A story for everyone, not just Jewish Families, it chronicles her journey from radio in the 20s to TV in the 40s & 50s, its triumphs and heartaches.
It's a fascinating story and if you don't catch it on PBS this weekend, look for another showing coming up.
Story of the radio and television program "The Goldbergs". It is also the story of the powerhouse woman behind that program, Gertrude Berg. This is a very well produced documentary easily of the quality of PBS documentary programs like "American Masters" and "The American Experience". The story is told using original photographs and films of the period, excerpts from the program, and interview comments by people like Susan Stamberg (of NPR), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (associate justice of the United States Supreme Court), and Norman Lear. Also included are excerpts from a 1950s interview of Gertrude Berg by Edward R. Morrow.
The first popular situation comedy on the radio was also the first popular situation comedy on television. The program was originally titled "The Rise of the Goldbergs", and later shortened to just "The Goldbergs". The program was a sort of "Mother Knows Best" with the mother being the smart, wise, and big-hearted Molly Goldberg. It was written by and starred Gertrude Berg--born Tilly Edelstein--and became a sort of comedy/drama soap opera, at first 15 minutes a day and later expanded to a half hour. The stories were about the family of Molly Goldberg, a woman who was very much like Gertrude Berg herself. It had a real feel for everyday life and was spiced with aside comments on the action from Berg to the listener who was treated much like a member of the family.
The radio program premiered November 20, 1929, on the CBS Blue Network. It ran on the radio, including a network change, until 1950. But starting in 1949 the show also ran on television until 1956. While the program was about a Jewish immigrant family it had an appeal across all ethnic backgrounds. Its story of characters trying to get along on what little they had during the Great Depression. Its portrayal of an immigrant family resonated with the public. One interviewee says that she was Greek, but she saw much of her own family in the fictional Goldbergs. The Goldberg family could get along in hard times and come out OK, even with very little to live on. This is a message that is as relevant today as it was in Depression days.
Polls at the time said that the Gertrude Berg was second only to Eleanor Roosevelt as the most respected women in America.