Posted July 17, 2009
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg
"Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg," Biopic About Radio-TV Star Gertrude Berg, Sheds Sad Light On Actor/Activist Philip Loeb
Former AEA Councillor Was Tragic Victim of Blacklist
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, a new documentary produced, directed and written by Aviva Kempner, explores the extraordinary career and accomplishments of broadcast pioneer Gertrude Berg. Her radio show, The Rise of the Goldbergs, which debuted in 1929, ran for seventeen years and led to her enormously popular television show, The Goldbergs. In 1950, Berg won the first Best Actress Emmy Award in history and The Goldbergs was nominated for Best Kinescope Show.
Berg became a cultural icon during turbulent times. Her comedic brilliance and gemutliche style offered a retreat from some of the 20th Century's horrors - the Stock Market Crash, the Depression and the rise of Hitler. Her ability to combine social commentary, family values and comedy made her personal popularity soar. But it couldn't stop her from running into another minefield of American history: the blacklist, which had a devastating effect on the entertainment industry.
While celebrating the achievements of this great star, the movie sheds a sad light on the career and demise of actor Philip Loeb, a union activist who served on AEA's Council from 1934 to 1950, and was a founder of the American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA), a forerunner of AFTRA.
Loeb, who had played Berg's husband on Broadway and for the first two years of the television show, was named a communist/communist sympathizer, in Red Channels, a demonizing political pamphlet of that era. Even though he publicly denied any communist ties, the TV show's sponsors threatened to pull out if Loeb wasn't removed from the show. Berg took a strong stand, long refusing to fire Loeb, but her efforts ultimately proved fruitless against the advertisers and the network. In January 1952, in order to bring the cancelled Goldbergs back on the air, Loeb was forced to leave the show. Before the year was out, Actors' Equity passed and put into action an anti-blacklisting resolution - the only entertainment union to do so at the time.
Sadly, personal problems and an inability to find work because of the blacklisting took their toll: Loeb committed suicide on September 1, 1955. In a Letter to the Editor published by The New York Times, AEA Councillor Margaret Webster wrote:
"I am sure that many of your readers have been deeply shocked and grieved by the recent death of Philip Loeb. Philip Loeb died of a sickness commonly called 'the blacklist'. The direct and obvious effects of this disease, the blacking out of employment in the entertainment industries, are well-known…He was submerged by the wave of fear and mistrust which swept almost all of us. His motives and public actions were rendered suspect. We must resolve that never shall such things happen again. This is the only adequate memorial we can offer to the real Phil Loeb, who was unafraid."
For more information on the film go to, www.mollygoldbergfilm.org/home.php
David Lotz, National Communications Director