The Aunt Rose Files

by Graeme Cree

Get Smart's answer to Star Trek's Lieutenant Leslie was Maxwell Smart's Aunt Rose (in real life, Executive Producer Leonard Stern's Aunt Rose), who played numerous incidental characters throughout the series. But whereas Lt. Leslie-spotting is made easier by the fact that 9 times out of 10 he's a crewman on the Enterprise wearing a red shirt, Aunt Rose might turn up absolutely anywhere.

Aunt Rose was played by Rose Michtom (1897-1986), daughter of the Morris and Rose Michtom who invented the Teddy Bear in 1903, and founded the Ideal Toy Company four years later to market it.

Aunt Rose appeared in various incidental roles in all five seasons of Get Smart. We've probably only scratched the surface in spotting her, but here's what we've got so far:

Episode 4: Our Man in Toyland
Ah yes, there she is. Right over 99's left shoulder, looking down at the counter. This is the only scene in which I saw her. That blonde woman on her left, however, in the tan coat and black hat, wanders throughout the store all through the episode, even in scenes which take place hours apart. I guess they didn't bother to hire different extras for different scenes because they figured nobody'd be geeky enough to ever notice such an insignificant detail. Oh yeah? Well, for their information, I was listening to Buck Henry and Barbara Feldon do cast commentary for 99 Loses Control the other day, and Barbara herself commented how fascinating it would be to just watch the movements of all the extras in that episode... Of course that's not to say she'd be so geeky as to watch them, and then build a webpage around them, but... uh, uh... Uh, next slide, please.

Episode 8: The Day Smart Turned Chicken
There she is, just over the Chief's left shoulder, looking pretty bored. She sits there throughout the courtroom scene, joining in a general laugh at Max's expense at one point, but otherwise doing nothing. (And getting paid for it!)

Episode 11: Too Many Chiefs
Ah, our first close up look at her, albeit in Black and White. Unfortunately, it's not Aunt Rose, it's a picture of KAOS's Master Executioner, Alexei Sebastian, disguised as Aunt Rose. (Clever, huh?) This is the only episode I've seen so far in which Max verbally identifies her as being his "Aunt Rose", and comments that she's married to his Uncle Harry.

Episode 16: Double Agent
There she is, seated at the Blackjack Table in the Green Julia Hoffman-style 60's sofa-textured jacket. While Mr. Leslie's appearances on Star Trek were often quite extended (If he was on the bridge, he'd be on the bridge the whole episode), many of Aunt Rose's appearances are literally "blink-and-you'll-miss-'em" roles. She appears in this establishing shot as Max enters the room at the beginning of an act, and that's all you see of her.

Episode 18: The Dead Spy Scrawls
Ahhh, There's Waldo! In the black coat by the magazine rack. Again, this one shot is her only appearance in the episode.

Episode 19: Back to the Old Drawing Board
There she is, on the maid's right, in the green and white dress that looks like a bathmat, and holding a drink. Aunt Rose makes out a bit better in this episode. The party scene takes up a good half the episode, and she can be seen mingling in the background at several points. In addition, Max's ability to, shall we say, call attention to himself in public, even presented the opportunity for all the extras to get together and give us one good reaction shot. Say cheese!

Episode 24: Stakeout on Blue Mist Mountain
Aunt Rose is back to her stealth ways in the airport in this episode, scooting across the screen, suitcase in hand, in this one scene which goes by so fast, nobody who wasn't looking for it would ever have noticed her. Pretty spry for her age, isn't she?"

Episode 29: Shipment to Beirut
There she is, in the blue dress, way in the background. Though, what she's doing in a clothier's where the dresses run in the $1400 range, (which in 1965 dollars was about equal to the yearly GNP of the average South American banana republic), is anybody's guess.

