Rose Marie (born Rose Marie Mazzetta; August 15, 1923 - December 28, 2017) was an American actress, singer, comedian, and vaudeville performer with a career that ultimately spanned ten decades — and included film, radio, records, theater, night clubs and television. As a child performer during the years just after the silent film era, she had a successful singing career as Baby Rose Marie. As an adult, she became one of the first major stars to be known simply by her given names.
Rose Marie was born Rose Marie Mazzetta in Manhattan, New York, on August 15, 1923, to Italian-American vaudeville actor Frank Mazzetta, who went by the name of Frank Curley, and Polish-American Stella Gluszcak. She was regularly taken by her mother to see local vaudeville shows and afterwards would sing what she had heard for their neighbors, who eventually entered her in a talent contest. At the age of three, she started performing under the name "Baby Rose Marie." At five, she became a radio star on NBC and made a series of films.
At the height of her fame as a child singer, from late 1929 to 1934, she had her own radio show, made numerous records, and was featured in a number of Paramount films and shorts. She continued to appear in films through the mid-1930s, making shorts and one feature picture, International House (1933), with W. C. Fields for Paramount.
As she entered adulthood, Rose Marie turned to nightclub and lounge performances. According to her autobiography, Hold the Roses, she was assisted in her career by many members of organized crime, including Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel. Rose Marie secured work at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, which was built by Siegel. Because of the Flamingo's organized crime ties, she had to seek permission to perform in other casinos and remained loyal to "the boys" at the Flamingo for the rest of her life.
Concurrently with her nightclub work, the young adult Rose Marie continued to work in radio, earning the nickname "Darling of the Airwaves".
Baby Rose Marie, NBC Radio star in 1930
In 1929, the 5-year-old singer made a Vitaphone sound short titled Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder. Between 1930 and 1938, she made 17 recordings, three of which were not issued. Her first issued record, recorded on March 10, 1932, featured accompaniment by Fletcher Henderson's band, one of the leading African American jazz orchestras of the day. Henderson and the band were said to be in the RCA Victor studios recording the four songs they were intending to produce that day and were asked to accompany Baby Rose Marie, reading from a stock arrangement.
Her recording of "Say That You Were Teasing Me" (backed with "Take a Picture of the Moon", Victor 22960) also featured Henderson's orchestra and was a national hit in 1932. According to Joel Whitburn, Rose Marie was the last surviving entertainer to have charted a hit before World War II.
In the mid-1970s, she appeared in the recurring role of Hilda on the police drama S.W.A.T.. Hilda brought fresh doughnuts, made coffee for the team, and provided some comic relief.
In the early 1990s, she had a recurring role as Frank Fontana's mother on Murphy Brown. She appeared as Roy Biggins' domineering mother Eleanor "Bluto" Biggins in an episode of Wings. Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam appeared together in an October 1993 episode of Herman's Head and guest-starred in a February 1996 episode of Caroline in the City, shortly before Amsterdam's death in October of that same year.
Rose Marie appeared opposite Phil Silvers in Top Banana in 1951, also appearing in the 1954 film adaptation. Her musical numbers were cut from the film in retaliation for her publicly refusing the producer's sexual advances; near the end of her life, she testified that it was the only time she had ever experienced sexual harassment in the entertainment industry in her 90-year career.
In 1965, she appeared in the Dallas production of Bye Bye Birdie as Mae Peterson, the mother of the character played by Dick Van Dyke on Broadway and in the film.
She was the celebrity guest host of a comedy play, Grandmas Rock!, written by Gordon Durich. It was originally broadcast on radio in 2010 on KVTA and KKZZ, and rebroadcast on KVTA and KKZZ again in September 2012 in honor of National Grandparents Day. A CD of the show was also produced, featuring audio clips from The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Rose Marie was married to trumpeter Bobby Guy from 1946 until his death in 1964. The couple had one daughter, Georgiana Guy-Rodrigues, who became a television producer.
She was active on social media, particularly developing a following on Twitter, where she offered support for women who, like her, had suffered from sexual harassment. Her contemporaries and modern performers offered their remembrances and condolences on the same platform; Nell Scovell called her "the patron saint of female comedy writers."
Rose Marie died on December 28, 2017, at her home in Van Nuys, California, of natural causes at the age of 94.