Aviva Kempner's Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg is an engrossing nostalgia bath -- if you're of a certain age.
If you're younger, it's a window into a bygone world that seems so much simpler and rife with possibilities: the early days of TV, when the medium minted its first superstars, including Liberace, Bishop Fulton Sheen -- and Gertrude Berg.
Berg's name rarely gets mentioned as a pioneer, yet as Kempner's film shows, she can lay claim to having invented the situation-comedy with her popular show, The Goldbergs. In her time, she was a force to be reckoned with, writing, producing and starring in her own TV series at the dawn of that breakthrough medium. She won the first Emmy given for best actress.
Kempner traces Berg's life as the daughter of an immigrant, writing and performing skits at her father's Catskills resort, through her marriage to a successful British businessman, Lewis Berg. In the 1930s, she wrote and performed a successful radio show, The Rise of the Goldbergs, later shortened to The Goldbergs. When television dawned, she guilt-tripped William Paley (for whom she'd made so much money with her radio show) into giving her a chance to transform it for his nascent CBS television network -- and produced one of his first big hits.
Kempner touches the bases in telling Goldberg's story: her dominion as producer (and the artistic temperament that went with it); her willingness to stand up to the McCarthyites who targeted Philip Loeb, the actor who played her husband on the show, as a Communist sympathizer; the ability of the show to sell products that she endorsed in commercials that were part of the show.
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