By Joan Amenn
With “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” coming to an end, it’s appropriate to take a look back at the inspirations for the title character by highlighting some very funny women. The first would have to be Rose Marie, who unlike Midge, could sing as well as crack one-liners. As a matter of fact, she started singing at age three and never stopped.
Like Midge, Rose Marie (nee Rose Marie Mazzetta) worked nightclubs but she also was a star of radio by the time she was five. Even Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub) would have to be impressed with such an achievement. With a little help from certain members of the mafia, something Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) would certainly understand, Rose Marie found work in Las Vegas. Later on in her career, she formed a touring band with Helen O’Connell, Margaret Whiting and the legendary Rosemary Clooney known as the “4 Girls 4”. While Midge may have always worked alone, Rose Marie was very successful working with others.
Nowhere was this more evident as with the role of Sally Rogers in “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Ironically, series creator Carl Reiner based it on his experiences as a staff writer on Sid Ceasar’s “Your Show of Shows” which really did have one woman in the writing room, Selma Diamond. Best known as Bailiff Selma Hacker from the series “Night Court” Diamond inspired Reiner’s Sally which in turn inspired Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Midge Maisel. That’s a whole lot of funny being passed down through the years.
While Rose Marie was certainly a huge part of the “Dick Van Dyke Show” which gave her plenty of opportunities to sing as well as hone her comedic skills, she can be overlooked by current viewers of the series (episodes of which can be found on YouTube) because of a very special member of the cast. Mary Tyler Moore is more recognizable to modern audiences because well,… she’s Mary Tyler Moore! As Laura Petrie, Moore became a star and it helped that she was funny, beautiful and was a perfectly in sync dancing partner to tall and lanky Van Dyke.
Rose Marie’s career went far beyond one series, continuing to on to “The Doris Day Show” from 1969 to 1971 and then on the much-loved game show, “The Hollywood Squares.” All the while, she kept on singing and joking with audiences live on stage. Rose Marie might not have been as caustically funny as Joan Rivers or as wildly madcap as Phyllis Diller, but she was a trailblazer as a woman performer who followed her own path and found a unique blend of entertaining that makes her memorable even now.