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Actress Rose Marie of Dick Van Dyke Show fame dies at 94

Rose Marie, the wisecracking Sally Rogers of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" has died aged 94.

The show business lifer who began as a bobbed-hair child star in vaudeville and worked for nearly a century in theatre, radio, TV and movies, died on Thursday.

Marie had been resting in bed at her Los Angeles-area home when a caretaker found she had stopped breathing, said family spokesman Harlan Boll.

"Heaven just got a whole lot funnier" was the tribute posted atop a photo of Marie on her website.

She was a child star of the 1920s and 1930s who endeared herself to TV fans on the classic 1960s sitcom that featured Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.

The subject of the 2017 documentary Wait for Your Laugh, Marie often claimed she had the longest career in entertainment history.

It spanned some 90 years, with co-stars ranging from WC Fields to Garfield the cat, and the highlight for many was The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The sitcom was widely loved for its sophisticated writing, inspired casting and insightful view of the inner workings of the then-new medium of television.

Van Dyke starred as Rob Petrie, head writer for a hit comedy-variety show and Mary Tyler Moore, in her first major role, played his wife Laura.

The blonde, raspy-voiced Marie teamed with her pal Morey Amsterdam as assistant writers.

Nominated three times for Emmys, Marie had yet to turn 40 when she joined the Van Dyke cast, but had been an entertainer for more than 30 years.

She was born Rose Marie Mazetta of Italian-Polish parentage in New York City on August 15, 1923.

When she was three, her mother entered her in an amateur talent contest in Atlantic City as Baby Rose Marie.

"My mother was terrified," she recalled in a 1992 interview with The Associated Press. "But I went out and sang 'What Can I Say, Dear, After I Say I'm Sorry?' and won the contest."

She began singing on radio and NBC gave her a seven-year contract and her own show, 15 minutes on Sunday.

Marie sang in a series of movie shorts including "Baby Rose Marie, the Child Wonder" in 1929 and appeared on most of the vaudeville circuits until vaudeville's demise. Among her friends was one of the country's most notorious gangsters.

"My father worked as an arsonist for Al Capone," Marie told People magazine in 2016. "He used to burn down your warehouse if things weren't going the right way, but I didn't know that at the time. I was a child star and to me Al was my 'Uncle Al,' my mother used to cook for all these guys. Years later when I was working Vegas with (casino owner and known mobster) Bugsy Siegel, I cooked for that generation, I guess I knew then."

In 1946 she married Bobby Guy, a trumpeter in Kay Kyser's band and later on top NBC radio shows in Hollywood, and had a daughter, Georgiana.

Bobby Guy was just 48 when he died suddenly of a blood infection, in 1964, a loss so devastating Marie wore black for a year and hesitated to take on work beyond The Dick Van Dyke Show.

One of her first outside performances was on The Dean Martin Show, when she performed the melancholy ballad Little Girl Blue.

She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001. In 2017, she extended her reach to social media, her Twitter feed quickly attracting more than 100,000 followers.

"I was asked what I wanted my legacy to be," she wrote in one tweet. "My answer, 'That I was good at my job & loved every minute of it.' I wish that for everyone."

Marie is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Steven Rodrigues.

AP

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