Gertrude Berg - Rotten Tomatoes

Gertrude Berg

Highest Rated:   93% Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009)
Lowest Rated:   93% Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009)
Birthplace:   Not Available
Gertrude Berg was, from the 1920s until the mid-'40s, the most prominent and successful female producer/writer/actress on radio and television, responsible for creating one of the earliest "franchise" series in electronic media, The Rise of the Goldbergs, later shortened to The Goldbergs. Berg was born Tilly Edelstein in New York City in 1898. The family originally had two children, of whom Tilly was the younger; her older brother died of diphtheria at a young age, an event from which Tilly's mother never recovered. Tilly's father opened a resort, Fleischmann's, in the Catskills. Tilly had aspired from an early age to a career on the stage, but her family had no way to get into the entertainment world. It was at Fleischmann's that she got her chance to work in entertainment. Starting at age 15, she wrote and rehearsed little playlets and sketches, which became ever more elaborate, and began devising characters on the page and the stage, based on who and what she knew from life in the Jewish section of East Harlem where she grew up. After finishing high school, she enrolled in Columbia University, where she studied playwriting. She later married Lewis Berg, and the couple left New York for a time to live in Louisiana, where Lewis landed a job in the research division of a sugar company. Tilly never gave up her desire to entertain, and when the family -- which soon included two children -- moved back to New York, she waited for her opportunity. She broke into radio as an actress, in a commercial for cookie mix in Yiddish -- which she didn't speak, but learned phonetically from her grandfather -- which proved so popular that she suddenly had a performing career. After that, she sold a few scripts on radio, and as early as 1928 started treading new thematic ground with what ended up as a one-shot show called "Effie And Laura," about a pair of working-class sales girls. Garry Marshall, born seven years later, obviously never heard "Effie And Laura," but that program eerily anticipated Laverne & Shirley 50 years later. In November 1929, she went on the air as the creator, writer, and producer of The Rise of the Goldbergs on NBC, in the role of family matriarch/host Molly Goldberg. Later shortened to The Goldbergs, the series became an instant hit as an island of genial urban ethnicity and warm family-based humor in a radio world dominated by most decidedly more middle American sensibilities. Strangely enough, it had never been her intention to portray Molly Goldberg -- she did it at the audition for the sake of expediency -- but network executives asked Berg to try doing it on the air, and their instincts were right. NBC was paying her the extraordinary sum of $2,000 a week, but really didn't discover how big a hit they had until a few weeks later, when a sore throat forced Gertrude Berg, as she billed herself professionally, to miss some episodes in her portrayal of family matriarch Molly Goldberg. The network received so many phone calls that the switchboard shut down, and over 100,000 letters came in. The Goldbergs, 15 minutes a day five days a week, ran on radio for the next 16 years until the end of 1945, switching networks to CBS midway through the run.In the course of the show's run on radio, Berg kept the humor level consistent, even as she included topical references to the worsening lot of Jews in Europe and anti-Semitism at home. The series' humor was accompanied by a message of hope and reassurance that transcended the setting and characters of the series itself. Immigrant families of all origins could identify with The Goldbergs, but middle American listeners also came to identify with and understand aspects of urban and Jewish life that had never before been presented on radio. For the 1933 episode coinciding with Passover, for example, Berg had a real rabbi officiate at a Seder, carrying the actual service on the air, this at a time when the airwaves were filled with anti-Semitism. And the reaction from out in the cou

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