Actress and star of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Born: August 15, 1923;

Died: December 28, 2017

ROSE Marie, who has died aged 94, was an actress and singer who broke new ground as one of the stars of The Dick Van Dyke Show. For years the traditional role of women in sit-coms was as a supporting character, but in the successful 1960s sit-com Rose Marie played an independent single career woman who could hold her own among the men. It was a pioneering role in one of the biggest television shows of the 1960s.

Rose Marie was extremely proud of the part she played in the show - in 2017, she said she was pleased to have created a character that wasn't "a wife, mother, or housekeeper" - although she sometimes became frustrated at her character, comedy writer Sally Rogers, playing second fiddle to Mary Tyler Moore as Dick Van Dyke's wife.

The Dick Van Dyke Show ran from 1961 to 1966 and was widely loved for its sophisticated writing, creative casting and insightful view of the inner workings of the then-new medium of television. Van Dyke starred as Rob Petrie, the head writer for a hit comedy-variety show, and Moore, in her first major role, played his wife Laura. Rose Marie starred with Morey Amsterdam as assistant writers on the show.

Nominated three times for Emmys, Rose Marie had yet to turn 40 when she joined the cast of the show, which was just one milestone in an extraordinary acting and singing career that began when she was a toddler. Rose Marie often claimed she had the longest career in entertainment history. It spanned some 90 years.

She was born Rose Marie Mazetta in New York City and was entered into her first talent contest when she was just three years old. "My mother was terrified," said Rose Marie. "But I went out and sang What Can I Say, Dear, After I Say I'm Sorry? and won the contest." She then began singing on radio and was a hit on The Rudy Vallee Hour. NBC gave her a seven-year contract and her own show.

She then sang in a series of movie shorts including Baby Rose Marie, the Child Wonder in 1929 and discovered later in life that her father at the time was working for one of the country's most notorious gangsters.

"My father worked as an arsonist for Al Capone," Rose Marie said n 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'."

In 1946 Rose Marie married Bobby Guy, a trumpeter, and they had a daughter, Georgiana. Guy was just 48 when he died suddenly of a blood infection in 1964, a loss so devastating to Rose Marie that she wore black for a year and was reluctant to take on work.

One of her first appearances after the death of Bobby Guy was on The Dean Martin Show, when she performed the melancholy ballad Little Girl Blue. "Dean sang to me and I couldn't help it, the tears began pouring down," she recalled in her memoir Hold the Roses, published in 2003. "Then Dean kissed me and held me in his arms. It was quite a memorable moment."

Rose Marie also appeared on The Doris Day Show, as the irreverent secretary to the star. At the age of 80, she was asked if she planned to retire and replied: "I've been in show business my whole life. Why start something new now?"

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