Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg Review

They say history is written by the winners, but that's not always accurate. Sometimes, the winner's circle gets a little too crowded, and a few good apples get pushed into obscurity. Gertrude Berg, born Tilly Edelstein, 'the most famous woman in America you've never heard of' unfortunately became one of those apples.

Her influence was and still is unmistakable. Year's before the second wave of the Women's Liberation Movement, Berg managed to build a successful broadcast and television career by playing according to her own rules. Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, an Aviva Kempner documentary, illustrates the magnitude of her accomplishments and the effect that it held on American society. Filled with commentary from various sources, as well as vintage clips and interviews, Berg is portrayed in various lights, mainly as the amicable Jewish persona but most importantly as the shrewd business woman with intense business savvy.

Kempner's documentary is as engaging as it is informative. She gathers commentary from sources as diverse as the relatives and colleagues of the late Mrs. Berg to fans as notable as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In these interviews, she touches on the sociological impact of Berg's contributions, as well as personal points of view. She emphasizes the fact that Gertrude Berg's impact reached across cultural and racial divide. In fact, most fan's in the interviews claimed that Berg's larger than life television persona was akin to the persona’s of their own respective relatives. By utilizing an ethic character devoid of stereotypes, Berg helped to create acceptance of a community that was misunderstood and relate it to a society extremely segregated along many different divides.

The timing of Gertrude Berg's success with her sitcom “The Goldberg's” is of interesting significance. It began on November 20, 1929, less than a month after the Stock Market crash. In a time where the country was in constant economic turmoil, she maintained a 15 minute radio show and continued for 17 years before finally moving to television for another long run. Berg's pioneering family drama of a struggling Jewish family in a Bronx tenement provided an escape for struggling Americans and helped to create fans that would stick with her throughout several decades until the McCarthy era forced changes that she valiantly fought to prevent.

In her career as Molly Goldberg in The Goldberg's, she controlled almost every aspect of the show, and battled fearlessly to keep her control. She wrote, produced and starred in every episode, even creating the technique of product placement in The Goldberg's. Fan's trusted her buxom frame and fast but soft-talking Yiddish accent, eagerly vouching for the quality and wonder of products in question; one example most notably being Sanka coffee. Many of the commentaries stated that her famous approach of talking out the window of her tenement building, gave her a trusting appeal, which also helped to boost the sales of the products as well.

In her first year on network television, Berg won the first Emmy Award for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Years later, she also won a Tony Award for her role in a Broadway production of A Majority of One. By the end of her career, Berg had written over 12,000 scripts, most of which she produced and starred in herself. Given her notable achievements and pioneering vision, it's a bit of a wonder why such a dynamic woman faded into obscurity after her death in 1961.

Kempner states in the commentary of this film that it was her intention to revive interest in Gertrude Berg, because she wanted to highlight one of many super-heroes in the Jewish community. While Kempner's explanation for her motivation may seem ethnocentrically driven, she managed to choose a subject whose influence can be viewed independent of her social and ethnic identification. Berg defied the odds by establishing a career and maintaining it through some of America's darkest times, and spearheaded techniques still in use today. Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg is a entertaining and captivating documentary which should be watched not only by those interested in American &/ Jewish-American History, but also as an inspiration for those who aspire to media and broadcast careers.

DVD Bonus Features

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg contains a plethora of extra features. Disc 1 features audio commentary from Aviva Kempner as well as a trailer for the production. Disc 2 contains episodes of The Goldberg's, along with interviews and guest appearances. There's also a Gertrude Berg recipe to try, additional commentary and an essay from Kempner. The end rounds out with a piece about Docurama (the publisher) and the credits.

"Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" is on sale August 24, 2010 and is not rated. Documentary. Written and directed by Aviva Kempner. Starring Gertrude Berg, Lewis Berg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sara Chase, Viola Harris.

Simone Grant


New Reviews