Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Molly Picon

Molly Picon was born Małka (Margaret) Opiekun on 1 June, 1898 in New York City, New York, USA to Clara and Louis (or Denis) Opiekun (later changed to Picon). Opiekun is a Polish language name meaning, “guardian” or “caretaker”. Molly Picon died on 5 April, 1992 aged 93, from Alzheimer’s disease in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Molly Picon is buried in the Yiddish Theater section of the Mount Hebron Cemetery.

Molly Picon’s husband, from 1919 until his death in 1975 from cancer, was Jacob Kalich. They had no children.

Molly Picon was an American star of stage, screen and television, as well as a lyricist. Molly Picon was first and foremost a star in Yiddish theatre and Film, but as Yiddish theatre faded she began to perform in English-language productions.

Molly Picon’s career began at the age of 6 in the Yiddish Theatre. In 1912, she debuted at the Arch Street Theatre in New York and became a star of the Second Avenue Yiddish stage.

Molly Picon was so popular in the 1920s that many shows had the name Molly in their title. In 1931 she opened the Molly Picon Theatre. Molly Picon appeared in many films, starting with silent movies. Molly Picon earliest film still existing is East and West which deals with the clash of new and old Jewish cultures. Molly Picon plays an American-born daughter who travels with her father back to Galicia in East Central Europe. Real-life husband Jacob Kalich plays one of her Galician relatives from Eastern Europe.

Molly Picon’s most famous film, Yidl Mit’n Fidl (1936), was made on location in Poland, and has her wearing male clothing through most of the film. In the film, a girl and her father 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.

Molly Picon made her English language debut on stage in 1940. On Broadway, she starred in Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn and the Jerry Herman musical Milk and Honey, both in 1961. In 1966 she quit the disastrous Chu Chem during previews in Philadelphia; the show closed before reaching Broadway.

Molly Picon’s first English speaking role in the movies was the film version of Come Blow Your Horn (1963), and she portrayed Yente, the Matchmaker in the film adaptation of the Broadway hit Fiddler on the Roof in 1971.

In the 1970s, she was featured as a madame named Mrs. Cherry in For Pete’s Sake, a film starring another famous Jewish-American actress, Barbra Streisand. Molly Picon later played a role on television on the soap opera Somerset.  An entire room was filled with her memorabilia at the Second Avenue Deli in New York
(now closed).

The little “yente” with the big, expressive talent, New York-born Yiddish icon Molly Picon entertained theater, radio, TV and film audiences for over seven decades with her song-and-dance routines while helping to popularize the Yiddish culture into the American mainstream as well as overseas. Raised in Philadelphia, she was performing from age 5 but broke into the big time with a vaudeville act called “The Four Seasons” in 1919, eventually making a comedy name for herself in the Second Avenue Theatres on the Lower East Side back in New York. The indefatigable Molly Picon was a real live wire and played very broad, confident, dominant characters on stage, which ended up making it hard for her to be taken seriously in dramatic pieces.

In film she is best remembered for her Yiddish-language showcases of the 30s, notably in Yidl with His Fiddle (1936), the story of a traveling musician who dresses as a boy to avoid unwarranted male advances. Molly Picon was cast as a Yiddish Cinderella, a dutiful but unappreciated daughter who cares for her father and his large family, in Mamele (1938), the last Jewish film made in Poland. During one musical vignette, Molly Picon portrays her character’s grandmother in several stages of life. In the 1940s, Molly Picon started to include English-speaking plays as well and as she grew into matronly roles, became synonymous as the typical well-meaning but overbearing and coddling “Jewish mama.” Such amusing, unflappable film roles would be found in Come Blow Your Horn (1963) (as an interfering Italian mother) and Fiddler on the Roof (1972) as Yente the matchmaker. Molly Picon long association with husband and corroborator, Yiddish stage star Jacob Kalich, was a fruitful one. Husband Jacob Kalich became her mentor, the author of many of her popular plays and the manager of her career. They Married in 1919, Jacob Kalich died in 1975 but she continued performing albeit sporadically. Vicariously known as the “Jewish Charlie Chaplin” and “Jewish Helen Hayes”, she was a patriot and humanitarian at heart, with an energy, creativity and ability to entertain that couldn’t help but make her one of entertainment’s most beloved citizens.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Mike Frankovich

