Rose Marie enjoyed one of the longest careers in show business history. She entertained audiences for some 90 years. At the age of three her mother entered her in an Atlantic City talent contest as “Baby Rose Marie,” where she sang. In her long career she performed in every entertainment medium – vaudeville, clubs, radio, tv, movies and the theatre. Although she began as a singer, later generations knew her best as a comedic actress on tv.
Rose Marie Mazzetta was born on August 15, 1923 in NYC to an Italian father and a Polish mother. Her father had a rather interesting job. He was an arsonist for Al Capone. Accordingly, Rose Marie was an acquaintance of various mobsters, such as Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel. As she explained to People magazine in a 2016 interview, “[My father}used to burn down your warehouse if things weren’t going the right way, but I didn’t know that at the time. …. To me, Al Capone was ‘Uncle Al.'” In her autobiography, Hold the Roses, she explained these mob connections often helped her in her career. For example, she frequently appeared at the Flamingo in Las Vegas, which, reputedly, was own by mobsters. She said if she wanted to appear at another casino she made sure to get permission from “the boys.”
At five, she began singing in Rudy Vallee’s band on NBC. She was such a hit that NBC gave her a seven-year contract and her own 15 minute show. Over the next several years she performed in vaudeville, nightclubs, and on the radio. She was a star. She was known as “The Darling of the Airwaves.”
By 1960 she was already a big star when she was signed to co-star as a comedy writer on the Dick Van Dyke Show with Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore and Morey Amsterdam. The show was a big hit and ran from 1961 – 1966. Rose Marie’s role was a ground-breaker. In her words, it was one of the few roles in which a woman was not depicted as either a “wife, a mother or a housekeeper.” Today, such limitations of women’s roles are hard to imagine, but that was the way it was at that time. She recalled that at one point she bluntly asked Carl Reiner, the show’s creator and producer, why her role was not as prominent as Moore’s. Reiner replied, just as bluntly, “they [audiences] wanna look at her legs [not yours].” Rose Marie wasn’t unattractive, but I can’t argue with that logic.
After Van Dyke, she starred on The Doris Day Show and the original version of the Hollywood Squares game show, where she got to demonstrate her comedic talents. In addition, she was a frequent guest star on such it shows as Murphy Brown and The Dean Martin Show.
Rose Marie was one of the few performers who never needed to use a last name professionally. She was extremely versatile. She performed successfully in every entertainment medium – nightclubs, vaudeville, radio, movies, tv and the theatre. In addition, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
After her death, the following was posted on her website: “Heaven just got a whole lot funnier.” How true.