Sylvia Sidney (born Sophia Kosow; August 8, 1910 – July 1, 1999) was an American character actress of stage, screen and film, who rose to prominence in the 1930s appearing in numerous crime dramas.
Sidney, born Sophia Kosow in The Bronx, was the daughter of Rebecca (née Saperstein), 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.
As a single woman, Sidney was involved in an affair with B.P. Schulberg at Paramount Pictures. When Schulberg's previous mistress, Clara Bow, began experiencing personal problems in 1931, Sidney replaced her in City Streets.
Sidney was married three times. She first married publisher Bennett Cerf on 1 October 1935, but the couple were divorced shortly after on April 9, 1936. She then was married to actor and acting teacher Luther Adler from 1938 until 1947, by whom she had a son, Jacob (Jody) (October 22, 1939 – 1987) who died of Lou Gehrig's disease. During her marriage to Luther Adler she was a sister-in-law to acclaimed stage actress and drama teacher Stella Adler. On March 5, 1947, she married radio producer and announcer Carlton Alsop. They were divorced on March 22, 1951.
Sidney died from throat cancer in New York City a month before her 89th birthday, after a career spanning more than 70 years. She was cremated. She had no close family when she died. She bequeathed her black pug Malcolm to the National Arts Club, where the canine became a much loved mascot and noted attender of social events, celebrated in a short film by Carol Wilder.
She was skilled at needlepoint. She sold needlepoint kits featuring her designs, and she published two popular instruction books: Sylvia Sidney's Needlepoint Book (1968) and The Sylvia Sidney Question and Answer Book on Needlepoint (1975).