Mitchell John “Mike” Frankovich was born on 29 September 1909 and died on 1 January 1992 in California, USA of pneumonia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Mike was a film producer and husband of the late actress Binnie Barnes (who converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism for him, as he was a Roman Catholic), who was 6 years his senior; they adopted 3 children, including producer Peter Frankovich and production manager, Mike Frankovich Jr..

Mike played football for UCLA and was inducted into UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986. Mike served as president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission and helped to bring the Los Angeles Raiders football team and 1984 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Louis Feraud

Louis Féraud was born on 13 February 1921 and died on 28 December, 1999 after a long and severe battle with Alzeihmers Disease at the age of 79. Louis Feraud was a French fashion designer and artist.

In 1950, Louis Féraud created his first “Maison de Couture” in Cannes and by 1955 had established a couture house in Paris on the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré.

From the mid 1950s he was dressing the Parisian elite and designed the wardrobe of Brigitte Bardot for many of her movies. It wasn’t however until 1958 that he presented his first haute couture collection in Paris.

The early 1960s saw Louis Féraud hire the young unknown designers Jean-Louis Scherrer and Per Spook.

In 1970 he signed a contract with Fink (Germany) for a ladies’ prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) collection. The year 1978 was an excellent one for Féraud: he won the “Golden Thimble Award” for his Spring/Summer 1978 Haute Couture Collection. Louis Feraud went on to claim this accolade again in 1984.

Adding to his growing collection of honours Louis Féraud was elected Prince de l’Art de Vivre in 1991. In 1995 he was decorated Officier de la Légion d’honneur, by the French President. Louis Feraud’s daughter Kiki signed her first Haute Couture collection in with Louis Féraud in 1996. In September 1999 the Dutch group Secon acquired Féraud.

The year 2000 saw Yvan Mispelaere join the group as artistic director and that July witnessed his first Haute Couture fashion show in “Musée des Monuments Français” in Paris. In 2002 the German Group ESCADA took 90% of the Féraud shares and Yvan Mispelaere left the company. Later that year Féraud decided to concentrate its activities on ladies’ ready-to-wear and licences with Jean-Paul Knott selected as Creative Director for the luxury ready-to-wear market.

In 2003 Jean-Paul Knott left Féraud and that July the worldwide flagship store opened in Paris at 400 rue Saint-Honoré.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Irving Shulman

Irving Shulman was Born on 21 May, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States and died on 23 March, 1995 at the age of 81 in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, United States of Alzheimer’s Disease. Irving was an American author and screenwriter whose works were adapted into movies.

Irving’s books included The Amboy Dukes, Cry Tough and The Square Trap, all of which were adapted into movies. Irving wrote the screen adaptation of the James Dean movie Rebel Without a Cause. The Amboy Dukes, published in 1947, was about gangs in Brooklyn. It sold five million copies and led to his being hired as a screenwriter by Warner Bros.. In the 1960s, Irving Shulman wrote biographies of Jean Harlow and Rudolph Valentino.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Arthur O’ Connell

Arthur O’Connell was born on 29 March 1908 in New York City, USA and died on 18 May 1981 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles,California, USA due to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Though veteran character actor Arthur O’Connell looked as countrified as apple pie, looking ever more comfy in overalls than he ever did in a suit. Arthur made his stage debut in the mid 1930s and came into contact with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre. As a result, he earned the bit role of a reporter in the final scenes of Citizen Kane (1941).

Making little leeway in films, Arthur O’Connell returned to the Broadway lights where he played Polonius in “Hamlet” and Banquo in “Macbeth”, finally gaining considerable attention as the amiable bachelor storekeeper in “Picnic” in 1953.

