You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Wait for Your Laugh’

Fabled funny lady Rose Marie looks back on her nine decades in showbiz.

Jason Wise
Rose Marie, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Ruthie Shapiro, Georgiana Rodrigues, Dan Harmon, Tim Conway, Peter Marshall, Allen Sviridoff, Harlan Boll
Release Date:
Nov 3, 2017

1 hour, 26 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5710688/combined

The recent death of fabled French star Danielle Darrieux at age 100 prompted speculation that she might have sustained the longest career in showbiz. However, still-alive-and-kicking Rose Marie has the edge — though retired (most reluctantly) at a mere 94 years, she started nine full decades earlier, racking up a career that encompassed practically every popular performance medium in the U.S. As lively and likable as its subject, Jason Wise’s documentary “Wait for Your Laugh” pays fond tribute to a tireless trooper whom generations have known mostly as a wisecracking second banana often funnier than the bigger stars she supported. It should draw out patrons “of a certain age” who likely haven’t journeyed to the multiplex for some while.

Wheelchair-bound now, Rose Marie’s mind remains sharp as a tack, and she happily walks us through one hell of a professional resume. Born Rose Marie Mazetta in 1923 Manhattan, she was taken to shows from an early age by her fun-loving mother, and her extraordinarily precocious imitations of their stars (particularly Sophie Tucker) led to an amateur talent contest win at age 4. Soon she was signed by NBC — radio’s first nationwide broadcaster — then put on the vaudeville circuit to “prove I was a child” with a uniquely “adult voice,” rather than an adult pretending to be a tot. Her hugely popular act not-infrequently ran afoul of child labor laws, which her father handled, not out of benevolence, but because she was that “mean man’s” meal ticket. She was also his illegitimate child, and he apparently reserved any kindler parental motivations for his “legitimate” other family.

Fame as “Baby Rose Marie” continued for some years, furthered by appearances in several short subjects and the 1933 W.C. Fields classic “International House.” Unlike most child stars, she had little trouble transitioning past that role, re-inventing herself as a successful nightclub singer once she’d matured enough in her teens to assume an adult persona. When her stature had risen enough that she needed a longer act as headliner, she began adding comedy bits, which came so naturally she was soon regarded primarily as a comedienne. That knack got her to Broadway in the hit musical “Top Banana” with Phil Silvers. She was greatly disappointed when all her numbers were cut from the subsequent 1954 film version (purportedly because she refused a producer’s advances). This somewhat soured her on the big screen, where she made relatively few appearances over the ensuing decades.

But the new medium of television would prove her most enduring showcase. After a slew of guest appearances (and recurring roles on “The Bob Cummings Show” and “My Sister Eileen,” neither noted here), she became part of the golden ensemble on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” joining its star and Morey Amsterdam as staff writers on a fictitious show-within-the-show. Chemistry was ideal off-screen as on; all concerned were “devastated” when creator Carl Reiner decided to pull the plug five years in, before the still-popular series got stale. She had another harmonious working experience on the shorter-lived “Doris Day Show,” and as a quipping panelist for nearly the entire run of syndicated gameshow “The Hollywood Squares.” Otherwise, it was back to guest spots, increasingly cornered into the usual sour niche Hollywood reserves for aging funny ladies: Combative mothers-in-law, grouchy-old-battle-ax neighbors and other harridans.

Not that she complained much. Though hardly a pushover (“You don’t want to cross Rose Marie. She’ll cut your head off,” “Squares” host Peter Marshall says), known to agitate for better (and more) material, she was a driven workaholic who could barely stand to be between gigs. Nonetheless, she found time to raise a daughter with big-band trumpeter Bobby Guy — a true love match that ended with his death from a mysterious blood infection at age 48. She never remarried, always performing with a black mourning bow in her hair.

In 1977, she had a surprise triumph with the revue “4 Girls 4,” co-starring fellow singing “old broads” Margaret Whiting, Rosemary Clooney and Helen O’Connell (who reportedly drove the others nuts). It toured for years. While physical infirmities have prevented her from working since a last voice credit on the “Garfield” cartoon series four years ago, it’s clear here she’s still acutely frustrated by retirement.

The role of Sally on “Dick Van Dyke” was ideal for a performer of the old school who was indeed “one of the boys,” accustomed to making her voice loudly heard in male-dominated environs. Given the major creative input others testify to her having on that show and on “4 Girls,” it’s perhaps curious she never pursued directing or writing credits — though given her love of the spotlight, working behind the scenes may have had little appeal.