Episode 51: The Girls From KAOS
From Episode 29 to 51? We've probably missed several appearances in the meantime, but here's Aunt Rose again, still in the same blue dress, and at a beauty contest, of all places, where she serves as the chaperone to Miss West Germany (she in the red dress and light blue sash). Fortunately, we were able to clearly read Miss West Germany's sash a moment previously, making it possible to credit Aunt Rose as "West German Chaperone", rather than "Woman standing in the middle of the room holding a purse", which sounds terrible on a resumé.

Episode 79: 99 Loses Control
Another long gap, no doubt full of Aunt Rose sightings, as yet unsighted. Here we see Aunt Rose playing Roulette (the casting director no doubt being heavily influenced by her previous experience as "Blackjack Player" in Episode 16). She's only onscreen here for a few seconds, probably to prevent her from becoming typecast by all these casino scenes.

Episode 81: Run, Robot, Run
In this episode, named after Leonard Stern's other series, Run, Buddy, Run Aunt Rose has her first real "role" in the show (where she actually does something besides mill around in the background). Playing a bag lady, (perhaps TV's first), she retrieves from the trash, the discus that Hymie the Robot tosses out of the stadium during the Olympiad. Bet that'd go for a bundle on eBay.

Episode 82: Operation Ridiculous
Another real role. 99 is sitting in a bathtub in a swimsuit, working a modeling job, when she is summoned to headquarters, leaving the photographer high and dry (so to speak). But not to worry, he has an understudy available; none other than his mom, our Aunt Rose. She doesn't look too thrilled, though, at the idea of replacing Barbara Feldon as a high profile, sex-bomb, mega-star supermodel. Some friends and I discussed this once, the prevailing opinion being that the idea doesn't thrill her, because they didn't have sex in her day, sex not being invented until the early 1960's. Probably her parents didn't know about sex either.

Episode 84: The Hot Line
When next we see our heroine, she's in the Control Bakery, buying bread from Regis Philbin. Max doesn't seem to notice her, but Regis seems quite impressed. "My God, do you know who that is?? That's Aunt Rose!"

Episode 85: Die, Spy
When a double agent (working for both KAOS and Control) is murdered, who should turn up at the funeral as his widow but Aunt Rose herself? She certainly doesn't look very happy for someone collecting two pensions.

Episode 89: Closely Watched Planes
Aunt Rose's biggest role yet. When she sees Max on a plane, speaking into his Doughnut Phone, and clearly hearing someone on the other end, she (quite naturally) decides to listen to hers too (as would almost anybody, when you think about it). Her results aren't quite as good as his, but it does lead to her first actual dialogue in the series!:

Aunt Rose: "Pardon me, sir. May I have your doughnut?"
Max: "Why?"
Aunt Rose: "Mine isn't working."

Episode 102: The Day They Raided the Knights
Aunt Rose is back to what she does best: Milling. Only she clearly seems to have been promoted by this point in the series, because rather than milling in the background, she now does her milling in the foreground! Here we see her at a Green Stamp redemption center, buying a corn popper from 99. Let's hope this fame doesn't go to her head.

Episode 120: And Baby Makes Four, Part 2
Here in Aunt Rose's final (?) appearance, we see her selflessly giving up her wheelchair to KAOS's Simon the Likable, who may perhaps not need it as much as she does, but it's the thought that counts. However, since we've already established that she was born in a time before sex was invented, I do not profess to know what "the thought" is, in this case.

Episode 124: Is This Trip Necessary?
Whoops! Would you believe this is her final appearance? As a reward for long service, Aunt Rose is allowed to go on a tour of a Women's Lounge! Everybody got your cameras ready?

Finally, we see Rose in the credits. Notice they carefully credited her as Woman Passenger, so you wouldn't mistakenly think that "Rose" was a man. (Unfortunately, they didn't do something similar to forestall the misconception that Miss Cleveland was a beauty contest winner.)

Ironically, Aunt Rose finally makes it to the credits, and for once, she's nowhere in shot... At least I don't think she is. Better give all those nooks and crannies the once over.

Images Copyright Time-Life/HBO