Film : "Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg" at Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center
On Tuesday, August 25, come to the Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center and be introduced to the most famous woman in America you may never have heard of : Gertrude Berg, the subject of Aviva Kempner's documentary, "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg."
An offshoot of her radio show, "The Goldbergs" (1929-1946), the late Gertrude Berg starred in television's first situation comedy by the same name (1949-1956). It was a warm-hearted folksy series about a Jewish family living in a Bronx tenement, for which she won the first Best Actress Emmy. Ms. Berg started every episode the same way: an unseen neighbor sang out, "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg," and she would appear leaning out of her window and begin a homey chat with the audience.
Through Molly Goldberg, Ms. Berg, who wrote, produced and starred in the shows, elevated the stereotype of immigrants -- and not just those who were Jewish -- as figures of ridicule. Molly was a strong, feminist figure who everyone could identify with in some way.
For people who grew up in the 1950s, Ms. Berg's Molly Goldberg - a radio show, a play, a hit television show and a Broadway musical - became a beloved household name. After the TV show ended, she stayed in the public eye with appearances on other TV shows and in movies, began writing an advice column, and published a cookbook. In Ms. Kempner's documentary, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg describes how the late Justice Thurgood Marshall once called her Mrs. Goldberg by mistake during a court session.
The director wisely lets Mrs. Goldberg tell her own story with generous clips from the show and archival photographs. Members of the original cast are interviewed, along with Ms. Berg's friends, family, and NPR special correspondant Susan Stamberg.
Commentators point out that Ms. Berg's show may have become so popular because of the way it idealized family life. Each of the characters was well drawn and appealing, from Uncle David, played by Eli Mintz; husband Jake, played by Philip Loeb; to son Sammy, played by Larry Robinson; and daughter Rosalie, played by Arlene McQuade.
Ms. Kempner will appear at Tuesday's screening, which honors the late Barbara Bick, her friend and mentor. While "The Goldbergs" told Americans the story of America's urban immigrant family, Ms. Berg also gave the nation a look at what being Jewish was like. In an era when Father Coughlin was broadcasting bigotry on the radio, she wrote a Goldberg episode about a stone tossed through the window while the Jewish family was observing Passover Seder. Ms. Berg came second only to Eleanor Roosevelt as the nation's most admired woman.
Martha's Vineyard Film Festival
The Martha's Vineyard Film Festival will end its summer series with the documentary "No Impact Man," on Wednesday, August 26, at the Chilmark Community Center. The film, directed by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, describes how writer Colin Beavan and his family spent a year living without electricity, cars and nonlocal food in an effort to make no harmful impact on the environment. Mr. Beavan, his wife, Michelle Conlin, and producer Eden Wurmfeld will answer questions after the screening.
Cinema Circus will also finish its season Wednesday at the Chilmark Community Center with "Azur and Asmar," an animated film about two brothers who look very different from one another.
"Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg,"Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7:30 pm, M.V. Hebrew Center, Vineyard Haven. Tickets, $5.
"No Impact Man," Wednesday, Aug. 26, 8 pm, Chilmark Community Center, Chilmark . Tickets ($12, $6 for MVFF members) available at the door, or online at tmvff.org until noon, Aug 26.
"Azur and Asmar," Aug. 26, 5 pm, Tickets $5 for kids.
Brooks Robards writes on film, art and theater for The Times.