Have You Ever Heard of Gertrude Berg?
December 12, 2009

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

There’s a documentary out in limited release called Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg about Gertrude Berg. She created the TV sitcom in 1949 when she moved her show The Goldbergs from radio (where it had been running since the early thirties) to the new medium of television. Not only did she star in the show, she also created, produced, and wrote it. Plus, she won the first ever Emmy Award for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

You can see a 12-and-a-half-minute summary of the movie online. I was astounded that until this film, I’d never heard of her. Admittedly, her work was well before my time, but I’m impressed at how successful she was in multiple roles and yet she’s rarely mentioned in the TV histories I’ve seen. The movie suggests that her career may have been affected by anti-Semitism, since her stories were about a Jewish family, and the actor who played her husband on TV was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and eventually driven to suicide as a result.

I need to find a way to see this movie. It struck me as particularly significant, given that I’d just read this article about the continuing lack of support for female directors in Hollywood.

5 Responses  
Lyle writes:  

I have heard of her though, sadly, I’ve heard so little of her that I usually need to hear a short recap of her career to remember who she is (I never can recognize her by name). It’s really sad that TV historians rarely remember her.

Joan writes:  

I’ve definitely heard of her, but I minored in Jewish Studies. So I cheated. *g* I even wrote a seminar paper on her. I wonder if I still have it. I’m dying to see the movie, though; Aviva Kempner had announced that GB was her next subject after she finished making the rounds with her last documentary (on Hank Greenberg, excellent film), but what with raising funds and tracking down materials and interviews etc etc etc, it’s been years. And now I have to wait even longer, and hope it hits DVD. Argh! On the plus side, all the surviving episodes of The Goldbergs are being released by the awesome Shout Factory next year, so that’ll be fun.

Alan Coil writes:  


I heard about this doc from Mark Evanier a few months ago. I really can’t say I had heard of her before that, and I used to listen to a lot of old time radio. 2-minute video at the link, along with Evanier’s brief comments.

mudduck writes:  

The third television station to go on the air in Oklahoma was KSWO-TV, Lawton, in March 1953. I went to work there in October, editing film and sweeping out the one studio. No cable connection till a couple of years later — we got our Dumont Network programs on film in cans by mail. The Goldbergs were one of them. I was a fan, having seen Ms Berg’s play Majority of One on Broadway (with Cedric Hardwick — the movie, of course, was done with Rosalind Russell and Alec Guiness) in 1961. I remember one dialog exchange from the show:

Bert: My daughter Rosalie likes mystery programs like Lawrence Welk and musical programs like Peter Gunn.

Objector: But Welk is a musician and Peter Gunn is a detective.

Berg: By Rosalie, Peter Gunn is music [it featured a jazz score] and Lawrence Welk is a mystery!

WOODY KAPLAN writes:  

I remember as a little kid watching this show every week on TV. Didn’t realize it was from 1949. Where have all the years gone?


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