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Gersten, Berta (c. 1896–1972)

Gersten, Berta (c. 1896–1972)

Polish-American actress. Name variations: Berta Gerstenman. Born Berta Gerstenman on Aug 20, around 1896, in Cracow, Poland; died Sept 10, 1972, in NY, NY; dau. of Meshe (Kopps) Gerstenman and Avrom Gerstenman; m. Isaak Hershel Finkel (later Irwin Henry Fenn), July 10, 1911 (died 1960); children: 1 son (b. 1912).

Actress who helped launch a Yiddish theater company, portrayed over 150 roles in melodramas, musicals, and comedies (1918–72); immigrated to US (1899); made professional stage debut as the little boy in Mirele Efros (1908); worked with Maurice Schwartz at Irving Place Theater and at Yiddish Art Theater (1918–50), becoming leading lady; performed with traveling troupes across North and South America and Europe, and was a leading actress in the Yiddish theater in Warsaw, Poland (late 1930s); appeared in Yiddish plays Salvation (1939), Believe Your Mother (1941), Yosele, the Nightingale (1949), in title role of Mirele Efros and as Gertrude in Yiddish version of Hamlet; performed in screen versions of Mirele Efros (title role, 1939) and of God, Man, and the Devil (1950), and in the film The Benny Goodman Story (1955); appeared in English language plays The World of Sholom Aleichem (1954), as Esther in The Flowering Peach (1955), as Sophie Tucker's mother in Sophie, and toured with Sir Cedric Hardwicke in A Majority of One (1959); appeared on tv (1950s–60s); appeared opposite Jacob Ben-Ami in a dramatization of In My Father's Court in NYC (1971–72 season).

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