Review: Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg DVD

STUDIO: New Video | DIRECTOR: Aviva Kempner
RELEASE DATE: 8/24/10 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, three episodes of The Goldbergs, Gertrude Berg guest appearances and recipe, additional scenes and interviews
SPECS: NR | 92 min. | Documentary | 1.33:1 fullscreen | Dolby Digital 2.0

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg quickly informs audiences that before Lucy and long before Oprah, another woman ruled television. Her name was Gertrude Berg, and she wrote, produced and starred in TV’s The Goldbergs from 1949 to 1956. A sitcom inspired by Berg’s hit radio series, which ran for some 17 years, The Goldbergs focused on a Jewish family in Brooklyn and was enormously popular and ground-breaking in terms of its depiction of social and religious issues.

The story of Berg’s life and career is expertly chronicled in this acclaimed documentary by Aviva Kempner, the filmmaker who also gave us the movies The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg and The Partisans of Vilna.

Kempner uses an array of impressive resources to recount Berg’s incredible life. There’s archival footage from the TV show, clips from Berg’s celebrated interview with Edward R. Murrow and comments from Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actor Ed Asner and legendary TV producer Norman Lear.

While very entertaining, the film doesn’t pull any punches in dealing with serious issues involving Berg, including a subsequent TV series that didn’t click with audiences and co-star Philip Loeb’s tragic struggle with the House Un-American Committee (HUAC), which labeled him as a Communist.

At the center of it all is Gertrude Berg, whose on-screen character of Molly Goldberg in The Goldbergs is a matronly Jewish woman who dispenses advice and irons out family problems. In real life, Berg accomplished even more: She wrote 12,000 scripts, was the first woman to win an Emmy, won a tony Award for the Broadway show A Majority of One, was considered to be one of the most popular women in America along with Eleanor Roosevelt and didn’t back down from the HUAC or sponsor General Foods when they threatened her about Loeb’s supposed politics.

Gertrude Berg, who died in 1966 at the age of 68, left an impressive resume that is all but forgotten by several generations today. But thanks to Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, it can be looked at, appreciated, and maybe even cherished.

Don’t stop with the movie. The DVD has plenty more of Gertrude, with The Goldbergs episodes and guest appearances by the dame herself.

 

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.