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Jews have made a vast contribution to the American and the world’s entertainment industry, encompassing such areas as vaudeville, comedy, singing, drama, musical stage, radio, motion pictures, and television. Historically, Jews did not cultivate drama and other forms of audiovisual entertainment to the same extent such cultures as the Greek or Roman did. Nevertheless, there is great drama in the Bible and in Jewish culture in general, and the emotional aspect in Judaism is well developed. Beginning in the 19th century, Jews in Europe began to take an active part in the theater, both as playwrights, producers, and actors. Rachel Felix and Sarah Bernhardt dominated the French stage during the 19th century. Sir Arthur Wing Pinero played a major role in shaping British drama. Many Jews wrote for the stage in Germany, including Arthur Schnitzler and Hugo von Hoffmannsthal. Max Reinhardt achieved prominence as theatrical producer and director.

At the start of the 20th century, as large waves of Jewish immigrants arrived in the U.S., Yiddish theater, which had started to develop in Europe, found a home in New York, under the direction of playwrights like Abraham Goldfaden and actors like Maurice Schwartz. During the first half of the century, the American Yiddish theater was not only a major source of culture and entertainment for Yiddish-speaking Jews, but also a major source of talent for the American entertainment industry as a whole. Many highly talented performers who got their professional start on the Yiddish stage or in the Yiddish-speaking environment, made the transition to Broadway and to Hollywood, as well as to radio and later television. Early examples were Paul Muni, Al Jolson, Eddie Kantor, Sophie Tucker, Molly Picon, and Fanny Brice. Those were followed by screen greats like Edward G. Robinson, Danny Kaye, Lauren Bacall, Shelly Winters, Esther Williams, Johnny Weissm

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