Meet the star of MVFF40 Opening Night film, Wait For Your Laugh

MVFF recently chatted with Rose Marie, the legendary actress, singer, and comedian who shot to fame as Baby Rose Marie, a child prodigy with a deep, adult-like voice and captivating presence. Her 87- year career that ensued is nothing short of epic, and she is beloved for her role as sassy scriptwriter Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show, as well as her many zingers on The Hollywood Squares game show.

Rose Marie is also the subject of this year’s Opening Night film, the feature documentary Wait For Your Laugh. Director Jason Wise reveals the backstory to her unparalleled entertainment career, featuring interviews with Peter Marshall, Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke and Tim Conway, drawing from rare footage to depict a fascinating, inspirational life.

This is just a sneak peek – to get the whole scoop on Rose Marie’s story, get your tickets to the show!

What was it like to be interviewed for the documentary?

First of all, I didn’t realize what I had done until it was all over, and I thought to myself, my goodness, I should have paid more attention to it! If I had known it would be such a time in my life, I would have paid more attention to it. [Wait For Your Laugh] was done beautifully by Jason Wise, the director…I had stored everything from the time I could remember and he emptied out my house with everything I had collected, and put it in the film. It was really genius.

How did Jason approach you for the project?

My daughter [Georgiana] received several calls from people about doing the documentary, and she didn’t like any of them. Jason called – his wife had read my book – and my daughter invited him over to the house, she talked to him, and she said, that’s the man to do it. He’s a genius. That’s how we got the documentary started, and Jason took it from there and did a hell of a job for three years. He gathered everything in my house, and he used everything. It was unbelievable.

How did it feel to see the completed film?

It was quite thrilling. If I had known my life would be that good, I would have paid more attention!

What do you think makes film special?

I love work in theater, because I like working with a live audience. That’s why I kept everything I did, and then Jason kept it all and made it so beautifully that it was a thrill to see.

You started in singing and went into comedy. What about comedy drew you in?

First of all, I love comedy. I think it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to make people laugh and make them forget their troubles. Comedy is something that should be used, if somebody has it. I guess I had it, because I’ve always been a little bit crazy.

What would you say was your favorite role?

The Dick Van Dyke Show. But I would also say when I was in concert with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O’Connell, and Margaret Whiting. We did a concert around the country for four years, called 4 Girls 4 [in 1977 – in fact, 4 Girls 4 came to San Francisco’s Venetian Room in 1978]. My manager called and said, we want you to do these shows. I said, you can’t just do this and go out and do 35 shows; you’ve got to do a finale, you’ve got to put it together. So Margaret Whiting, Barbara McNair and Rosemary Clooney and myself, we were the ones who were going to do the show.

[Barbara McNair was not available for the concert and was replaced by Helen O’Connell, completing what is now known as the original 4 Girls 4 group.]

And I said to him, we need a finale, we can’t just go out and do 40 visits and walk off the stage. That’s the director in me. I said, we need some sort of a finale. So I asked my secretary, Dodi …I said, write me a parody of “Together” and we’ll use it for a finale. So I wrote it out on paper and sat it on chairs in the front row on Opening Night so the girls could read it, and we did the finale. The New York Times came out and raved about it, and so we said, we’ve found something here. Let’s follow it up! That’s when we started touring all over the country. It was great. It was one of the highlights of my career, to work with these people. And every place we worked, we worked two or three times.

You mention in the film your concerns with show business today. Can you tell us more about that?

I think there’s no talent today. I think all they think about is acting crazy. I never used anything dirty. Anyone I ever worked with never used any dirty words. And that’s all they do today, they think it’s funny. It’s not funny. It’s shocking. There’s no one going out to be serious about it. You have to love this business in order to do well. You have to love it and be with it all the time. And respect your audience, and want to please your audience. That was always my way. I would make them laugh, give them energy.

I love a live audience. That’s the best kind! I loved working in concerts because I talked to the audience, I worked with the audience. In television you’re playing a part. Doing a movie, you’re playing a part. But when you do a concert or you work alone, you have to do something in order to get that audience.

Is there anything you’d like the audience to know before seeing the film?

The documentary tells it all, really. It tells my life story to the nth degree. It’s just reviewing my whole life. I don’t think there’s anymore I can say.