Popular Sitcom Actress Passed Away At 94

Rose Marie, the actress who went toe-to-toe in a man’s world as wisecracking comedy writer Sally Rogers on the legendary 1960s CBS sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, has died. She was 94.

Marie died at 2 p.m. Thursday at her home in Van Nuys, California, according to her website.

The comedienne-vocalist, who started her career at age 3 in some of the earliest talking films, co-headlined on the opening night of Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas in 1946 and was a regular on the game show The Hollywood Squares.

Readily identifiable by the bow in her hair and her raspy voice, Marie was a member of one of the most popular ensemble casts in TV history. Along with Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Morey Amsterdam and, occasionally, Carl Reiner (the series’ creator), she appeared in all five seasons of the sitcom and received Emmy nominations in 1963, 1964 and 1966.

“We were always changing lines, even right up to the very minute of going on the air,” she recalled in a 2004 interview. “If something didn’t work, it didn’t work. Sometimes guest stars would panic because they weren’t used to this. We were a tight-knit, hard-working crew. I couldn’t wait to get to the set each day.”

The man-needy Rogers’ verbal jousts with Amsterdam — whom she had known in real life since she was 11 — were among the show’s highlights. At the time, the sight of a single woman in the workplace was novel on TV.

She was hired for the sitcom — the second person cast after Van Dyke himself — for $1,000 an episode by executive producer Sheldon Leonard, who had played her brother on the radio on The Phil Harris Show.

Marie had cultivated her persona as a husband-hunter in a number of comic guest appearances on the shows of such luminaries as Jimmy Durante, Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Garry Moore, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Dinah Shore, Dean Martin, Merv Griffin and, frequently with Johnny Carson, on The Tonight Show.

She also played secretary Myrna Gibbons, who worked with Doris Day’s character in a magazine office, on the CBS sitcom The Doris Day Show; was Hilda, the sandwich delivery lady, on the ABC action series S.W.A.T.; appeared as Frank Fontana’s (Joe Regalbuto) mom on Murphy Brown; portrayed a baseball owner, not unlike Marge Schott of the Cincinnati Reds, on the Fox sitcom Hardball; and was the voice of Norma Bates in Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho (1998).

Marie also was a 14-year participant on The Hollywood Squares, where her comic cackle delighted audiences, and she appeared in such films as Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966), Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title (1966) and Lunch Wagon (1981).

“I play me in almost everything I do,” she once said. “I play a part to the best of my ability to get a joke out, to sell it and to do it best.”

Rose Marie Mazetta was born in New York on Aug. 15, 1923, her name inspired by the popular Broadway musical Rose-Marie. She entered show business as a 3-year-old toddler when she appeared at New York’s Mecca Theater and belted out a torch ballad.

The precocious performer, known as “Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder,” won a spot on a national radio show and became one of the hottest stars on the NBC Radio Network.

During the 1930s, Marie also toured in vaudeville and had small parts in movies, including International House (1933), which starred W.C. Fields.
When she was 11, she dropped the “Baby” from her name. The following year, her family moved to New Jersey and she was sent to a convent school, not resuming her career until age 17, when she was billed as “Miss Rose Marie.”

Beginning in the ’40s, she performed in nightclubs and theaters. Her deep, throaty voice won her fans at the leading nightclubs of the day, including the Copacabana, and she toured in the musical revue 4 Girls 4 with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O’Connell and Margaret Whiting for eight years.

Marie was one of the headliners, along with comedian Jimmy Durante and bandleader Xavier Cugat, to open Siegel’s Flamingo, the first such modern hotel and casino, on Dec. 27, 1946.

During her onstage engagements, Marie perfected her comic timing and won notice on Broadway for her acting and pizzazz. She co-starred with the top comic stars like Milton Berle in Spring in Brazil, Zero Mostel in Lunatics and Lovers and Phil Silvers in Top Banana. Her Top Banana turn brought her back to the movies, when she and Silvers headlined a film version for director Alfred E. Green in 1954. (Many of here scenes were cut, however, she told THR recently.)

During the 1950s and ’60s, she garnered guest-star roles on TV in such shows as The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Gunsmoke, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Monkees and My Three Sons.

During a visit to CBS affiliate WJW in Cleveland to promote the Van Dyke Show, Marie met Tim Conway, then a local actor doing skits for the station. She became his manager and got the comic his first big job, as a regular on ABC’s The Steve Allen Show.
Marie was married to Bobby Guy, at one time the lead trumpeter for the NBC Orchestra, which performed nightly on The Tonight Show. He died in 1964 of a blood infection. The couple had one daughter, Georgiana, who survives her.

Throughout her life, Marie was active in many causes, most notably animal welfare. Her memoir, Hold the Roses, was published in 2002, and a documentary about her, Wait for Your Laugh, premiered in November.

Carl Reiner, Larry King, Mark Hamill and Maureen McCormick were among those who mourned the actress on social media following the news of her passing.

“There’s never been a more engaging & multi-talented performer,” Reiner wrote. Brady Bunch star McCormick said, “Thank you for bringing my family and I a lifetime of happiness and laughter.”

King also shared of Rose, “TV would never have been the same without her.”

Rose Marie died at her home in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, at the age of 94. Nell Scovell memorialized her as “the patron saint of female comedy writers”.
Rose Marie’s long-time friend and agent, Harlan Boll, says that the legendary actress’s death had to do with “age problems.”
Boll was with Marie shortly before she passed away. He explained to reporters that Marie had lain down to rest on Thursday afternoon, and by the time her caregiver checked in on her, to see if she wanted something to eat, she discovered she had stopped breathing.”

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