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Abravanel, Don Isaac
Berg, Gertude (Molly Goldberg)
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Gertude Berg Gertude Berg
Medal by Eugene Daub (2015), radio/television writer and performer Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg and the original cast of her groundbreaking sitcom The Goldbergs.

Gertrude Berg (1899-1966)

Gertrude Berg was born Tillie Edelstein in New York City in 1898. Her father, Jake Edelstein, ran a resort in the Catskill Mountains where Tillie worked and eventually created and performed skits to amuse the guests' children. She met an older Englishman, Lewis Berg, one summer at the resort. He wooed her, and when she turned eighteen they married. A few years later, she started to pursue her writing and acting careers full time, changing her name to Gertrude Berg.

Berg began writing radio scripts based on a fictional family she had formulated as a young woman, now calling them The Goldbergs, a combination of her mother's maiden name and her husband's last name. The Goldbergs premiered on radio in 1929 with Gertrude filling in for the role of Molly until another actress could be found. She was so good that when she was sick for a week the public sent in mass amounts of fan mail asking, "Where's Molly?" Audiences loved listening to the stories and struggles of the Goldberg family and their neighbors, and instantly took to the warmth and guidance of the accented Molly Goldberg.

CBS executives knew they had a hit. As scriptwriter and star, Gertrude Berg was one of the leading women in radio with one of the longest running shows. Unlike Molly, Berg lived on Park Avenue, owned a country house, and did not speak with an accent or recite malapropisms. She wrote early in the morning, and then went to the studio to produce and star in her show.

In 1947, following her 17 year run on radio, Gertrude saw television as a new exciting media, and a new opportunity to reinvigorate and reintroduce The Goldbergs following World War II. After a stage play, The Goldbergs premiered on CBS in 1949. Gertrude Berg was lead writer, star, and producer yet again, and The Goldbergs climbed in popularity.

In 1950, Gertrude Berg won the first best actress Emmy Award in history, she had a clothing line for housewives, published a cookbook, and wrote an advice column called Mama Talks. Her television show was made into a movie called Molly by Paramount Pictures with Berg on set and in the editing room, exerting her influence as screenwriter and producer.

The Goldbergs eventually moved from the Bronx to the suburbs, and continued until 1954, after which Berg also wrote and produced a syndicated film version that remained on the air for another few years.

Gertude Berg
Gertrude Berg’s Tony Award (1959) for best actress in A Majority of One.

Gertrude Berg went on to star in theatrical productions, and won a Tony in 1959 for best actress in A Majority of One. She appeared in a television presentation of The Word of Sholom Aleichem in the same year, and then returned to television as writer and star in Mrs. G Goes to College, which later became known as The Gertrude Berg Show.

Gertrude Berg was the highest paid guest star at the time, and appeared with Steve Allen, Milton Berle, and Perry Como. Her pioneering show “The Goldbergs” blazed the trail for “I Love Lucy” and all other sitcoms to follow!

Biography courtesy of Aviva Kempner, Producer of the film “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg.”

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