Sylvia Sidney was an American actress most notable for her performances in gangster movies of the 1920s and 1930s.
Sidney, born Sophia Kosow in The Bronx, New York, was the daughter of Rebecca, a Romanian Jew, and Victor Kosow, a Russian Jewish immigrant who worked as a clothing salesman. The area from which Victor Kosow came from is today in Belarus. Her parents divorced by 1915 and she was adopted by her stepfather, Sigmund Sidney, a dentist. Her mother became a dressmaker and renamed herself Beatrice Sidney. Now using the surname Sidney, she became an actress at the age of fifteen as a way of overcoming shyness. As a student of the Theater Guild’s School for Acting, Sidney appeared in several of their productions during the 1920s and earned praise from theater critics. In 1926, she was seen by a Hollywood talent scout and made her first film appearance later that year.
During the Depression, Sidney appeared in a string of films, often playing the girlfriend or the sister of a gangster. She appeared opposite such heavyweight screen idols as Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, Joel McCrea, Fredric March, George Raft, and Cary Grant. Among her films from this period were:
An American Tragedy, City Streets and Street Scene, Alfred Hitchcock’s Sabotage and Fritz Lang’s Fury, You Only Live Once, Dead End and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine an early three-strip Technicolor film.