The Hollywood veteran who never retired
Rose Marie 1923–2017
Rose Marie was an entertainer for life. Considered by many to be the longest-working entertainer in show business, the raspy-voiced actress, singer, and comedian was a child star in the golden age of radio and a hit on social media in the 21st century. But it was television that made Rose Marie a household name, thanks to her role as wisecracking TV comedy writer Sally Rogers on the hit 1960s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. The joke was that Rogers was always on the hunt for a husband, but Rose Marie also played her as witty, independent, and holding her own in a field dominated by men. “I’ve had young girls come up to me and say, ‘It was because of you I became a writer,’” Marie said in 2004. “I was the first women’s libber on television.”
Raised in a New York City tenement, Rose Marie Mazetta won a talent contest at age 3 and was soon singing professionally under the name Baby Rose Marie, said the Los Angeles Times. The NBC radio network signed her to a seven-year contract, and her father—who was not married to her mother because he already had a wife and children—became her manager. Most of her early earnings “went to support her father’s other family or were gambled away by him.” Rose Marie’s initial success “was met with some skepticism,” said The New York Times. Many listeners refused to believe that a child could possess such a “mature, bluesy voice,” so NBC organized a national tour to prove that she was actually a young girl. After high school, she worked as a singer and comedian in top nightclubs, “billed as just plain Rose Marie,” and appeared on Broadway in Phil Silvers’ musical Top Banana in 1951.
In the 1950s, Rose Marie moved to Los Angeles “and began the most famed chapter of her career: a pivot to television,” said Vulture.com. She appeared in all five seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show and earned three Emmy nominations for her work. She never left the public eye, becoming a frequent guest on The Hollywood Squares game show and appearing on sitcoms such as The Doris Day Show and Murphy Brown. An avid Twitter user with more than 125,000 followers, she recently used the platform to show support for women speaking up about sexual harassment in Hollywood. “I have suffered my whole life for that,” she said. “Don’t stop.”