Baby Rose Marie

I was channel surfing and I stopped on the old Dick Van Dyke show because Rose Marie was singing and she had a surprisingly great voice. It wasn’t just, “oh look at that, she can really sing.” She was so good I wondered why this wasn’t her career instead of acting and comedy. Her voice had depth and beauty, and she clearly knew what she was doing. So of course I google her and I learned that she was once a child star who went by the name of Baby Rose Marie.

Here she is at 5 or 6. Even if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, listen to some of it. Another video follows.

[Videos removed.]

Her hair and outfit are practically identical, but she seems older in this one. I just checked, she was 9. I think she over-does that gravely, trill effect, (there’s probably a name for that) but still. Amazing. (More below.)

Here she is at 87, telling the story of her child-star days. There is something touching about how she still wears her hair in the same same style that she wore in the Dick Van Dyke days, and with the exact same bow. She must think no one would recognize her otherwise.

Apparently Evelyn Nesbit is the one who gave her the name Baby Rose Marie. Nesbit is most well-known for having been involved with the famous architect Stanford White. She later married the insane Harry Kendall Thaw who shot and killed White on the roof of the Madison Square Garden in 1906. I’ve got a copy of the inquest, which I came across on one of my history-treasure-hunting expeditions into the Municipal Archives of New York City. It says he died of a “cerebral hemorrhage pistol shot wound of brain,” but someone crossed out brain and wrote in “the skull.”

Evelyn Nesbit was in sorry shape when she suggested the stage name for young Rose Marie. She was now in her forties, and struggling with an addiction to alcohol and morphine. In fact, she tried to kill herself that year, or the year before, by swallowing disinfectant. (There was no easier way??) So here she is, consumed with despair, wanting life to just be over with already, and yet she has it in her to help a talented child who still has her whole life in front of her. Thankfully, Nesbit pulled herself together and lived on and died in 1967 at the age of 82.

Rose Marie is still alive. I wonder where she lives? She’s 91 now. She’s seem very likable in this video. I’m guessing she has had lots of good friends over her lifetime.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

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