Dick Van Dyke Blogathon: Sally Is A Girl

For television characters with self-possession and acerbic wit, Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is one of the best. A running gag for this supporting role is that Rob's unmarried co-worker is perpetually desperate for a date.

Usually Sally's love interests have quirky personalities and interesting names. [Leo Fassbinder, Herman Glimpshire and Mr. Defenthaler (Sally's code name for all boyfriends) come to mind.] However, in at least one episode about Sally's new beau, the guy has nondescript nomenclature and is completely secondary to the main plot.

In "Sally is a Girl," Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) believes Rob's female co-worker is still single because Rob (Dick Van Dyke) and Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) treat Sally like a guy. Rob counteracts the habit by being overly chivalrous, to disastrous results - Buddy now believes that his two office mates are having an affair!

Although this is technically a Sally episode, the show is less about her new boyfriend (who appears briefly in the 1st and 3rd acts) and more an excuse for Van Dyke to exhibit his virtuosity in physical comedy. After agreeing with Laura to make "Sir Walter Raleigh look like a boor," Rob not only rises when Sally needs assistance, he springs from the couch as if shot out of a canon. When Sally picks up typing paper, Rob kisses her hand before gingerly threading the paper through the typewriter, as if the machine itself might be female. Rob is chivalrous to the point of  impracticality.

Sir Walter Petrie on the move

What this means for Sally is that instead of her usual routine of cracking hilarious nonstop jokes, she has to react to insanity, which in itself is funny.  Rob's sudden effusive behavior initially makes Buddy and Sally think he's pulling a prank when he pulls out her chair. "Alright, what's the gag?," she asks. "All I know is I'd check my accident policy before I sat down," answers Buddy.

After rumors of an affair begin, Rob calms down and Sally returns to being just a part of the team. However, in the end the Sir Raleigh bit has an unintended consequence - the pronounced contrast between her being appreciated at work and not so much on a date. It's obvious how valuable Sally is to the team, even without Rob throwing his coat over a puddle, but the new boyfriend doesn't appreciate Sally's bank of knowledge. When he's at a loss for the name of a car part, Sally chimes in with the answer and the date seems perplexed or affronted that she would know this information. Sally covers her gaffe, and laughs it off, but this is a bittersweet conclusion, especially since we know the guys at the office appreciate her talent on a regular basis.

This post is a part of the Dick Van Dyke Blogathon celebrating the 50th anniversary of the premiere of this timeless television classic. This blogathon is sponsored by The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. See more entries here: http://thrillingdaysofyesteryear.blogspot.com/2011/10/did-you-bring-me-anything-daddy.html


  1. There aren't any more women like Sally Rogers on TV anymore, and that is a pity. If I could find a girl like her, I'd propose to her in a heartbeat. Also, this episode always reminds me of a line in a later DVD classic where Rob is talking to Richie on the phone and is trying to explain to him that he's in a meeting with "Uncle Buddy, Uncle Mel, Uncle Alan..." Sally snaps her fingers to get his attention and he continues "...and Uncle Sally."

    Thanks for helping me out with the blogathon via your fine contribution, Java...I apologize for being late in getting it up on the list of links but I was sort of tuckered out yesterday (I may have tripped over too many ottomans).

  2. A perceptive, and sweet...and a little sad, analysis. Good old Sally. She was more than a "type".

  3. Sally Rogers was a role model for all of us gals who grew up hoping we'd work in an office with hilarious co-workers who loved their jobs. Some of us got our wish -- I hope most of us did!

    Really nice essay!

  4. Java - Great choice for the blogathon - and an interesting subject: Sally. I've read that her character was partly based on Selma Diamond, a writer Carl Reiner had worked with on "Your Show of Shows." She later did acting work and was part of the cast of "Night Court." The two women certainly had a gravelly-voice, hardboiled veneer and way with a punchline in common.

    When I watched the show as a kid, Sally struck me as a lovable battle-ax. By that I mean I thought she was funny and nice but unattractive. Now I look at her character as one of a generation of women who made it in "a man's world" and became one of the guys - probably because it was the most comfortable way for her to work with the guys. I wish DVD had had a regular character, someone like Ivan, a man who was looking for a girl like her and would "propose to her in a heartbeat."

  5. Even though this episode highlights Dick's brand of physical comedy, it still counts as a Sally episode. And, yes, Sally is a girl! Enjoyable post as always, Java.

  6. Java, I always enjoy the episodes about Sally. I remember one where an old school friend wants to see her, and she geys all dressed up at home (that may be the only time we saw her home), and sits with her cat waiting. When the guy comes, he just wants to sell her insurance. Her disappointment was really sad to see, but at least it had a happy ending with the guy, who reallhy did want to see her but was just nervous.

    Your article about this Sally episode just brought up a lot of memories for me of my favorite single woman! Kudos!

  7. Ivan, don't worry about it. I posted late, so we're even. :)

    Love that quote. I don't think I've seen that episode yet. I'm slowly making my way through the Dick Van Dyke Show DVD collection in order, filling in any gaps that TV LAND didn't fill long ago.

    What does TV Land do now? Oh yes. Some show where the hilarious Betty White is used in only 1/2 a scene and in the background, if I recall.(Forgive my bitterness.)
    She's definitely more than a "type." I didn't even begin to think of her gender and lifestyle as being at odds with convention until reading retrospectives and watching documentaries of the show. She will always remain just Sally to me. Wonderful Sally.
    Thank you!
    The Lady Eve,
    Sally's unconventional beauty probably helped sell the idea of the lady working in a man's world.

    If she were Lana Turner or Sophia Loren, for example, working in that office with Buddy, some of the jokes would be about her anatomy and would interfere with the team vibe we enjoy.

    Also, Sally's great at work, but her personal life is the shambles. Her look (and ineffectiveness with dates) helps the public root for her more than if she had everything. Sad but true.
    Thanks so much for stopping in!
    I think you're referring to Season 1, Episode 6: "Where You Been, Fassbinder?"

    Sally is certainly one of my favorite single female characters. Interesting that Mary Tyler Moore would make her mark playing another single female.

    In Rose Marie's autobiography, HOLD THE ROSES, Rose Marie claims that she and Mary were not enemies but not the best of friends. They engaged in small talk from time to time, but that's it.

    In addition to personality differences, each actress was at a different point in her career: Rose Marie had been a sensation in show business since childhood; Mary was just getting started, and still hungering for more success.
    It's a shame, because I'd imagined them going shopping together after work.

    Thanks to everyone.

    - JAVA


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"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email: java-rush@hotmail.com


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