To millions Rose Marie will forever best be known as the wise-cracking, funny comedy writer Sally Rogers on the classic Dick Van Dyke Show.
However, her life was much more extensive than just trading one-liners with Van Dyke and Morey Amsterdam for five seasons. Her showbiz career was much larger than most might know and it will probably come as quite the revelation thanks to the wonderful documentary about her life, Wait For Your Laugh.
At the age of three Rose Marie became a child singing sensation. Since her debut catching the countries attention in the 1920’s as Baby Rose Marie, she would work continuously for decades. Her performance on the Van Dyke Show was just one of the many areas she would work in a an extremely long career. She worked in radio, nightclubs, lounges, broadway, film, television and met some of the most famous and notorious icons of the 20th century.
Before her death in December 2017, she had the opportunity to recount her life and experiences in her own words being the focus of a documentary. Wait For Your Laugh attempts to cover the scope of her career, her personal struggles and her unwavering work ethic that branded Rose Marie as having ‘the longest active career in show business’.
I was like one of the countless Van Dyke Show fans who mainly knew Rose Marie as Sally Rogers. I was slightly familiar with her background, but hearing the story of her life was both an engaging, fascinating and heartbreaking tale. The woman lived quite a life and director Jason Wise and his team present this documentary as a celebration of Rose Marie’s life and create quite a compelling film for viewers.
Many aspects of Rose’s career and life were quite eye opening to me. I knew she was a child star, but had no idea just how big she had been during that period. Also her later life second act and success with 4 Girls 4, alongside contemporaries Rosemary Clooney, Helen O’Connell and Margaret Whitening was something I was unaware of. Some of the candid revelations about the backstage behavior and their partnership was a bit juicy.
Her lifelong work ethic certainly comes across, as we travel through decades following Rose as she adapts to the changes of show business, her advancing age and being fully willing to perform wherever she was wanted.
It’s funny, in the past few months I happened to watch two random films, Lunch Wagon from 1981 and Terror At London Bridge 1985 and was quite surprised to see her pop up in both of them. Neither are great movies and they’re not exactly high points for Rose, but at the time I thought, “Gee, she really kept on working”. I learned from this documentary Rose did a bit of work on that Psycho remake. Just voice work for ‘Mother’, but that was something I wasn’t aware of.
Her personal relationship with her husband is very sweet and tragic. His early death was something she carried for the rest of her life. Just hearing her describe the circumstances of what occurred is emotional to learn and his losing him was something that felt as raw to her decades later as when it occurred. Her ever-present black bow in her hair makes much more sense learning that story and is much more significant than just being her trademark.
I was taken aback by the amount of home movie footage that the filmmakers not only found to use, but that Rose and her husband had taken so much of it during their lives. It was startling to see the Van Dyke Show rehearsals in color. Long ago vanished theater marquees with Rose’s name in lights is impressive to see. Or even home movies of her time performing in Vegas when it was only a desert town really help bring us back to her long ago past.
There is one clip of a Vegas hotel’s pool, the camera pans up and outside the fence there’s nothing but miles of desert all around it. It’s some amazing footage and really compliments her experiences and put me there right with her as she reminisces about her life.
A clip of her on Johnny Carson from 1963 was again quite startling to see. The reason being I was shocked it still even existed! Carson fans know most of the first decade of the Tonight Show were lost, so the fact this particular appearance of Rose during the time while she was personally in turmoil with the illness of her husband, has survived was wonderful to see.
Along with interviews by co-workers, friends and relatives, there are small pieces of dramatizations reenacting the tales Rose describes that are inserted in spots. They sort of help fill in some gaps and illustrate events and meetings she describes. Many times these dramatizations in documentaries can be a bit stiff or clunky looking, but here they work quite well.
Anyone interested in old show business will surely enjoy this doc. Even those who just want to journey though an interesting life told with affection will be rewarded. It’s a really wonderful film and it’s great that Rose Marie was able to complete this documentary and share her story before she left us. It’s a great tribute to her and a wonderful film.
I’ll definitely be watching it again.