For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.
In honor of Women’s History Month, the Showplace is featuring prominent female-driven classic programs and women who “changed the game”, making a lasting impact in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Rose Marie’s contributions to the entertainment industry might be as far reaching as any woman:
- She began performing on a vaudeville stage at the age of THREE!
- At the age of FOUR, she was performing regularly on a popular NBC radio show.
- She was a child actor in the silent film era of movies.
- She was one of the youngest singers to record a publicly sold song – at age 5!
- According to her quote in The Hollywood Reporter, she was the first on-camera woman to go “toe-to-toe in a man’s world.”
- She portrayed several strong-willed, successful working female characters as both a regular and a guest star on multiple television shows in the late-1950s and throughout 1960s.
- Her work in the industry spanned NINE DECADES!
She was born Rose Marie Mazzetta on August 15, 1926 in New York City to Polish-American Stella Gluszcak and Italian-American vaudeville performer Frank Mazzetta.
Her mom would regularly take her to vaudeville shows as a baby and she soon began singing for her neighbors, who eventually had her enrolled in a talent show just after her third birthday. Adopting the stage name of “Baby Rose Marie,” her performances on the stage quickly attracted an NBC Radio Network executive, who signed her to a seven-year contract.
Because her improbably strong, bass-sounding voice sounded more like a 30-year old than a little girl, NBC quickly booked her on a national tour. People could see for themselves this incredibly talented five-year old performing live.
Rose also started in silent films as a child actor, but got more popular with “talking” pictures, starring as herself and showing off her vocal chords, in addition to some acting performances.
As her career continued into adulthood, she would frequently perform in nightclubs and lounges–many of which were owned by mobsters. Rumors of close relationships with Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel began circulating, with Marie a featured performer at Siegel’s popular Flamingo Hotel and Lounge in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In 1960, Carl Reiner was desperately trying to retool a failed television pilot called “Head of the Family” to sell to a network and was looking to add some star-power to bolster its appeal. Executive Producer Sheldon Leonard felt they needed to add a strong-willed character for the role of “Sally Rogers” to the show that eventually would be titled The Dick Van Dyke Show. According to “The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book,” Leonard claimed Marie was the only one who could play that character. (The book also gives credit to Rose for suggesting Morey Amsterdam for the role of Buddy Sorrell, whom she had known since she was 11 years old).
According to her online interviews, Marie claims that she was enticed to the role because of a promise that the show would be “co-centered” around her. Furthermore, she was intrigued by the pitch of her character being a strong woman having success in a man’s world. The role mirrored the real-life persona of comedy writing legend Selma Diamond, the lone female writer on the popular TV show, Your Show Of Shows (Diamond would become more well known to audiences as the first, wise-crackling bailiff on Night Court before her death).
Once the “Van Dyke” show was launched, the on-screen chemistry between the fictional husband-wife combination of Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore garnished more on-screen time, which meant less time for Rogers. Marie quickly went to show the show’s original creator to complain about being misled about the premise of the show co-centering around her character, along with the slowly decreasing number of lines that were being scripted for her each week.
After having great success throughout her career, this was the first time she was “passed over” for someone younger than her. She had reached a crossroads in her career and seriously contemplated leaving the “Van Dyke” show after the first season.
We’ll have more on her decision and her road ahead next week here at “The Showplace.”
In the meantime, you can see Rose Marie as “Sally Rogers” on The Dick Van Dyke Show, as part of a steady rotation of classic television shows on ATVN’s Classic TV Showcase. Tune in or set your DVRs for it each week at 9 am on Tuesdays mornings on the Astound TV Network.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.