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Review: 'Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg'

Affectionate portrayal of television pioneer Gertrude Berg shows how the talented powerhouse was a role model for a generation of women.

By Peter Rainer / July 17, 2009



Before there was Lucille Ball in "I Love Lucy" there was Gertrude Berg, the groundbreaking writer/producer/star of the family comedy "The Goldbergs," first on radio, starting in 1929 and then on television beginning in 1949.

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In Aviva Kempner's affectionate documentary "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg," Berg, who once polled second only to Eleanor Roosevelt as one of America's most respected females, is given her due. Or at least her showbiz due.

Kempner is less successful at delineating the "real" Gertrude Berg, who, unlike her theatrical alter ego Molly Goldberg, was not a homespun Yiddish mama from the Bronx tenements. Berg was a powerhouse who not only created one of the most popular TV shows of her era but stood up to the Red-baiting of the 1950s and also personally penned 12,000 scripts.

Some in the Jewish community, including Edward Asner, interviewed here, felt at the time that the frankly ethnic "Goldbergs" could hinder assimilation. But Berg was a role model to an entire generation of women, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is also interviewed for the film. She recounts how, when Thurgood Marshall once referred to her as "Mrs. Goldberg," she chose not to correct him because she thought it (however unconscious) a compliment. Grade: B

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