Old-school Jewish mothers are become a rarity on TV these days. There’s Howard Wolowitz’s mother, Mrs. Wolowitz, on The Big Bang Theory, who never appears on screen but screams at her son from other rooms. There’s also Kyle’s mother, Sheila Broflovski, on South Park, who has a New Jersey accent and a propensity to ruin everyone’s fun. The most positive portrayal of a Jewish mother on television was Molly Goldberg from the original The Goldbergs. Created and portrayed by Gertrude Berg, Molly was a lead character, not supporting. While she did meddle from time to time, she was also warm and competent and adored by her family. We are proud of having told Gertrude Berg’s story of how she positively depicted a Jewish mother in Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg. However, the stereotype seems to be dying out. To most young people nowadays, Jews are just “regular old boring white people.”
Check out the blog Florence & Isabelle, where you’ll be able to find recipes from The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook. Click here to find out how to make Sauerkraut Soup, with a shout-out to the film Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg.
Aviva Kempner’s 2009 documentary Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg is scheduled to screen on January 17th at Congregation L’dor Va-dor in Boynton Beach, Florida. If you’re in the area, we hope you can make it!
Gertrude Berg was a pioneering sitcom producer, writer and actress. Normal Lear was the pioneering sitcom producer of the 1970’s, developing series such as All in the Family, Maude, and Sanford and Son, which explored issues of race, gender and the generation gap in ways then new to television in general, and in a frank manner for society as a whole. Lear was interviewed about Gertrude Berg’s career and influence, in Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg. At 7 p.m. on Monday, October 13, 2014, Lear spoke at Washington. D.C. historic Sixth and I Synagogue, in conjunction with Politics and Prose Bookstore, about his new memoir Even This I Get to Experience. Aviva Kempner, who produced and directed Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, attended the presentation. Lear’s book details his 50 years in Hollywood, and friendships with luminaries such as Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, as well as his unique engagement on political and social issues. On Wednesday, October 15th, Lear appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and ABC’s Good Morning America.
Two New York repertory theaters are collaborating to present a series of films showcasing the Hollywood “blacklist,” testing the theory that the works by blacklisted filmmakers and screenwriters pushed the boundaries of Hollywood filmmaking and represent some of the most sophisticated and nuanced cinematic works of the period.
Actor Philip Loeb, of the seminal sitcom “The Goldbergs” was blacklisted in the early 1950s. Being blacklisted effectively ended Loeb’s career and may have contributed to his decision to commit suicide in 1955. Loeb’s story is chronicled in Aviva Kempner’s 2009 documentary, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center kicked things off last week with showings of Red Hollywood, a 1996 documentary about the blacklist directed by Thom Anderson. Anderson curated a selection of films made by blacklisted directors and screenwriters to accompany his documentary at the Lincoln Center including Joseph Losey’s The Prowler and Cy Endfield’s Zulu.
The Lincoln Center’s part of the series is over, but Anthology Film Archives’ is just beginning. Between August 22nd and September 2nd, they’re screening films made by later blacklisted writers and directors before the blacklist took effect. The Boy With Green Hair, the first film by Joseph Losey, who was blacklisted in the early 1950s, will screen August 27th and 28th. Northern Pursuit, written by Alvah Bessie, who later was imprisoned as one of the Hollywood Ten, will screen on August 30th. In the fall, Anthology will screen films written during and after the blacklist by blacklisted screenwriters.
The blacklist hindered the work of some of the most talented artists of mid-century Hollywood, and destroyed the lives of others. If you are in the area, take the time to see some of the upcoming films in the series at Anthology Film Archives.
The New York Times reported last week that Anna Berger, star of stage and screen, passed away May 26th at the age of 91.
I met Anna while making my 2009 film, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg. She speaks eloquently in the film about the impact of the blacklist on actors like Philip Loeb during the McCarthy era.
Anna got her start in acting with a small part in “The Goldbergs,” but went on to great roles on Broadway, in movies including The Taking of Pelham, One, Two, Three and Crimes and Misdemeanors and in TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “N.Y.P.D. Blue.”
Anna was one of the great character actors, bringing so much to each of her roles, no matter how large. She will be missed.
Variety reports that Arlene McQuade, a mainstay in the cast of the “The Goldbergs” during its complete television run, has passed away.
Arlene with Gertrude Berg and Eli Mintz on “The Goldbergs” in 1954
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Arlene was delightful as Rosalie in “The Goldbergs” and I enjoyed so much filming her in Albuquerque where she lived after retiring from show business. She has additional stories about befriending Anne Bancroft aka Anne Marno on the DVD of Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg.
I had a wonderful time last week at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. I visited the museum for the opening of “Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American,” a great new exhibit that shows how the game of baseball has impacted American minority communities over the past century. My 1999 film, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, commemorates the uncommon devotion Jews had for the first great Jewish slugger, Hammerin’ Hank. NMAJH’s new exhibit strikes a similar tone, commemorating the reverence for Jewish ballplayers felt by lifelong fans. We were thrilled that the exhibit asked for two key interviews from my film and its DVD extras.
I was also honored to write the chapter on Hank Greenberg for the companion book to the exhibit, Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American. Josh Perelman edited together a great group of essays about “Becoming American” through baseball for the book. I contributed a chapter to the book entitled “Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg: Call Him the Hero of Heroes.” You can get more details about the book–and also buy yourself a copy–here.
Here are some snapshots of the exhibits featuring Hank Greenberg:
A display of Hank Greenberg memorabilia
The headline image for the exhibit, Hank admiring a long ball off his own bat
An excerpt from my interview with Arn Tellem that appeared in The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
A “ladder” of the great Jewish ballplayers comes down to a face-off between Hank and Sandy Koufax. This chart was made by baseball aficionado Dan Okrent who went to school with me in Detroit.
By Aviva Kempner
The AFI Theater in Silver Spring is screening a series of baseball films in March and April, including one of the Ciesla Foundation’s previous productions, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1999). Their description is below:
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG
April 6, 2014 at 5:15 pm
AFI Silver Theatre, Silver Spring, MD
In person: filmmaker Aviva Kempner
This Peabody Award-winning film is a humorous and nostalgic documentary about an extraordinary baseball player who transcended religious prejudice to become an American icon. Hammerin’ Hank’s accomplishments for the Detroit Tigers during the Golden Age of Baseball rivaled those of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. America’s first Jewish baseball star was a beacon of hope to American Jews who faced bigotry during the Depression and World War II.
DIR/SCR/PROD Aviva Kempner. US, 1999, b&w and color, 95 min, 35mm. RATED PG
Co-presented by the Washington Jewish Film Festival and Women in Film & Video of Washington, DC.
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg is slated to screen as part of the Michigan City Jewish Film Festival. Sponsored by Sinai Temple, the screening will be at the Michigan City Public Library on April 6th, 2014.