The Goldbergs
The Goldbergs is a comedy-drama broadcast from 1929 to 1946 on American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

, and from 1949 to 1956 on American television. It was adapted into a 1948 play, Me and Molly
Me and Molly
Me and Molly is a play by Gertrude Berg which is based on Berg's long running radio drama The Goldbergs. The work premiered on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre on February 26, 1948. It closed after 156 performances on July 10, 1948...

, and a 1973 Broadway musical, Molly
Molly (musical)
Molly is a musical with lyrics by Leonard Adelson and Mack David and music by Jerry Livingston. The musical book by Louis Garfinkle and Adelson is based on characters from Gertrude Berg's The Goldbergs. The musical premiered on Broadway on September 27, 1973 at the Alvin Theatre where it ran for a...



The program was devised by writer-actress Gertrude Berg
Gertrude Berg
Gertrude Berg was an American actress and screenwriter. A pioneer of classic radio, she was one of the first women to create, write, produce and star in a long-running hit when she premiered her serial comedy-drama The Rise of the Goldbergs , later known as The Goldbergs.-Career:Berg was born...

 in 1928 and sold to the NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 radio network the following year. It was a domestic comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 featuring the home life of a Jewish family, supposedly located at 1038 East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx
The Bronx
The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City. It is also known as Bronx County, the last of the 62 counties of New York State to be incorporated...

. In addition to writing the scripts and directing each episode, Berg starred as bighearted, lovingly meddlesome, and somewhat stereotypical matriarch Molly Goldberg. The show began as a portrait of Jewish tenement life before later evoking such growing pains as moving into a more suburban setting and struggling with assimilation while sustaining their roots.

The Goldbergs began as a weekly 15-minute program called The Rise of the Goldbergs on November 20, 1929, going daily in 1931. The series moved to CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 in 1936 with the title shortened to The Goldbergs. Like other 15-minute comedies of the day, such as Amos 'n' Andy
Amos 'n' Andy
Amos 'n' Andy is a situation comedy set in the African-American community. It was very popular in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s on both radio and television....

, Lum and Abner
Lum and Abner
Lum and Abner was an American radio comedy network program created by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff that aired from 1931 to 1954. Modeled on life in the small town of Waters, Arkansas, near where Lauck and Goff grew up, the showed proved immensely popular...

, Easy Aces
Easy Aces
Easy Aces, a long-running American serial radio comedy , was trademarked by the low-keyed drollery of creator and writer Goodman Ace and his wife, Jane, as an urbane, put-upon realtor and his malaprop-prone wife...

, Vic and Sade
Vic and Sade
Vic and Sade was an American radio program created and written by Paul Rhymer. It was regularly broadcast on radio from 1932 to 1944, then intermittently until 1946, and was briefly adapted to television in 1949 and again in 1957....

and Myrt and Marge, The Goldbergs was a serial with running storylines. Berg's usual introduction—in character as Molly, hollering, "Yoo-hoo! Is anybody...?"—became a catchphrase. In the 1940s, this was followed by Bud Collyer
Bud Collyer
Bud Collyer was an American radio actor/announcer who became one of the nation's first major television game show stars...

 warbling, "There she is, folks—that's Molly Goldberg, a woman with a place in every heart and a finger in every pie".

When Gertrude Berg missed a couple of weeks due to illness, stations carrying the popular show were flooded with get-well mail. At the height of the show's popularity, Life
Life (magazine)
Life generally refers to three American magazines:*A humor and general interest magazine published from 1883 to 1936. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936 solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name....

wrote: "For millions of Americans, listening to The Goldbergs... has been a happy ritual akin to slipping on a pair of comfortable old shoes that never seem to wear out".

Radio historians Frank Buxton and Bill Owen, in The Big Broadcast 1920–1950, noted that The Goldbergs, which they considered a soap opera as much as a comedy, "differed from most of the other 'soaps' in that its leading characters lived through relatively normal situations. Even though it was the story of a poor Jewish family in the Bronx, New York, it had identification for a wide segment of listeners". Of the 15-minute serial comedies, only Amos 'n' Andy enjoyed a longer radio life than The Goldbergs.

The role of husband Jake Goldberg was first played by Himan Brown
Himan Brown
Himan Brown , also known as Hi Brown and Mende Brown, was an American producer of radio programs. Producing for the major radio networks and also for syndication, Brown worked with such actors as Helen Hayes, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra and Orson Welles while creating...

 and later by James R. Waters. When Waters died suddenly in 1945, Berg resisted recasting the role. Instead, she simply had Molly refer to Jake, occasionally setting up dialogue in which his reply was not heard when she spoke to him.

Berg's portrayal of the Jewish mother stereotype
Jewish mother stereotype
The Jewish mother or wife stereotype is a common stereotype and stock character used by Jewish comedians and authors whenever they discuss actual or fictional situations involving their mothers or other females in their lives who possess mother-like qualities...

 emphasized the positive. "This series has done more to set us Jews right with the 'goyim' than all the sermon
A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts...

s ever preached by the Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

s," wrote one Jewish educator.

