“WAIT FOR YOUR LAUGH” My rating: B+
85 minutes | No MPAA rating
Most of us remember Rose Marie, who died last week at the age of 94, as the wise-cracking comedy writer Sally Rogers on TV’s “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
But that was only one stage in a show-biz career that lasted nine decades and was crammed with dozens of firsts.
“Wait for Your Laugh,” Christina Tucker and Jason Wise’s loving documentary, covers Rose Marie’s remarkable life, in the process delivering a pretty comprehensive look at the evolution of entertainment in the 20th century.
Based on a series of filmed interviews with the still-sharp-as-a-tack Rose Marie — as well as with colleagues and friends like Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Tim Conway and Peter Marshall — the film reveals a remarkable life.
Rose Marie Mazzetta became a child star at age 4, winning a talent contest by belting out songs in the style of Sophie Tucker. This led to radio appearances as Baby Rose Marie. When listeners refused to believe that a child could sing like that, she hit the vaudeville circuit in its final days. Audiences couldn’t deny their eyes and ears.
Al Capone and other gangsters (“the boys”) treated little Rose Marie as an adopted daughter, offering protection. They could’t protect her from her father/manager, who siphoned off millions before she was old enough to declare her emancipation. (The old man was arrested 128 times for violation of child labor laws.)
She was a regular on the airwaves, recorded hit records (Marie was the last surviving entertainer to have charted a hit before World War II), starred on Broadway, made an unfortunate foray into movies (her scenes were all but eliminated after she refused to have sex with one of the producers). She was a pioneer on the Las Vegas scene, rubbing elbows with mobster Bugsy Siegel and developing a wildly popular comedy/music act. She proved herself with dramatic roles (“Gunsmoke”), but “The Dick Van Dyke” show made her immortal (even though she resented the fact that Mary Tyler Moore became the show’s leading lady).
Later she was a regular on the game show “Hollywood Squares,” made countless guest appearances on TV and toured in the popular show “4 Girls 4,” sharing the stage with fellow Golden Age songstresses Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting and Helen O’Connell.
Despite the ups and downs of a show-biz life, Rose Marie enjoyed an almost idyllic marital situation, wedding big-band trumpeter Bobby Guy. Her memories of their time together, and his death at age 48 in 1964, are heartbreaking. She never remarried, devoting herself to their daughter.
Tucker and Wise rely on a treasure trove of home movies and other archival material to illustrate Rose Marie’s stories. Where such material is lacking (as with her early years) they rely on black-and-white historic re-enactments. Some are more successful than others.
But as a recap of a monumental, astoundingly rich life, “Wait for Your Laugh” is a marvel.
| Robert W. Butler