Rose Marie was a crucial comic cog in the well-oiled comedy machine that was “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and taught the dancing/singing/pratfalling Van Dyke comic timing.
“Wait for your laugh!”
She was the first woman to host a TV game show, discovered Tim Conway, and became the ablest foil to “center square” Paul Lynde on “The Hollywood Squares” during a run that lasted 14 years.
And those were just the curtain calls on a career that began when she was “Baby Rose Marie,” a three year-old with the voice of a chain-smoking 40 something saloon singer, the “Shirley Temple of Radio” before Shirley Temple was even born.
It’s just after those bonafides are laid out in “Wait For Your Laugh,” the new documentary about her life, that the hilarious, one-liner-braying old broad pops up on camera, cracks a couple jokes and reminds you that A) she’s still around at 94 and B) she’s looking for work.
This adorable documentary places this comic survivor and pioneer on a pedestal and recounts an epic career that had her on stage with Evelyn Nesbit — the scandalous vamp of “Ragtime” — in the ’20s.
“Baby” Rose Marie Mazetta was then taken under a doting Al Capone’s wing because her dad was a “made man,” who took and squandered every cent she made in a lucrative child-star career. She became an early star of NBC Radio, and then a singing, dancing and joking night-club legend in her teens and ’20s who could manage an Italian patter song with the best of them (She toured with Rosemary Clooney much later in life).
And when TV came calling, that voice let her play old women (at 34) from her first appearance (“Gunsmoke”) and made her “the only woman, the ONLY woman” who could play the grizzled wisecracking gag writer Sally Rogers on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” according to the guy who cast her, Carl Reiner.
Ahead of her time? Oh yeah. Listen to her daughter recount how Mom lost her big number in “Top Banana” thanks to her public rebuke of harassing Harvey Weinstein type on the set.
“You didn’t want to cross Rosie,” longtime pal and “Squares” host Peter Marshall says.
The revelations here include how she got her personal gag-writer, Morey Amsterdam, “a Human Joke Machine,” the job co-starring with her on “Dick Van Dyke,” how she chewed on the series’ star — calling Van Dyke “a six foot tower of Jelly” whenever he refused to stand up to management on the series.
She married a GI trumpeter from the Kay Kyser (and later Bing Crosby’s) band, and lost him to blood poisoning in the middle of her classic TV show’s run. She grew up with the likes of Milton Berle and George Burns, and calls friends Jerry Lewis and Johnny Carson her “angels” for what they did to help her and her husband when he was sick.
She worked steadily until very recently, doing guest spots on TV shows all through the ’80s and ’90s — “Wings,” “Murphy Brown.” She’s “Mama” in the Gun Van Sant remake of “Psycho.”
There are hints of her rivalry with Mary Tyler Moore (the breakout star of “Dick Van Dyke”) and laugh-out-loud accounts of the troubled backstage diva-duels of that epic touring revue, “Four Girls Four,” with fellow nightclub singers Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting and Helen O’Connell.
There’s not enough about her improv-script polishing on “Van Dyke,” and nothing at all about any interplay — fun or feisty – she had with her fellow inhabitants of “The Hollywood Squares.”
But Jason Wise’s film honors a genuine showbiz trouper, a last survivor of vaudeville and The Golden Age of Radio, remembering what it was like (she’s ridiculously sharp) recalling those she met and still finding the laugh — and waiting for it — from her wheelchair.
MPAA Rating: unrated, mild profanity, adult humor
Cast: Rose Marie, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Tim Conway, Peter Marshall
Credits:Directed by Jason Wise, script by Christina Tucker, Jason Wise. A Vitagraph release.
Running time: 1:26