OBITUARY: Jack Rose

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The Independent Online
Jack Rose knew what he did best and, surprisingly, so did Hollywood; in a 34-year film career, he wrote or co-wrote some 30 films, all but four of which were comedies or musical comedies.

Jack Rose was born in Poland, coming to America with his father and 10 siblings to settle in Brooklyn. After receiving his BA at Ohio University, Rose returned to New York City in 1934 and became a Broadway press agent. His work brought him into contact with Milton Berle, for whom he began writing jokes. Berle paid him $30 a week, and Rose's father became suspicious about all the money his youngest son was bringing home. "None of my brothers of sisters had ever earned that kind of money", Rose recalled. "My father asked my brother Ed, later to be an Assistant District Attorney, to investigate me and find out what mob I was with."

In the late 1930s Rose submitted a gaggle of one-liners to Bob Hope, who added him to his regiment of radio writers at $100 a week. Rose became an important member of Hope's staff, and by 1940 had helped his show to reach fourth place in the broadcast ratings.

In 1947 Rose left radio and, with the ex-Jack Benny writer Edmund Beloin, wrote Ladies' Man, a lightweight screen vehicle for the comedian Eddie Bracken. The film did well enough for the studio (Paramount) to sign Rose to a contract, and he soon put his long experience with Bob Hope to good use by writing the original story for Road to Rio (1947), as well as collaborating with Beloin on the screenplay. It was the fifth of the Hope-Crosby- Lamour series and one of the funniest; the entire plot revolved mysteriously around the vital importance of "the papers". When, at the climax, these intriguing papers were finally produced, Crosby scanned them and tore them up, saying maddeningly to the camera: "The world - must never know!"

Equally impish is the ending of It's a Great Feeling (1949), a musical which Rose wrote with his most frequent collaborator, Melville Shavelson. Throughout the film, Struggling Singer Doris Day kept vowing to give up the Hollywood rat race, return to her home town and become "Mrs Jeffrey Bushdinkle". She finally did forsake Tinseltown, settling for marriage to the prosaic Bushdinkle - who turned out to be played by Errol Flynn.

Shavelson and Rose wrote three more films for Day: I'll See You in My Dreams, On Moonlight Bay (both 1951) and April in Paris (1953). The first was an entertaining biography of the lyricist Gus Kahn (played by Danny Thomas), with Day as his adoring wife. Rose and Shavelson wrote three more musical biopics: The Five Pennies (1959), in which Danny Kaye played the cornettist/bandleader Red Nicholas, and The Seven Little Foys (1955) and Beau James (1957), in which Bob Hope gave his finest, straightest film performances as, respectively, the comedian Eddie Foy and Mayor Jimmy Walker. Other Hope films on which Rose worked were My Favourite Brunette (1947), The Great Lover, Sorrowful Jones (both 1949) and The Paleface (1948), Hope's all-time highest-grossing film.

For Dean Martin, Rose wrote Who's got the Action? (1962) and Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963), preceded by Living It Up (1954), a Martin and Lewis remake of Nothing Sacred, which set Rose and Shavelson the onerous task of rewriting a role played originally by Carole Lombard for Jerry Lewis.

From the mid-1950s, Rose was involved in the production of many of his own films, including Houseboat (1958) with Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, It Started in Naples (1960), with Clark Gable and Loren, and On the Double (1961), with Danny Kaye. The third film in which Danny Kaye played a dual role, it was described by the New York Times as "a melancholy dive into self-plagiarism".

The climax of Rose's career was the award-winning (from the Writers Guild of America), Oscar-nominated A Touch of Class (1973), which he and Melvin Frank wrote for George Segal and Glenda Jackson. Six years later Rose and Frank wrote Lost and Found for Segal and Jackson, but it hadn't the class of Class. For Segal and Goldie Hawn he, Barry Sandler and Frank wrote the quip-packed western The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox (1976). With Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses he wrote The Great Muppet Caper (1981). The film's highlight was the hilarious scene in which John Cleese and Joan Sanderson played a patrician couple making desperate small-talk, refusing to acknowledge that tiny weird animals were swarming all over their stately home. It was Jack Rose's last film.

Dick Vosburgh

Jack Rose, writer and producer: born Warsaw 4 November 1911; married (one son, two daughters); died Los Angeles 20 October 1995.

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