
- An entire room was filled with her memorabilia at the Second Avenue Deli in New York City (whose Second Avenue location is now closed)
- The New Century Theatre, a former legitimate Broadway theatre at 932 Seventh Avenue and West 58th Street in Midtown Manhattan (since closed and demolished), was briefly known as the Molly Picon Theatre in 1943.
- She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.
- Picon Pie, a biographical play, ran off-Broadway from 2004 to 2005.
- In 2007, she was featured in the film Making Trouble, a tribute to female Jewish comedians, produced by the Jewish Women's Archive.
- Costumes she wore in various theater productions are displayed at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
|1922||Look After Your Daughters|
|1923||East and West||Mollie|||
|1936||Yiddle with His Fiddle||Itke aka Judel|
|1937||Let's Make a Night of It||Specialty Act||Uncredited|
|1938||Mamele||Khavtshi Samet aka Mamele|
|1948||The Naked City||Soda-Selling Shopkeeper||Uncredited|
|1959||Startime||Sarah Rabinowitz||Episode: "The Jazz Singer", a TV production starring Jerry Lewis|
|1961-1963||Car 54, Where Are You?||Mrs. Rachel Bronson||3 episodes|
|1963||Come Blow Your Horn||Mrs. Sophie Baker|
|1971||Fiddler on the Roof||Yente|
|1974||For Pete's Sake||Mrs. Cherry|
|1975||Murder on Flight 502||Ida Goldman|
|1981||The Cannonball Run||Mom Goldfarb|
|1984||Cannonball Run II|
- "The Papers of Molly Picon (1898-1992)". JewishTheatre.com. Archived from the original on November 10, 2007.
- "Unknown Title". Tucson Daily Citizen. Tucson, Arizona. August 29, 1952. p. 16.
- "This Week in History: Award for Yiddish actress, Molly Picon, June 28, 1980". jwa.org. Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Pennsylvania Biographical Dictionary. North American Book Dist LLC. January 1999. ISBN 9780403099504. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
- Plesur, Milton (1982). Jewish life in twentieth-century America: challenge and accommodation. Nelson-Hall. ISBN 9780882298009. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
- Shandler, Jeffrey (2014). Shtetl: A Vernacular Intellectual History. Rutgers, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 41.
- Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960, 2nd Edition, Volume 1. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4. Pp. 523, 337, 455.
- Picon, Molly; Bergantini Grillo, Jean (1980). Molly! An Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- "Relkin Drops Picon Theatre". The New York Times. February 12, 1943. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
- "26 Elected to the Theater Hall of Fame". The New York Times. March 3, 1981.
- Picon Pie at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Deming, Mark (2012). "Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
- "East and West" [film catalog entry]. National Center for Jewish Film. jewishfilm.org. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- Eth Clifford. Molly Picon – So Laugh a Little, Messner, 1962 (see ).
- Lila Perl, Donna Ruff. Molly Picon: A Gift of Laughter, Jewish Publication Society, 1990, ISBN 0-8276-0336-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Molly Picon.|
- Molly Picon at IMDb
- Molly Picon at the TCM Movie Database
- Molly Picon at the Internet Broadway Database
- Guide to the Papers of Molly Picon (1898-1992) at the American Jewish Historical Society, New York.
- Pages from a Performing Life: The Scrapbooks of Molly Picon at American Jewish Historical Society
- Women of Valor exhibit on Molly Picon at the Jewish Women's Archive
- Molly Picon at Find a Grave