Rose Marie, who played the wisecracking writer Sally Rogers on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and who began her career as a child star in vaudeville and worked for nearly a century in theater, radio, TV and movies, died Dec. 28 at her home near Los Angeles. She was 94.
A spokesman, Harlan Boll, confirmed the death but did not provide a cause.
Ms. Marie was a child star of the 1920s and 1930s who endeared herself to TV fans on the classic 1960s sitcom that featured Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.
The subject of the 2017 documentary “Wait for Your Laugh,” Ms. Marie often claimed she had the longest career in entertainment history. It spanned some 90 years, with such co-stars as W.C. Fields and Garfield the cat.
The highlight for many was “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” which was widely loved for its sophisticated writing, inspired casting and insightful view of the inner workings of the then-new medium of television. Van Dyke starred as Rob Petrie, head writer for a hit comedy-variety show. Moore, who died in January, played his wife, Laura, in her first major role.
The blond, raspy-voiced Ms. Marie teamed with Morey Amsterdam as assistant writers.
Drawing on his experiences on Sid Caesar’s shows, Carl Reiner created the series, wrote and directed many episodes and made occasional appearances as the surly star, Alan Brady. After an uncertain beginning in 1961, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” caught on with TV viewers, was still popular when it ended in 1966 and has remained a favorite for decades in reruns.
“The Dick Van Dyke Show” not only was an ideal vehicle for Ms. Marie’s comic gifts, but it was a showcase for her singing, as Sally belted out “Come Rain or Come Shine” and other old favorites during nightclub and party scenes.
Ms. Marie was especially proud of playing a woman defined by her work, a rare sitcom character at the time who wasn’t “a wife, mother, or housekeeper,” she tweeted in 2017.
The actress did have conflicts with Reiner, resenting that Moore was given more prominence than she on the show.
Rose Marie Mazetta was born Aug. 15, 1923, in New York City. When she was 3, her mother entered her in an amateur talent contest in Atlantic City as Baby Rose Marie.
“My mother was terrified,” she recalled in a 1992 interview with the Associated Press. “But I went out and sang ‘What Can I Say, Dear, After I Say I’m Sorry?’ and won the contest.”
She began singing on the radio and was a hit on “The Rudy Vallee Hour.” NBC gave her a seven-year contract and her own show, 15 minutes on Sunday. Her powerful voice gave rise to rumors.
“Stories went around that I was really a 45-year-old midget,” she remarked in 1992. “So they sent me on a year-round personal appearance tour of theaters across the country to prove that I was a child.”
Ms. Marie sang in a series of movie shorts including “Baby Rose Marie, the Child Wonder” in 1929 and appeared on vaudeville circuits until vaudeville’s demise. Among her friends was one of the country’s most notorious gangsters.
“My father worked as an arsonist for Al Capone,” she told People magazine in 2016. “He used to burn down your warehouse if things weren’t going the right way, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was a child star and to me Al was my ‘Uncle Al.’ ”
In 1946 she married Bobby Guy, a trumpeter in Kay Kyser’s band and later with NBC in Hollywood. (They had a daughter, Georgiana). He was 48 when he died of a blood infection in 1964, a loss so devastating that Ms. Marie wore black for a year and hesitated to take on work beyond “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
One of her first outside performances was on “The Dean Martin Show,” when she performed the melancholy ballad “Little Girl Blue.”
"Then Dean sang '(Smile),' to me and I couldn't help it, the tears began pouring down," she recalled in her memoir "Hold the Roses," published in 2002. "Then Dean kissed me and held me in his arms. It was quite a memorable moment."
Ms. Marie joined with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O’Connell and Margaret Whiting in the late 1970s to tour in a successful nightclub act titled “4 Girls 4.”
Her quick, surefire timing made her ideal casting as a supporting player, and she appeared on “The Doris Day Show” as the irreverent secretary to the star, and as Frank Fontana’s mother on “Murphy Brown.” For years she was a regular on the “Hollywood Squares” quiz show.
She also appeared in films including “International House” (as Baby Rose Marie in 1933, co-starring with W.C. Fields) and “The Big Beat” and in the Broadway musical “Top Banana” with Phil Silvers. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001.
In 2017, she extended her reach to social media, her Twitter feed quickly attracting more than 100,000 followers.
Survivors include a daughter.
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