Molly Picon was born Małka Opiekun, the elder of two daughters of Polish-Russian Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York City. Her father left the family when Molly was a toddler, and her mother moved with the girls to Philadelphia, supporting them as a dressmaker. At age five, Molly sang in a children's amateur night contest and won. A year later, with her mother's encouragement, she began playing children's parts in Yiddish cabaret. At 15, she joined a Yiddish repertory company. In 1919, on tour with a vaudeville act in Boston, she met and married Jacob Kalich, manager of the Grand Opera House. Kalich took her to Eastern Europe to perfect her Yiddish accent and perform in his operetta Yankele. On the couple's return to the USA in 1923, Yankele sold out, mainly through word of mouth publicity from the old country. It was a big success for the petite Molly, who played the title role of a little boy. Molly Picon went on to become the leading actress and singer of the Yiddish-speaking world in the 1920s. She was famous for conveying humor and emotions with gestures and physical pranks. She performed on the radio and made movies, including Yiddle With His Fiddle (1936), her most famous part. She made her English-language stage debut on Broadway in Morning Star (1940) and in the movies in Come Blow Your Horn (1963) with Frank Sinatra. In her mid-60s, she was a hit in the musical Milk and Honey. She co-starred with Robert Morley in a London production of A Majority of One to critical acclaim. Her performing career lasted more than 80 years. Her autobiography, Molly! was published in 1960.