Friday, December 29, 2017

The Late Great Rose Marie

Rose Marie, who achieved stardom on vaudeville and radio while still a child and later gained fame as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show, died yesterday at the age of 94.

Rose Marie Mazetta was born on August 15 1923 in Manhattan, New York City. She was the daughter of vaudeville performer Frank Mazzetta, who used the stage name Frank Curley. Even as a toddler she had a fully developed voice that sounded like it belonged to an adult. She started performing when she was only three years old, using the name "Baby Rose Marie". In fact, she was only three when she made her first appearance on radio, singing on Atlantic City radio station WGP. Later in the year she made her national debut, performing on NBC.

Rose Marie made her film debut in 1929 in the Vitaphone sound short "Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder". Starting in July of 1931 she had her own, regular radio show on New York City station WJZ. In 1932 her show went nationwide, airing on the NBC Blue network. It lasted until 1934. She appeared in several movie short subjects in the Thirties, including "Rambling 'Round Radio Row #3", "Sing, Babies, Sing!", "Rambling 'Round Radio Row #10", and "Flippen's Frolics". She also appeared in the feature film International House (1933). It was when she was 11 that she stopped being billed as "Baby Rose Marie" and started being billed simply as "Rose Marie". In the early Thirties she continued to perform live, including a national tour organised by NBC in which she sang at RKO theatres across the United States.

Rose Marie retired briefly from show business to finish high school. From March 21 1938 to February 20 1939 she had her own show on the Blue Network. Over the years she would make several appearances on Old Time Radio, including such shows as The Radio Hall of Fame, Command Performance, The Jimmy Durante Show, Club Hollywood, and The Bing Crosby Chesterfield Show. She made several appearances on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. She also sang at various nightclubs around the country. In 1946 she was a headliner at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. 

Rose Marie made her television debut in 1950 singing on an edition of Cavalcade of Stars. In the Fifties she appeared on various variety shows as a comedian, singer, or, often, both. She appeared on Toast of the Town, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Red Skelton Show, Texaco Star Theatre Starring Milton Berle, Four Star Revue, The George Jessel Show, and Tonight Starring Jack Paar. Rose Marie guest starred as an actress Gunsmoke, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, M Squad, and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. She had a regular role on The Bob Cummings Show and My Sister Eileen. On Broadway she appeared in Top Banana with Phil Silvers. She appeared in the 1954 film adaption of Top Banana, as well as the movie The Big Beat (1958).

Rose Marie began the Sixties with her best known role, that of comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. The Dick Van Dyke Show took time to build an audience, but when it did it proved to be one of the most successful shows of the early Sixties. Except for its first season, it ranked in the top twenty every season it was on, reaching a peak of no. 3 for the year in its third season. It won 15 Emmy Awards and was nominated for many more. Rose Marie was nominated for three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actress for her role as Sally.

Later in the decade and into the Seventies Rose Marie was a regular on The Doris Day Show. She also regularly appeared as a panellist on Hollywood Squares, appearing on both the first and last edition of the show's original incarnation. She guest starred on such shows as Occasional Wife; The Monkees; Hey, Landlord; The Virginian; My Three Sons; and My Friend Tony. She continued to appear on such variety and talk shows as The Steve Allen Playhouse, The Joey Bishop Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Don Rickles Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and Della. She appeared in the movies Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title (1966) and Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966).

In the Seventies Rose Marie guest starred on such shows as Adam-12, Petrocelli, Kojak, Get Christie Love Chico and the Man, Flying High, and The Love Boat. She had a recurring role on S.W.A.T. She appeared in the films Memory of Us (1974), The Man from Clover Grove (1974), and Cheaper to Keep Her (1980). 

In the Eighties Rose Marie guest starred on The Love Boat, Cagney & Lacey, Hail to the Chief, Brothers, Remington Steele, Duet, Mr. Belvedere, and Murphy Brown. She appeared in the films Lunch Wagon (1981) and Witchboard (1986). In the Nineties she was a regular on the show Hardball. She guest starred on such shows as The Man in the Family, Scorch, Herman's Head, Wings, and Caroline in the City. She was a guest voice on the animated series Freakazoid!, The Blues Brothers Animated Series, and Hey Arnold! She appeared in the films Sandman (1993) and Lost & Found (1999). She was the voice of Mrs. Bates in the 1998 remake of Psycho.

In the Naughts Rose Marie guest starred on the shows The Hughleys and Andy Richter Controls the Universe. She appeared in the Dick Van Dyke Show reunion movie The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited. She was also the voice of a secretary in the animated special The Alan Brady Show. Into the Teens she provided additional voices for The Garfield Show. This year a documentary about Rose Marie's career, Wait for Your Laugh, was released.

In the past many years Rose Marie was active on social media, where she interacted with her many fans.

There are probably very few performers who had a career as long as Rose Marie. She began performing when she was still a toddler and never retired. There should be little wonder that she would have a career that long. Rose Marie had a good singing voice, a wonderfully dry wit, and a warm personality One could help but love Rose Marie. It was something that was clear on social media. She had over 125,000 followers on Twitter. What is more, Rose Marie clearly loved her fans back.

The fact that her fans loved her and she loved her fans explains how she was so successful her entire life. Starting at age three she saw phenomenal success as Baby Rose Marie. She continued to be successful as an adult, peaking once more with her performance as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Rose Marie worked very hard to please audiences. In a 2011 interview with historian Kliph Nesteroff, Rose Marie told how she was visited backstage by Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas, who were looking to hire her for what would be The Dick Van Dyke Show. They asked, "Don't you ever bomb?" She told them, "I try not to."

Indeed, in many ways Rose Marie was a pioneer. Before Carol Burnett, even before Lucille Ball, Rose Marie was entertaining audiences. She was a star of vaudeville and radio as a child. As a young adult she played major nightclubs and continued to appear on radio. On television she played a pivotal role on one of the greatest shows ever made, The Dick Van Dyke Show. I don't think it is an overstatement to say that Sally Rogers was a pioneering character. Before Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she was a single woman working in a job usually occupied by men. What is more, her co-workers, Rob (played by Dick Van Dyke) and Buddy (played by Morey Amsterstam), treated her as an equal. And while Sally was always on the lookout for a possible husband, there was no sign that she planned to give up comedy writing after she married.

The word "legend" is often bandied about these days with regards to performers, but in the case of Rose Marie it is truly applicable. She was a legend, one whose career spanned vaudeville, radio, film, television and the stage. If she had a far longer career than most performers, it is quite simply that she was that good.

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