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A Supreme's Favorite Radio Show

Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1978; Gertrude Berg (Courtesy of International Film Circuit; AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg rarely shares much about her life -- much less funny stories from her past -- so her appearance in the new documentary "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" is a bit of a surprise.

Ginsburg was interviewed about a favorite show from her childhood in Brooklyn: "The Rise of the Goldbergs," a radio comedy ( and later TV sitcom) about a middle-class Jewish family in New York. The endearing, motherly main character, Molly Goldberg, was a household name throughout the country during the Depression.

How popular? While she was arguing in front of the Supreme Court in the 1970s, Ginsburg says, Justice Thurgood Marshall looked at her and said, "Now, Mrs. Goldberg..."

"I hesitated," Ginsburg says in the film. "Should I correct him?" But she reasoned, "Well, it's a compliment, in a way, that he picked Mrs. Goldberg as a Jewish woman who was -- if I may use the expression -- a mensch." And so she decided to let it go and not to point out the error.

D.C. filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who makes movies about forgotten Jewish heroes ("Life and Times of Hank Greenberg"), cornered the justice during a party at the French Embassy and said she was planning a film on Molly. "I loved that show," Ginsburg told her, and immediately agreed to be interviewed because she admired creator Gertrude Berg, who was as well-known and enterprising in her day as Oprah. "She was no shrinking violet," Ginsburg said. "She was an assertive woman. She was out there doing things and leading others."

The documentary had a small release in New York and D.C.; On Wednesday night, there was a private premiere in Los Angeles with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Ed Asner (who appears in the film), Swoosie Kurtz and Jason Alexander.

By The Reliable Source  |  July 23, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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