Molly Picon





New York, N.Y.



Birth Name

Malka (Margaret) Opiekun




Born in Manhattan February 28, 1898, Molly's grandmother claimed Molly was born June 1 so she could celebrate two birthdays a year. Molly's career began at age 6 in the Yiddish theater. In 1912, she debuted at the Arch Street Theatre in New York and became a star of the Second Avenue Yiddish stage. Molly was so popular in the 1920s that many shows had the name Molly in their title. In 1931 she opened the Molly Picon Theatre. She toured in a vaudeville act, The Four Seasons, until a flu epidemic in Boston in 1919 closed the theaters. One theater, the Boston Grand Opera House, remained open, apparently overlooked by the authorities. It was managed by Jacob Kalich, who became her husband and mentor. They remained married until his death of cancer in 1975. Her film career began in the silent era. She toured Europe with her husband for two years until being thrown out of Romania, due to antisemitism (she was Jewish) and competition with the Romanian National Theater. During World War II she performed for the sick, the American troops, and the Jewish Holocaust survivors. She also was active in the Foster Parents' Plan for war children. Later in her career she would become a familiar face as a guest star in numerous television programs. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in Neil Simon's Come Blow Your Horn, her first credited English-speaking role on the big screen. Suffering from Alzheimer's disease in her last years, Molly died in 1992. She was known both as "the Jewish Helen Hayes" and "The Jewish Charlie Chaplin".