A Woman Called Golda
History has an inherent prejudice. It is typically written by the side that is victorious and shows only that vantage point. Traditionally it has also been written from the male point of view. Looking back at the history classes most of us took in grade school, the accomplishments of very few women were highlighted. In the context of American history, there is Betsy Ross and her alleged sewing the American flag during the revolutionary war but not much else was told about other women that have made historical contributions. On the world stage, the same seems to have held true although women have made an incredible mark on the globe. One woman who was in the middle of some of the most tumultuous times in world history was Golda Meir. She proudly served as the fourth prime minister of the State of Israel and worked towards the advancement of her nation. Meir was able to go toe to toe with the greatest men of her time and was aptly known as the ‘Iron Lady’ of Israeli politics. In 1982 Paramount Television produced the definitive look at this amazingly strong and dedicated woman; ‘A Woman Called Golda.' It would go on to receive critical acclaim and garner numerous well-deserved awards. This groundbreaking mini-series is now available on DVD through CBS Paramount, and it is a must-have disc that will provide the details of her remarkable life. This is not only a compelling biography but works as a gripping drama of a period in history that was a critical turning point for millions of people. Many may have the preconception that a mini-series like this would be dry. To their credit, the cast and crew gave their all to this project and made it something that holds together as a remarkable drama. It brings to life people that just name for many of this generation. Crucial to understanding a region as complicated as the Middle East it is vital to understand the formation of the current socio-political structure. This mini-series provides this background in a fashion that is rarely achieved. While many people have DVDs from CBS Paramount in their homes many of those titles, maybe the plethora of TV series that they currently distribute. With this, they go far beyond that part of their catalog with a program of depth and perspective that will urge all watching to read up on this woman and her many achievements.
From the start of this project, every effort was made to present Ms. Meir as a real person who had the same foibles that we all share. There is no glamorization here just the presentation of a woman’s life and how she interacted with the world. With this as a mandate, it is important to have writers that can handle such an intense subject matter. Taking up the challenge were Harold Gast and Steve Gethers. Gast had built a career in television that spanned thirty years at the time of this production. He had worked on some of the most highly regarded dramatic television series of the fifties and sixties including ‘Ben Casey,' ‘The Defenders’ and ‘The United States Steel Hour.' Gethers had a similar background with a greater emphasis on some of the great hour-long dramatic anthology series of the time. These are men who were there during the formative age of television; back when there was real drama brought into American homes each week. They have a proven track record of telling a serious story with eh utmost of care and respect while never sacrificing quality. There is a quote from William Shakespeare that goes "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them." In the case of Golda Meir, all three conditions had a part in her life. She was born to a modest family and diligently worked all her life. Meir was born with the determination and strength of character that would make her one of the most respected leaders in the world. This woman was able to take those character traits and work towards realizing her goals. Lastly, she was the right person in the right place and time in history. This was a woman who rose above all adversity to achieve greatness on the turbulent platform of global politics. She may have looked like that nice elderly Jewish grandmother down the block, but she was a true, unstoppable force of nature. As is the case in every translation of real events and real people to film there have been some changes made for dramatic effect. At least this is prominently displayed at the start of the movie. While some dramatic license has been taken, overall the life of this remarkable woman comes across loud and clear.
Alan Gibson has been a notable director in television since the early sixties. Along the way, he has made a mark on many dramatic series and before this project worked on the life on another historical figure, Winston Churchill. With the original commercials removed this mini-series still runs about two hundred minutes. It is an arduous task for any director to maintain a sense of dramatic impact and drive for such a long period. Gibson not only does this but he accomplishes it with unparallel style and flair. Of course, it helps a lot when the subject is someone like Golda Meir with and inherently fascinating life.
The most important part of a biographically oriented film is the choice of the actor that will portray that life. In this case, only a woman with similar drive and passion could die due to Meir justice. Fortunately for us, all the actress selected was Ingrid Bergman. She had been one of the most iconic actresses of all time with a long list of memorable performances from ‘Casablanca’ to ‘Spellbound.' This was her last appearance in a film; she died from surgical complications shortly after the movie was aired and posthumously won an Emmy for this role. Bergman threw herself into research in preparation for this part. She demonstrated the same love of her craft as Meir held for her people and new homeland. The film opened in Milwaukee in 1977. Meir had spent part of her childhood in this city and had returned to speak to a group of people about her life. This natural setting gives a fantastic jumping off point for the filmmakers and affords the audience a first-person retrospective of Meir’s story. The story recants how Meir worked her way up from humble roots to bring about a dream shared by millions; a Jewish homeland for all the Jews displaced and homeless due to war and prejudice. This is an amazing work about a powerhouse of a woman. It should not be missed but watched, discussed and cherished.
Posted 03/09/09 11/18/2017