Synopsis by Bruce Eder
For more than 25 years, Gertrude Berg was one of the most prominent women in American broadcast media and popular culture, as the creator, writer, producer, and star of The Goldbergs, first on radio (where it was originally known as The Rise of the Goldbergs) and then on television. Berg -- who was best-known to the public in the identity of her character Molly Goldberg -- occupied a unique niche in the fabric of American life, and throughout the 1930s, she and Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the president, competed annually in polls for the title of most prominent woman in America. Berg was even called "The First Lady of Radio" at a time when radio was king. Later on, in the television era, she invented the family sitcom as we came to know it, and did battle against the Red Scare and the blacklist. Director Aviva Kempner's documentary gives an intimate and detailed a look at the life of Berg, who died in 1966 virtually forgotten by the executives of the industry that she helped build. In the process, she and the other participants, and their widows and children, as well as admirers such as United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, explain how this woman, an articulate and intelligent first-generation Jewish American with little formal background in writing and no knowledge of the media, rose to such success in just a few years -- and why she was forgotten and swept aside almost as quickly at the other end of her career. Participants and interviewees, in addition to Justice Ginsberg, include producer/writer Norman Lear, actor Edward Asner, and writer/producer Gary David Goldberg.
Jewish, radio, sitcom