09 Apr Archive of Pioneering Comedienne Rose Marie is Donated to the National Comedy Center
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.
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.
One of Rose Marie’s vintage trademark hair bows, along with other pieces from the archive, will be displayed at the National Comedy Center alongside artifacts from the careers of dozens of artists including Lenny Bruce, Phyllis Diller, Johnny Carson, Richard Pryor, Jerry Lewis, Mary Tyler Moore, Dan Aykroyd, Jay Leno, and Bob Hope.
At a moment when representations of women in professional creative roles were few and far between, Rose Marie’s confident, intelligent, and very funny portrayal of comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) galvanized a generation women. As comedy writer Nell Scovell explains: “Gloria Steinem famously said ‘You have to see it to be it’ and Rose Marie’s portrayal of Sally Rogers was what made so many women believe that we could be comedy writers. She was in the thick of it – one of the guys who was still very much a gal thanks to her signature bow. Rose Marie was a feminist role model who made us all laugh. That’s a legacy that’s hard to beat.”
Comedienne Paula Poundstone added, “Rose Marie was the perfect Sally Rogers. She was fast, and strong. She could hit the target with the timing of a line, like a lizard snaps a fly out of the air with its tongue. Even though the Sally Rogers character often talked about ‘getting a fella,’ what I saw, as a young girl, was a brazenly funny, professional, independent, career woman who held her own in a workplace full of men.”
The archive, which Rose Marie personally accumulated and organized, spans the 20th century and chronicles every facet of her unparalleled career from vaudeville, radio, and early films to Broadway, Las Vegas, and television. The centerpiece of the acquisition are dozens of meticulously prepared scrapbooks that contain never-before-seen photographs, rare memorabilia, and correspondence with paragons of American show business. The acquisition also includes backstage color footage shot on television soundstages, films of “lost” broadcasts, and audio recordings of Rose Marie and her frequent co-star, the virtuosic “Human Joke Machine” Morey Amsterdam, working on comedy material over the phone.
Rose Marie’s daughter, Georgiana Guy-Rodrigues, who donated the archive, explained: “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.”
“Baby Rose Marie” began performing as a toddler and, by age 5, headlined a national NBC radio show. She entertained Presidents Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt, and starred in some of the first “talking films,” including the 1929 Vitaphone short Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder. In 1946, Rose Marie became the First Lady of Vegas when Bugsy Siegel contracted her to headline at his new casino-hotel, The Flamingo. Rose Marie starred in the stage and film versions of Top Banana opposite Phil Silvers, enjoyed decades of success on television (including memorable tenures on The Doris Day Show and Hollywood Squares), and criss-crossed the nation performing musical comedy. In 2017, Rose Marie’s fascinating life was the subject of the critically-acclaimed documentary film Wait for Your Laugh.
The Center’s Executive Director Journey Gunderson said, “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.” The Rose Marie Collection is the latest acquisition for the National Comedy Center’s archive, which houses materials from the careers of comedy performers, writers, and creators including George Carlin, Shelley Berman, and Lucille Ball.