Arthur transferred the role successfully to film three years later and began a series of flawed and forlorn characters on TV and the screen from then on. A particular standout was as James Stewart’s boozed up attorney and mentor in Anatomy of a Murder (1959) for which he won his second Oscar-nomination for “best supporting actor” (the first was for Picnic (1956) three years earlier). The mustachioed Arthur O’Connell usually played wise, helpful and friendly, and he also inhabited crafty villains from time to time, but there was always an unhappy ambiance and ‘loser’ quality in his elderly gents, which made you feel sorry for him. Arthur played Monte Markham’s “son” (Markham had been frozen in an iceberg, which explains Markham’s young appearance) in the 1967 sitcom “The Second Hundred Years” but the series was short-lived. A popular guest star on all the major shows in the 70s, he was forced to curtail his work load as the progression of Alzheimer’s began to steadily creep in. At the time of his death in 1981, Arthur O’Connell was appearing solely in toothpaste commercials.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Arlene Francis

Arlene Francis, the witty actress and popular television personality, was born Arlene Francis Kazanjian on 20 October, 1907 in Boston, Massachusetts. Arlene’s father was an Armenian immigrant, later painter and portrait photographer; her mother was the daughter of actor Alfred Davis. Even at an early age, Arlene said, “I started out with one goal: I wanted to be a serious actress.” Arlene studied at the Theatre Guild and then went to Hollywood. Arlene’s movie debut was in Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), in which Bela Lugosi (often cast as a villain or mad scientist in many of his over 40 movies) tied her to an X-cross to extract her blood (trivia: Arlene and Bela were both born on Oct. 20). The live theater, however, was her first love, and she appeared in many plays. In 1935, she married movie executive Neil Agnew; they’d stay together for 10 years. Arlene made her Broadway debut in 1936 and had her first major role in “All That Glitters” two years later. Arlene appeared with Orson Welles in the Mercury Theatre production of “Danton’s Death” in 1938, and in “Journey to Jerusalem” in 1940. Arlene’s big hit was “The Doughgirls” in 1942; it ran for 1-1/2 years. Arlene had auditioned for her first radio part at the same time she was getting started in the theater; she later recalled, “Radio came easily.” In the 1940s, she played in as many as five radio serials a day.

Arlene married actor Martin Gabel in 1946 (he died in 1986), and they had a son, Peter. Arlene also was host of a radio dating show called “Blind Date,” which was adapted to a TV series in 1949 (“Blind Date” (1949)), and she was the host (1949-1952). It was television that brought Arlene fame, and she became one of the highest-paid women in TV. Arlene was a permanent panelist on CBS’ “What’s My Line?” (1950) (a ‘Mark Goodson (I)’ -Bill Todman production) from 1950 through 1967 and continued as a panelist in a syndicated version that ran until 1975, thus being with the show for its entire 25-year run. Arlene was warm, witty and had a cute laugh and was always fashionably dressed. Arlene wore a diamond heart-shaped necklace, which started a fad. Arlene was still doing radio while on TV, and in 1960, she was the star of “The Arlene Francis Show,” a daily interview show in New York, on WOR; it ran for 23 years. Arlene retired from show business after that and lived comfortably. Arlene was still giving interviews in 1991.

Arlene spent her last years living in San Francisco. Arlene died of cancer on Thursday 31 May 2001, in a Francisco hospital, at the age of 93. Arlene’s many fans will miss her, Arlene was truly one of the greats.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Mervyn Leroy

Mervyn Leroy was born on 15 October, 1900 and died on 13 September, 1987. Mervyn was an Academy Award-winning American film director, producer and sometime actor. Mervyn worked in costumes, processing labs and as a camera assistant until he became a gag writer and actor in silent films. Mervyn’s first directing job was in 1927’s No Place to Go. When his movies made lots of money without costing too much, he became well-received in the movie business. Mervyn LeRoy retired in 1965 and wrote his autobiography, Take One, in 1974. Mervyn died in Beverly Hills, California and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Mervyn Leroy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street.

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