Still brash and confident, Rose Marie has plenty of colorful anecdotes, including her many brushes with mob legends like Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel, who were closely tied to showbiz. “They were absolutely wonderful to me,” she says, as were the likes of Jerry Lewis and Johnny Carson, who were particularly supportive as she faced widowhood. One gets the sense these sentiments are very much heartfelt; she either avoids more barbed comments on less-congenial colleagues, or they didn’t make the final cut of this docu. It’s too bad, however, that in his otherwise judicious decision to limit the number of interviewees here, Wise didn’t find room for one more: the recently deceased Mary Tyler Moore, with whom Rose Marie had a purportedly tense relationship because she’d been told “The Dick Van Dyke Show” would be primarily an office comedy, only to see the main focus drift toward domestic antics featuring MTM’s daffy spouse.

Another modest letdown lies in the vintage clips utilized, which presumably for budgetary reasons are very brief, often limited to visuals without sound (or vice versa), and sometimes subbed by amateur behind-the-scenes footage. We don’t really see Rose Marie strut her stuff at length until the closing credits, when a late-1950s-looking TV appearance shows her bantering with the band while singing an Italian novelty ditty.

That aside, the editorial package is brisk and bright, with Marshall plugging some gaps in the talking-heads chronicle as an occasional narrator.

Film Review: 'Wait for Your Laugh'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Nov. 1, 2017. Running time: 86 MIN.

Production: (Docu) A Vitagraph Films release of a Forgotten Man Films presentation. Producers: Christina Wise, Jason Wise. Executive producers: Georgiana Guy Rodrigues, Diane Carpenter, David Carpenter, William Fowler, Debra Davis. Co-producer: Jackson Myers. Co-executive producers: Melissa Gail, April Klein. CREW: Director: Jason Wise. Writers: Christina Wise, Jason Wise. Camera (color/B&W): Jackson Myers. Editors: Jason Wise, Bryan Rodner Carr.

With: Rose Marie, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Ruthie Shapiro, Georgiana Rodrigues, Dan Harmon, Tim Conway, Peter Marshall, Allen Sviridoff, Harlan Boll

More Film

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

  • Ventana Sur: Aparicio Garcia Pitches Sports

    Uruguay’s Aparicio Garcia Pitches Sports Journalism Dark Comedy ‘Matufia’

    Uruguay’s Aparicio García impressed with his one-of-kind debut earlier this year, the grindhouse rural mobster comedy “La noche que no se repite,” and the filmmaker has now participated in Ventana Sur’s Proyecta section with his next project, the dark comedy thriller “Matufia.” García’s Isla Patrulla is so far the only producer, but his participation at [...]

  • UGC Distribution Closes on Mariano Cohn’s

    Ventana Sur: UGC Distribution Closes Market Hit ‘4 x 4’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — UGC Distribution has beaten out all other suitors to clinch what had became by Friday morning the most anticipated deal of this year’s Ventana Sur market: All rights to France on Argentine Mariano Cohn’s “4 x 4,” sold by Latido Films and distributed throughout Argentina by Disney. After mounting speculation about which [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    Film News Roundup: 'Aquaman' Hits $152 Million at International Box Office

    In today’s film news roundup, “Aquaman” has already grossed more than $150 million outside the U.S., Michael Masini joins “Birds of Prey,” and Freestyle buys the documentary “Shamanic Trekker.” BOX OFFICE More Reviews Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' TV Review: 'Vanity Fair' Warner Bros.’ tentpole “Aquaman” has taken in $152 million overseas in 36 markets, [...]

  • 'Winter's Night' Review: Enigmatic, Offbeat Korean

    Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night'

    There are thousands of films about love’s beginning, and a great many about love’s end. But far fewer deal with a relationship’s late-middle: the spreading, sluggish delta of coupledom when decades of familiarity, if they have not bred contempt, at least threaten irritation. “Winter’s Night,” Jang Woo-jin’s playfully melancholic third feature, after the acclaimed “A [...]

  • Tomasz Kot UTA

    UTA Signs ‘Cold War’ Star Tomasz Kot (EXCLUSIVE)

    UTA has signed “Cold War” star Tomasz Kot. He has appeared in more than 30 films and 26 plays as well as dozens of television series. More Reviews Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' TV Review: 'Vanity Fair' Most recently, Kot has received award-season buzz for his starring role as Wiktor in Pawel Pawlikowski’s feature “Cold [...]

  • Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening

    Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening Palm Springs Film Festival

    The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will open on Jan. 3 with historical drama “All Is True,” starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen. Branagh, who will be in attendance at the opening night screening, directed from Ben Elton’s script about the little-known period in the final years of William Shakespeare. Branagh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content