How many people do you know who love what they do for a living? How many of them have been doing it for 30 years? 50 years? 70 years? 90 years? The truth is that most people have to reinvent themselves as part of retraining for a new profession. Others have had their careers cut short by illness, family responsibilities, having their work outsourced overseas, or being exposed as a sexual predator.
Not Rose Marie, the subject of an impressive new documentary entitled Wait For Your Laugh. Most people remember the talented performer from her appearances as Sally Rogers on the Dick Van Dyke Show and as a panelist on Hollywood Squares. Few are aware that, way back in the vaudeville era, she was the first child star to achieve nationwide fame.
In 1929, when she was just five years old (and Hollywood film producers were transitioning from silent film to talkies), she made a Vitaphone sound short titled "Baby Rose Marie - The Child Wonder" during which she performed three songs: "Heigh-Ho, Everybody, Heigh-Ho!" "Who Wouldn't Be Jealous of You?" and "Don't Be Like That."
In his director's statement, Jason Wise writes:
"I wanted to make a simple film about the history of Hollywood. I thought if I could show the changing ways we’ve entertained ourselves for the last hundred years, it would be a good movie. Something simple. Then I found Rose Marie. The kindest, toughest, hardest working, and most inspiring person I’ve ever met in my life is a 94-year-old woman living in Van Nuys, California. I could not believe her story. I could not believe I would be allowed to tell it, and even more so, I couldn’t believe I would be the first to do it. Here was a woman who started in vaudeville at the age of three, was a star of the nightclub era surrounded by the mob, and who went on to play the first role on television that portrayed a working woman. She didn’t play a mother, wife, or a daughter. Then she reinvented herself at 60 to play to huge sell-out crowds."
"In her 94 years, Rose Marie has experienced love, failure, success, and persevered to have the longest career in show business history. Over the three years of production, she became my good friend and the documentary became personal for me. I saw in her someone who stood up for her morals and always kept working (no matter what obstacle was thrown at her). Rose Marie is an inspiration to anyone trying to work to achieve something great, but also to those who value how important it is to love what you do. She is the almost impossible Hollywood role model: the only blue-collar star the industry has ever produced. As someone who was raised by a woman in Cleveland, Ohio and has two daughters of his own, I think she is the real Wonder Woman. Anyone can look up to Rose Marie and find inspiration."
To understand the length and breadth of her career, consider the following:
- At the age of 10, Rose Marie performed with W.C. Fields in 1933's International House.
- In 1946, she married trumpet player Bobby Guy and drove cross country to California on their honeymoon while trying to avoid her father.
- In 1951, she appeared with Phil Silvers on Broadway in Top Banana.
- During the 1960-1961 season, she appeared with Elaine Stritch in a television adaptation of My Sister Eileen.
- It was Rose Marie who suggested that Morey Amsterdam (a childhood friend) be cast as Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show.
- During the 1960s, she also appeared on The Doris Day Show, The Monkees, The Dean Martin Show, and The Hollywood Palace.
- Later in life, she became a character actress noted for her roles on such television shows as S.W.A.T., Murphy Brown, Cagney and Lacey, Wings, and Caroline in the City.
- For eight years, she toured with Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting, and Helen O'Connell in a show called 4 Girls 4.
In her autobiography entitled Hold The Roses, Rose Marie writes:
“I was raised by a mother who was a naïve, Polish lady who believed everything she was told. My father was a tyrant who had another family and never married my mother. He gambled away all the money I made as a child and my mother never knew a thing about it. He beat me because he was jealous of anybody I ever went out with. I eloped with a musician who tried, in every way, to prove to my parents that he was a good man and who went through hell because my father feared losing his meal ticket – me.”
“I started working as a child star on radio, performed in vaudeville, grew up to play the big nightclubs and hotels, and graduated to working with all of the greats of show business (Al Jolson, Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Red Skelton, Phil Silvers, and Milton Berle, to name a few). Most people don’t know that I was helped by Mafia influences (Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugsy Siegel, and Joe Adonis). I opened the Flamingo Hotel for Bugsy Siegel when I was six months pregnant, Vegas was still primarily a desert, and the Flamingo was only the third hotel there. During the lean years I struggled to keep my career going because if I didn’t work, we didn’t eat. Later I struggled to become an actress on TV and in the movies so I could stay home with my husband and daughter.”
Some people can't wait to retire but, for many performers, it's extremely hard to step away from the joy of performing. In addition to archival footage and some of Rose Marie's home movies, Wait For Your Laugh includes testimonials from stars like Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Peter Marshall, Tim Conway, and Dan Harmon. For those who wish to bask in nine decades worth of entertainment history, Wait For Your Laugh is guaranteed to leave viewers with a big smile on their faces.