The Jewish Woman in History

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The Quintessential Jewish Mother:
Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg

"The Rise of the Goldbergs"
First broadcast on NBC Radio 20 Nov 1929

21 Feb 1932, New York Times:

They all told Gertrude Berg it couldn't be done. They were skeptical about such a program on the air. It might be all right for the stage and the pictures, but radio was too intimate, too close to home.

  But Gertrude Berg was persistent. To one radio executive after another she carried her manuscripts. On all sides she met with little encouragement. Eventually she interviewed (with) an executive of the National Broadcasting Company.  This time the "no" was a maybe and the deliberation was longer. At last she was told to select a cast and rehearse for an audition.

A date was assigned and Gertrude Berg went into rehearsal with her little group. An on one bleak Winter's night "The Rise of the Goldbergs" was broadcast for the first time. Soon this sketch was heralded as the "Abie's Irish Rose" of the air....

....There is no religious tangle in the radio sketch. It deals with the simple happenings attending the ambitious climb of a dressmaker's presser in the ghetto to the Park Avenue affluence of a cloak-and-suit merchant.

There are four principal characters in this ethereal play: Mollie Goldberg, the mother; Jake Goldberg, the father; Sammy and Rose, the children. Finding the proper actors for these parts was no easy task for Mrs. Berg. The really big role, that of Mollie, was simple. She could play that herself. She is the family planner and philosopher. But it was only after the program was on the air several weeks that the present cast was selected. James R. Waters, a veteran of "Abie's Irish Rose" and other stage plays, is Jake. Rosalyn Silber, the Rosie of today, and Alfred Corn, who plays Sammy, are both products of the Sunday children's program.

Mrs. Berg, prior to her entrance into vaudeville following the success of "The Rise of the Goldbergs" on the air, never had a day of stage experience in her life. But she knows the people of New York's lower east side as few people know them. She came to radio with a background of writing plays for Jewish art theatres and with a lifetime of association with those who live amid the pushcarts of Hester Street.


Photos courtesy of  The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts / Billy Rose Theatre Division
Passage from New York Times, 21 Feb 1932, "Rise of the Goldbergs Called 'Abie's Irish Rose' of the Air.'


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