The serious side

Berg was not averse to incorporating serious real-world issues that affected Jewish families. One 1939 episode addressed Kristallnacht
Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, and also Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome, was a pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938.Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and...

 and Nazi Germany (including a rock through the family window as the Goldbergs made their Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

 Seder); other World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

-era episodes alluded to friends or family members trying to escape the Holocaust. But these were sporadic deviations from the show's main theme of family, neighborhood and the balance between old world values and new world assimilation.

The Goldbergs was so popular that performing stars in other arts sought to appear on it. Berg consented, for example, to cast Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

 star Jan Peerce
Jan Peerce
Jan Peerce was an American operatic tenor. Peerce was an accomplished performer on the operatic and Broadway concert stages, in solo recitals, and as a recording artist. He is the father of film director Larry Peerce....

 almost annually to sing on Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur , also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue...

 and Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

. Another famous singer of the day, Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Ernestine Schumann-Heink was a celebrated Austrian, later American, operatic contralto, noted for the size, beauty, tonal richness, flexibility and wide range of her voice.- Early life:...

, asked Berg directly if she could appear, and Berg wrote her into three episodes.

The radio cast included Roslyn Silber and Alfred Ryder as children Rosalie and Sammy, Menasha Skulnik
Menasha Skulnik
Menasha Skulnik was a Jewish American actor, primarily known for his roles in Yiddish theater in New York City. Skulnik was also popular on radio, playing Uncle David on The Goldbergs for 19 years...

 as Uncle David, Arnold Stang
Arnold Stang
Arnold Stang was an American comic actor who played a small and bespectacled, yet brash and knowing big-city type.-Career:...

 (later famous as the voice of Top Cat
Top Cat
Top Cat is a Hanna-Barbera prime time animated television series which ran from September 27, 1961 to April 18, 1962 for a run of 30 episodes on the ABC network. Reruns are played on Cartoon Network's classic animation network Boomerang.-History:...

) as Seymour Fingerhood, Garson Kanin
Garson Kanin
Garson Kanin was a prolific American writer and director of plays and films.-Film and stage career:...

 as Eli Edwards, and Zina Provendie as Sylvia Allison, among others.

Moves into radio and television

In 1948, Berg wrote and staged a theatrical version of the show on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

, Me and Molly. A year later, she brought The Goldbergs to television.


The television version ran on CBS Television
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 from 1949 to 1951 and co-starred Philip Loeb
Philip Loeb
Philip Loeb , was an American stage, film, and television actor who was blacklisted under McCarthyism and committed suicide.- Background :...

 as Jake Goldberg. He and Gertrude Berg reprised their roles in a 1950 film of the same name. The show almost didn't get to the small screen at all: CBS executives were uncertain that the show would work on television as well as it did on radio. Berg prevailed, however, and picked up General Foods
General Foods
General Foods Corporation was a company whose direct predecessor was established in the USA by Charles William Post as the Postum Cereal Company in 1895. The name General Foods was adopted in 1929, after several corporate acquisitions...

Sanka is a brand of instant decaffeinated coffee, sold around the world, and was one of the earliest decaffeinated varieties. Sanka is distributed in the United States by Kraft Foods.-History:...

 coffee) as its sponsor. Berg, who continued to write every episode, insisted that no studio audience
Studio audience
A studio audience is an audience present for the taping of all or part of a television program. The primary purpose of the studio audience is to provide applause and/or laughter to the program's soundtrack . A studio audience can also provide volunteers, a visual backdrop and discussion participants...

 be used and made sure everyday events formed the base for the stories; she was once quoted as saying she avoided "anything that will bother people ... unions, fund raising, Zionism, socialism, intergroup relations. ... I keep things average. I don't want to lose friends." Berg's hard work and determination paid off. In 1950, she won the first Best Actress Emmy Award
Primetime Emmy Award
The Primetime Emmy Awards are awards presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in recognition of excellence in American primetime television programming...

 for her role as Molly on The Goldbergs.

The Goldbergs was destined to spend almost a decade on television—but not without disruptions. In 1950, Philip Loeb was blacklisted
Hollywood blacklist
The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or...

 and pressure was placed on Berg (who owned the television version as she had the radio original) to fire him. When she refused, General Foods
General Foods
General Foods Corporation was a company whose direct predecessor was established in the USA by Charles William Post as the Postum Cereal Company in 1895. The name General Foods was adopted in 1929, after several corporate acquisitions...

 cancelled their sponsorship, and CBS dropped it from their schedule by June 1951.

