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The Religious Affiliation of
great American actor
His birth name was Danielovitch Demsky. Source: John Baxter, Woody Allen: A Biography, Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc.: New York (1999), page 38:
The question 'Why "Allen"?' is easily answered. 'Just why Jews in the performing arts were expected to Anglicize their names is a question worthy of a separate study,' Kenneth Tynan wrote... 'To take three cases at random, it is to simply pronounciation, to enhance euphony, or to disarm bigotry that Emmanuel Goldenberg became Edward G. Robinson, Benny Kubelsky becomes Jack Benny, and Isadore Demsky becomes Kirk Douglas...'
From: Marlon Brando (with Robert Lindsey), Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me, New York: Random House (1994), page 79:
Hollywood was always a Jewish community; it was started by Jews and to this day is run largely by Jews. But for a long time it was venomously anti-Semitic in a perverse way, especially before the war, when Jewish performers had to disguise their Jewishness if they wanted a job. These actors were frightened, and understandably so. When I was breaking into acting, I constantly heard about agents submitting an actor or actress for a part, taking them to the theater for a reading and afterward hearing the producer say, "Terrific. Thank you very much. We'll call you."
After the actor was gone, the agent would ask, "Well, Al, what did you think?"
"Great," the producer would say, "He was terrific, but he's too Jewish."
If you "looked Jewish," you didn't get a part and couldn't make a living. You had to look like Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Paul Muni or Paulette Goddard and change your name. They were Jews, but didn't "look Jewish" and employed the camouflage of non-Jewish names.
Webpage created 24 June 2005. Last modified 17 August 2005.
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