10 July 2009

Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg!

Gertrude Berg was Mrs. Goldberg.

She created the radio series, "The Goldbergs," which became the first family TV sitcom. It introduced America to a Jewish family following the Holocaust. The family was welcomed into homes across the country and likely showed Jewish customs and traditions to people who had never seen them before.

The Women and Hollywood site has an interview with director,Aviva Kempner of a documentary , "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg."

The thing about Gertrude Berg is that she did everything on the show. She wrote the scripts, she produced the show, and she starred in the show. EVERYTHING. She worked her ass off and received the first Emmy for best actress ever.

What was also so great about Gertrude is that she stood up for her co-star Philip Loeb who was named as a communist. Sadly, standing up for her convictions and her friend doomed the show. She lost her sponsors and couldn’t get any more until she fired Loeb which she refused to do for over a year. During the McCarthy insanity there were not many people who stood up for others and Berg was one of those few. The show never really recovered and when they moved the family from the Bronx to the suburbs it was doomed.

This film is a great history lesson about a woman who was a feminist before the word was used. At the height of her popularity she was the second most admired woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt. I’m so glad that her life has been preserved for generations to see.

Aviva Kempner has been working for many years to bring Gertrude’s story to the screen. She answered some questions about the film.

Why did Kempner want to tell Berg's story?
For the past 30 years I have done films about Jewish heroes–men and women who fought the Nazis and baseball slugger Hank Greenberg. This time I wanted to concentrate on a heroine who had such a positive influence on American culture.
The child of a survivor, Kempner lost three grandparents and an aunt to the Holocaust. Her mission to make films about Jewish heroes and heroines that contradict negative stereotypes about Jews.

Kempner discovered, among other things, that Berg wrote in the bathtub every morning.

It opens this weekend at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the Quad Cinema in New York City, on July 17 in Washington, DC and in other locations over the next few months. Click here for more information.

The New York Times review is here.

1 comment:

  1. Schelly - a great overview of what is an important part of American television history.

    I am too young to remember the show but I remember my family talking about it in later years.

    I can't wait to see the documentary!

    Thomas MacEntee