Eight months later, however NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

—the show's original broadcasting home—picked up the series for the 1952–53 season, but informed Gertrude Berg that if she persisted in allowing Philip Loeb to remain with the series, it would never be seen on television again. She finally gave in, and the series reappeared in a twice-weekly, early-evening 15 minute format (with another change in title, to Molly, in due course), with Harold Stone and then Robert H. Harris
Robert H. Harris
Robert H. Harris was an American character actor born in New York City, New York.-Career:...

 replacing Loeb as Jake, though Berg quietly continued to pay a salary to Loeb. After The Goldbergs ended its CBS run, Tom Taylor replaced Larry Robinson in the role of Molly's son, Sammy. The rest of the television cast included Eli Mintz
Eli Mintz
-Biography:Born as Edward Satz in Lwów, Poland , the son of a tailor, he began acting professionally as a child in the theatre, with his first performance being in a production of The Dybbuk. He immigrated to the United States in 1927 with the intent of pursuing a career as an actor...

 as Uncle David, Arlene McQuade as Rosalie and Betty Bendyke as Dora Barnett. On radio, Sammy and Rosalie had grown up and gotten married; on television, the characters were revived as teenagers. During this time, Gertrude Berg and Arlene McQuade appeared as their characters of Molly and Rosalie, respectively, when they guested on NBC-TV's Texaco Star Theater
Texaco Star Theater
Texaco Star Theater is an American comedy-variety show, broadcast on radio from 1938 to 1949 and telecast from 1948 to 1956. It was one of the first successful examples of American television broadcasting, remembered as the show that gave Milton Berle the nickname "Mr...

 starring Milton Berle
Milton Berle
Milton Berlinger , better known as Milton Berle, was an American comedian and actor. As the manic host of NBC's Texaco Star Theater , in 1948 he was the first major star of U.S. television and as such became known as Uncle Miltie and Mr...


In 1954, the show reverted to a weekly half-hour, moving to the DuMont
DuMont Television Network
The DuMont Television Network, also known as the DuMont Network, DuMont, Du Mont, or Dumont was one of the world's pioneer commercial television networks, rivalling NBC for the distinction of being first overall. It began operation in the United States in 1946. It was owned by DuMont...

 network for a run from April to October. The series was originally intended to run for six months on DuMont, but, due to financial difficulties, the network was unable to fulfill the $5 million contract, despite Nielsen ratings
Nielsen Ratings
Nielsen ratings are the audience measurement systems developed by Nielsen Media Research, in an effort to determine the audience size and composition of television programming in the United States...

 estimated at ten million viewers. The DuMont shows were aired live.

A final version, aired in syndication, was filmed in 1955 and aired on local stations until 1956. This version moved the Goldbergs from the Bronx to the New York suburb of Haverville. In a way this mirrored the real life journey of many Jewish families from the Bronx to the suburbs and other parts of New York during this period. However, this was considered the death knell of the show, as it was felt that the Goldbergs were only the Goldbergs in the Bronx. Also in 1955, Philip Loeb, beset by depression and unable to find other work, committed suicide. In 1957, Gertrude Berg made her last two appearances as Molly Goldberg: first on an episode of the NBC-TV variety series Washington Square with Ray Bolger
Ray Bolger
Raymond Wallace "Ray" Bolger was an American entertainer of stage and screen, best known for his portrayal of the Scarecrow and Kansas farmworker Hank in The Wizard of Oz.-Early life:...

, and then on a Kate Smith
Kate Smith
Kathryn Elizabeth "Kate" Smith was an American Popular singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, which reached its pinnacle in the 1940s.Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia...

 special that aired on ABC-TV
ABC-TV can refer to:*American Broadcasting Company, a radio and television network in the United States*Australian Broadcasting Corporation's ABC Television network**ABC , the ABC television station in Canberra...



Gertrude Berg returned to television six years later in a situation comedy, Mrs. G. Goes to College
Mrs. G. Goes to College
Mrs. G. Goes To College is an American situation comedy which aired on CBS from October 4, 1961 to April 5, 1962...

, playing Sarah Green, a Molly Goldberg-like character. Despite being retitled The Gertrude Berg Show in mid-year, the program was cancelled after one season. The Goldbergs is available to collectors and fans in a large number of surviving radio episodes and some surviving television episodes. Aviva Kempner
Aviva Kempner
Aviva Kempner is an American filmmaker. Her documentaries investigate non-stereotypical images of Jews in history and focus on the untold stories of Jewish heroes. She is most well known for The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg....

's 2009 documentary, "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg is a 2009 documentary film on the broadcast career of Gertrude Berg and her radio and television serials, The Goldbergs. Aviva Kempner directed the film, interviewing family members of Berg, cast members of the Goldbergs and historians of radio and television...

", deals with the show, and to an extent, Gertrude Berg's personal life.

Most of the DuMont episodes survive at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
UCLA Film and Television Archive
The UCLA Film and Television Archive is an internationally renowned visual arts organization focused on the preservation, study, and appreciation of film and television, based at the University of California, Los Angeles. It holds more than 220,000 film and television titles and 27 million feet of...

, while the 39 filmed episodes survive intact.

Since 2009 the series is seen on the JLTV (Jewish Life Television) cable network.


In March 2010, Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory is an entertainment company founded in 2003 that was started by Richard Foos , Bob Emmer and Garson Foos initially as a specialty music label...

 released The Goldbergs: The Ultimate Goldbergs on DVD via their retail website. The release includes all 71 extant episodes of the television series.

The UCLA Film & Television archive digitally restored all of the episodes, as well as provided 12 radio episodes for the DVD release and the pilot for the short lived series Mrs. G Goes To College (1961). The box set is available from UCLA.

See also

Listen to

External links

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