This Sunday’s Jewish Film Festival (JFF) entry is the documentary “Bess Myerson: The First and Only Jewish Miss America.”
For the first time in its history, the JFF will be treating the audience to an after-screening talk and Q & A with the film’s director, David Arond.
Readers may remember Myerson best as the beautiful woman who modeled a mink coat on the game show, “The Big Payoff,” or as a panelist on “What’s My Line” and a regular on news shows such “The Today Show with The Dave Garroway.” Yet her successful entertainment career was seeded by her reign as Miss America. She was, as one biographer said, ”[t]he most famous Jewish girl since Queen Esther.”
However unlikely, in 1945, immediately after World War II, a Jewish girl from the Bronx became Miss America. Bess Myerson was, at the time, a college graduate (the only one in the pageant) and an accomplished musician, playing both the piano and the flute. Her sister entered her in the Miss New York City pageant as the first step in the Miss America pageant because Bess was interested in winning the US$5,000 scholarship award, which she hoped to use to further her higher education as a classical musician.