This week I was treated to a screening of “Wait for Your Laugh” at the classic Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. This new documentary tells the story of the life, and very long career, of Rose Marie, perhaps best known for her co-starring role on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Until now I was only vaguely aware of her other work – including appearing as her wise-cracking self on “The Hollywood Squares” – but this film not only tells the tale of her 90-year career, but serves as a wonderful tour of 20th century show business.
I spent several years in the early part of my career in a sitcom writer’s room – and I can tell you that most of the writers I knew had a deep affection for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The series is not only a television classic, but the fictional writing staff of “The Alan Brady Show” – Rob Petrie, Buddy Sorrell, and Sally Rogers were our first glimpse of a mind-blowing idea: “People get paid to be funny?!”
The show had another revolutionary idea packed in there… up until Rose Marie’s Sally Rogers, the women we saw on TV comedies were mostly either wives or mothers… not single women with careers who were treated equally by their peers. Having been in those creative, funny rooms (usually full of guys) I know they were always better with a woman on staff. And Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) helped set the standard.
Now 94 years old, her career began as “Baby Rose Marie” at the age of 3. She was one of the first child-stars, singing on the radio nationwide. Her life is peppered with famous names – Evelyn Nesbitt, Jimmy Durante, Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Dean Martin and Johnny Carson. Her nine-decade year career may have begun on the radio in the 1920s but she continued through the rest of the century via Broadway, a thwarted film career, a mob-supported stage act, and then television. In her teens she transitioned from “Baby Rose Marie” to adult “Rose Marie” (she proudly boasts of being the first “one name celebrity” – before the likes of Cher and Madonna). She again found national fame in the 60s and 70s, famously co-starring on the now classic sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” followed by “The Donna Reed Show,” being a favorite guest of Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show,” and 13 years of providing snappy answers as a regular on “The Hollywood Squares.”
Director Richard Wise’s film centers around stories being told by Rose Marie herself. She may be in a wheelchair now but she’s still sharp, funny, and tells a great tale. The director cleverly, (and with appreciated restraint), recreates moments of her story as she tells them – specifically around her affiliation with mobsters “Uncle Al” Capone who befriended her as a child star, and “Bugsy Siegel” who hired her to open the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Those stories alone are worth the price of admission.
Also appearing in the film to convey their fond memories of working with her are Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Peter Marshall, and Tim Conway. Fans of the classic show will be thrilled to see rare color footage from behind the scenes of the Dick Van Dyke show from Rose Marie’s personal collection – all shot by her late husband, famed trumpet player Bobby Guy.
Her love story of meeting, eloping with, and spending two decades with her husband Bobby Guy give the film its heart. A famed and talented trumpet player, Guy passed away in the late 1960s, leaving Rose Marie a widow and single mother. Fifty years later she tears up missing her true love.
She may be in her 90’s now – but Rose Marie is loving every minute of the attention this film is bringing – just follow her incredibly grateful twitter account where she both promotes the film and expresses her gratitude for the love she’s getting from fans because of it.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me, I am just stunned. All the attention for my film and my life. What did you think of the trailer?
— Rose Marie-Official (@RoseMarie4Real) October 20, 2017
As the accolades pour in I just wanted to post this to say thanks to Rose Marie – for the laughs, for the memories, and for sharing the amazing stories of her preposterously long career.