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Rose Marie 1923 – 2017
December 29, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

One of the great quartets in TV sitcom history just lost its raspy alto.

Rose Marie, who shattered expectations and a few glass ceilings as writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show a half-century back, died Thursday afternoon at her Van Nuys, Calif., home.

She was 94, and further proof that being on The Dick Van Dyke Show was good for your health.

Van Dyke himself, who played Rob Petrie, just turned 92. Mary Tyler Moore, who played his wife Laura, died earlier this year at 80. Morey Amsterdam, who played Sally’s writing partner Buddy Sorrell, died in 1996 at 87. Carl Reiner, who created the show, turned 95 last March.

Dick Van Dyke Show Diet, anyone?

Okay, maybe not. But over five years and 158 episodes, from 1961 to 1966, The DVD Show left us with something even better, which was one of the great sitcoms in television history.

Sally Rogers fit into that picture as a marvelous sitcom character who played as big a part in creating the show’s chemistry as the leads, Rob and Laura.

Just as Rob and Laura could have been a cookie-cutter sitcom couple on dozens of other shows, Sally could have come off as a standard add-on, the man-crazy single woman.  

The funny thing is, Sally Rogers was. But between the writing and Marie’s portrayal, she gave that stock premise a rainbow of new colors.  

She was a woman in a man’s world, comedy writing. The show for which she wrote could have hired a man for the job, just as The Dick Van Dyke show could have cast a man in the role. They didn’t. They cast her because they were looking for funny and Sally, like Rose Marie, was funny. Call it early stealth diversity.  

The times also permitted Sally to be in love with Buddy, and vice versa, without either of them realizing it. No hints, no winks. No need. Sally may have wisecracked endlessly about her deficient boyfriend Herman Glimcher, but she had a solid anchor in Buddy – and to some extent, for that matter, in Rob and Laura.

She kvetched about being alone, but she wasn’t, and that gave The Dick Van Dyke Show some of its reassuring warmth. 

One of the most telling things about Sally Rogers is that it’s hard to go back through episodes of the show and pull out one-liners.

Sally wasn’t a standup in a sitcom, and the show wasn’t written to the joke. Sally said funny things all the time that were funny because we knew the people and because we heard what came before and after.

Take Sally’s Aunt Agnes, a fountain of nonsequiturs.

“My Aunt Agnes used to have a saying,” Sally said in one show, “that went, ‘If your heart is where the sky is bluest, then the sound of winter’s twilight will be your friend.’ “

Or, “My Aunt Agnes used to say, ‘It’s better to get a rose from a casual friend than to get a can of succotash from a hoodlum.’ “

That’s a whole lot of “Huh?” unless you know Sally and Aunt Agnes, in which case it has just made an already entertaining half-hour that much more fun.

Rose Marie Mazzetta was born in New York to a vaudeville family, and that’s where she got her start, at the Mecca Theater. She was 3. She spent the next few years as a child star, recording at the age of 9 with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, which every jazz singer in the country would love to have done.

She eventually moved to radio and into the movies and television, from My Sister Eileen to Murphy Brown.

She also never gave up singing, and from 1977 to 1985 she toured with Helen O’Connell, Rosemary Clooney, and Margaret Whiting as 4 Girls 4.

She rarely sang on The Dick Van Dyke Show, with a few notable exceptions like the classic seasonal ballad “Santa Send Me a Fella.” The show would not echo nearly so sweetly today without Rose Marie’s voice.

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Now she was a total, total legend. Few if any were still alive from Vaudeville(she was probably the sole survivor) which is depressing. And few deserved a documentary as much as Ms Rosie, beloved by everyone in the arts.
Jan 1, 2018   |  Reply
Early talkies billed as Baby Rose-Marie as a six year old-you can see then how she filled the screen and,eventually,our hearts(a few are on You Tube). She was already a rising star in vaudeville and radio,with poise and a voice well beyond her years at three years of age.
Dec 30, 2017   |  Reply
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