Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

From Aug ’09 Spotlight: DC-based director Aviva Kempner, the filmmaker behind 1998’s award-winning doc The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, has finally released her long-awaited follow-up Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg.

Tillie Edelstein took the first part of her mother’s maiden name (Gold) and combined it with her husband’s last name (Berg) to create the character “Molly Goldberg” (also choosing the new first name “Gertrude” for herself). Her first broadcast, in November 1929, turned “Molly” into one of the most popular matriarchs in American popular culture, first on her radio serial The Rise of the Goldbergs and then on her television series The Goldbergs (which ran almost without interruption until 1954). Remarkably, Berg served as writer, producer and star of both the radio and TV shows. She also brought her fictional family to Broadway in 1948 as Me and Molly, and to the big screen in 1950 as The Goldbergs.

In 1951, Berg won television’s first ever Emmy Award for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and in 1959 she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in the play A Majority of One. The Tony lead to her return to TV in 1961 (in Mrs. G. Goes to College), the same year she published her best-selling memoir Molly and Me.

Unfortunately, Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg suffers from a bit of a “three bears” problem. Whereas Greenberg was “just right,” Goldberg has a bit too much social history and not quite enough biography. I suspect this is partly because Hank Greenberg was a relatively straightforward guy, whereas Gertrude Berg’s life was filled with inner turmoil. Specifically, Kempner references issues with both parents, but she is mute about Berg’s relationships with her children. Nevertheless, it’s great to see all the old clips again, with insight from cast members Arlene McQuade and Larry Robinson, and commentary by such notables as Ed Asner, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Norman Lear, and Susan Stamberg. At the very end of the film, Ginsburg describes one specific incident which serves as a perfect punctuation mark, so make sure you stay through the credits.

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg opens locally on Fri July 31 at the AMC River East (Chicago) and the Landmark Renaissance (Highland Park), and Aviva Kempner will be here for the weekend to personally attend selected screenings. For exact dates, times and locations, visit: http://www.mollygoldbergfilm.org.

Filmmaker Aviva Kempner.

TZIVI’S ADDENDA

1.) Read my chat with writer/director Akiva Kempner.

2.) Read my review of YHMG from a Feminist perspective

3.) Read of my review of Kempner’s Hank Greenberg doc.

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