Stuff You Should Know · Television

Darling of the airwaves

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My Facebook compadre Jeff Abraham dashed off an e-mail alerting me to this very exciting bit of news:

The National Comedy Center is proud to announce the acquisition of an expansive archive chronicling the nine-decade career of pioneering comedienne Rose Marie, who passed away at the age of 94 in December 2017.

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Rose Marie

National Comedy Center advisory board member Carl Reiner remarked, “There has never been a more engaging and multi-talented performer than Rose Marie. In a span of 90 years, since she was four years old, dear Rosie always had audiences clamoring for ‘More!’ She would be so, so, so, so happy to know that her work is getting the acclaim that it is, and that her memorabilia is being preserved for future generations by the National Comedy Center.”

The National Comedy Center is the first non-profit cultural institution and national-scale visitor experience dedicated to the art of comedy.  This new 37,000 square foot, $50 million facility tells the story of comedy from its origins through the present, with more than 50 immersive, interactive exhibits. The Center is located in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, New York and opens August 1, 2018.

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“Baby” Rose Marie works on her Durante impression at an early age…

As someone who believes The Dick Van Dyke Show to be the greatest television sitcom of all time, I was naturally pleased as Hawaiian Punch to hear about this development, which will occupy a place of honor alongside other classic practitioners of comedy including Lenny Bruce, Phyllis Diller, Johnny Carson, Richard Pryor, Jerry Lewis, Mary Tyler Moore, Dan Aykroyd, Jay Leno, and Bob Hope.  According to Rho’s daughter Georgiana Guy-Rodrigues (who donated the archive), “My mother saved everything.  She always loved to share her life with her fans, and having the National Comedy Center be the guardian of her personal and professional valuables is truly the icing on the cake.”

If she did save everything, I hope there might be some more transcriptions of her radio appearances over the years.  There are a few surviving shows scattered here and there; one of the nicest surprises I got when Radio Spirits asked me to write liner notes for a Phil Harris-Alice Faye collection (entitled Private Lives…which is now sadly OOP) was listening to an uproarious May 13, 1951 broadcast where Rose plays the mother of Walter Tetley’s Julius Abbruzio character.  I suspect that recordings of her very first network series may not have survived the ravages of time and neglect (she performed over NBC Radio at the age of five) but she did a later series in 1938, Rose Marie Sings, of which at least one (incomplete) recording survives.

Doris Day and Rose Marie

I grew up watching Rose Marie on not only the Van Dyke show but on Hollywood Squares and reruns of Love That Bob (a.k.a. The Bob Cummings Show), and it was only until I began the blog’s Doris Day(s) project (which I hope to resurrect one of these days when I’m able to cram more time into a 24-hour day) that I remembered she was a regular on The Doris Day Show, too,  It will be a most fitting tribute to a superlative performer who we sadly said goodbye to in December of last year; in the words of Journey Gunderson, the executive director of the National Comedy Center, “Rose Marie’s career was one of the longest, and most versatile, in entertainment history. The National Comedy Center is honored to celebrate her artistry, influence, and pioneering contributions to the comedic art form.” Amen!

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