Full disclosure: I am only twenty-three years old and the most exciting thing I have done in recent memory is attend a special screening of—and Q&A session for—the new Rose Marie documentary Wait for Your Laugh. I know some would find this more than a little surprising, and I completely understand why; I was, after all, the youngest person in the theater. Still, if you follow this blog or know me personally (perhaps noticing my Dick York desktop background or Sinatra posters), this really is not that surprising.
Of course, this post is not really about my affinity for classic Hollywood stars; it’s about Rose Marie herself and, more specifically, why her career (spanning roughly 90+ years) is worth knowing. Though she is most famous for portraying sassy television writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rose Marie has been dancing, singing, and acting for stage and screen since the tender age of three.
I honestly knew very little of her fascinating childhood years prior to seeing the documentary, but I was definitely familiar with Sally. It’s no small exaggeration for me to say that, as a writer, I have consistently found Sally inspiring ever since I first watched Dick Van Dyke reruns as a young girl. A true equal next to her male counterparts, Rob (Van Dyke) and Buddy (Morey Amsterdam), Sally worked hard, voiced her opinions confidently, and could more than hold her on against any joke with a clever wisecrack of her own.
In addition to inspiring me that women can and, in many ways, should tell their own stories through writing, the fact that Sally never quite fits into a pre-designated “box” as to how a woman “should behave” (especially by ‘60s standards) is equally inspiring. Whether in the ‘60s (when the series originally aired) or during the present day, she is a reminder that women should never feel confined by societal expectations and should instead live their lives as they themselves see fit: laugh, cry, embrace traditional feminine roles, reject those same roles, talk, listen—or, yes, maybe even write for a television show.
It’s only fitting then that, in real life, Rose Marie has also been someone who defies expectations and stereotypes. Of course, she will forever be associated with Sally Rogers, but—as Wait for Your Laugh proves—it would be unfair and limiting to let this completely define her, as it would downplay everything else she has accomplished as a true trailblazer in the industry. So, let’s not try to define her at all; let’s simply laugh with her.