Mickey Rooney (1920-2014)

Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney
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Mickey Rooney was an American film actor, singer, dancer and all-round entertainer, a unique walking, talking, piece of Hollywood history. He was the last surviving major male star from Hollywood of the 1930's and his career actually started in the era of Silent movies. He began as a child star and he was an international superstar as a teenager partnering Judy Garland in a series of highly successful films.

His personal life was as varied and interesting as his show business life. As a teenager he had an affair with the then Queen of Hollywood, Norma Shearer, old enough to be his mother, and he went on to marry eight times and have nine children. His first wife was the then Hollywood starlet, soon to become the love Goddess, Ava Gardner.

Mickey Rooney was nominated for Academy Awards four times and won an Honorary Oscar. He was a genuine Hollywood legend with the longest ever career in cinema history. He was an author, and an accomplished musician and for much of his life, a keen golfer.

He was a genuine Hollywood Legend, a Treasure to be appreciated.


He was born Joseph Yule Jnr. on September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were both successful vaudeville performers and Joe made his first appearance on stage with them aged only seventeen months and in a specially tailored costume. After his parents divorced in 1923 he was taken by his mother to Hollywood be auditioned for Al Roach's "Our Gang" series. It resulted in young Joe's first movie role in the film 'Not To Be Trusted' in 1926, playing a midget. The following year he had a bit part in his first feature length film, 'Orchids and Ermine ', which led to his big break when he was cast as the scrappy and cocky Mickey 'Himself' McGuire, a series based upon a popular comic strip of the time, "Toonerville Folks." Between 1927 and 1933 he made over 50 comedy shorts in the series and even changed his name at one stage to Mickey McGuire. In 1932 when his mother suggested he change it again to Mickey Looney, he decided on the name Mickey Rooney instead.

He continued in the McGuire film shorts but gradually began to take small roles as adolescents in feature films such as 'The World Changes' in 1933 and 'Manhattan Melodrama' with Myrna Loy in 1934. His talent was obvious and he was signed to a contract by MGM in 1934. The following year he gave an unforgettable performance as Puck in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' alongside James Cagney, Dick Powell and Olivia de Havilland. Rooney was now performing in exalted company.

He made the leap to real stardom after appearing in the 'B' movie, 'A Family Affair', in 1937, the first of the Andy Hardy films. It led to a series of 15 movies in all, in which Rooney played the same accident-prone but lovable and good-natured teenage son of the town judge. The role shot him to stardom and made him a household name. The Andy Hardy movies appealed to Louis Meyer of MGM as they were made to a tight budget and had a simple, safe and appealing message about the virtues of small-town Middle America. In 1938 Rooney had a more serious role in the movie 'Boys Town' with Spencer Tracy where he gave a highly effective performance as Whitey, the tough teenager reformed by Spencer Tracy's priest character.

During his early years in Hollywood he attended the Hollywood Professional School, and later Hollywood High School, where he graduated in 1938.

Rooney could do no wrong, it seemed, and his star shone even brighter during the next few years as he continued with his Andy Hardy movies and landed other plum adolescent roles in 'The Adventures of Hucklebury Finn' in 1939 and 'Young Tom Edison' in 1940. He also partnered Judy Garland in several successful "Let's Put on a Show" musicals including 'Babes in Arms' in 1939 for which he received an Academy award nomination for Best Actor, the youngest ever performer at nineteen, to receive the nomination. He and Garland continued the run of high energy musicals with 'Strike Up the Band' in 1940, 'Babes on Broadway' the following year, and 'Girl Crazy' in 1943. Between 1939-41 he was the biggest box-office draw in America and in 1939 he was awarded a special Oscar (with Deanna Durbin) for his "significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and, as a juvenile player, setting a high standard of ability and achievement."

He reached the peak of his popularity during the early 1940's with well received performances in 'The Human Comedy' in 1943, for which he received his second Academy Award Best Actor nomination, and 'National Velvet' in 1944 with the young Liz Taylor.

In 1944 Rooney enlisted in the US Army and served for 22 months until just after the end of World War II. He spent part of the time helping to entertain the troops in America and Europe, and also worked on radio on the American Forces Network. After his discharge from the military he discovered that his status and drawing power as a Hollywood star had reduced. He suffered the fate of many child stars - fans desert you when you grow up.

He continued making movies and began to develop a reputation as a fine character actor, but many of his films were insipid and uninspiring. There were a few exceptions such as 'Quicksand' in 1950, 'The Bold and the Brave' a 1956 war movie for which Rooney received a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and the gangster movie 'Baby Face Nelson' in 1957. Thereafter there were a few more movie highspots amongst the unmemorable, such as 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' in 1961, 'Requiem for a Heavyweight' the following year, 'It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' in 1963, and 'The Black Stallion' in 1979 for which he received a second Best Supporting Actor nomination.

From the 1950's onwards Rooney successfully reinvented himself for television. He twice starred in his own series of shows, first, 'The Mickey Rooney Show' from 1954-55 where he played the character Mickey Mulligan and ten years later, the comedy half hour show 'Mickey' where he played the character Mickey Grady. He also guest-starred many times in shows such as 'Producers' Showcase', 'Wagon Train', 'The Dick Powell Show', 'The Red Skelton Show' and a host of others.

During the 1960's whilst continuing his movie and television career he began yet another facet of his performance output and started touring theaters and nightclubs with a live act. In 1979 he starred in the hit show 'Sugar Babies' which ran for three years and over 1200 performances on Broadway and then played to packed houses on tour across the country for over four years thereafter.


Rooney was married eight times and describes in his autobiography a riotous lifestyle with many sexual conquests.

His first wife was Ava Gardner in 1942 before she had become a well known star. The marriage lasted 16 months. He then married Betty Jane Rase in 1944, the marriage ending in divorce, after they had two children. His next two marriages were also short-lived, to actress Martha Vickers from 1949 to 1951 with whom he had a son, and to Elaine Mahnken from 1952 to 1958. He married Barbara Ann Thomason in 1958 and the couple had four children. They separated in 1965 and the following year Barbara was murdered by her boyfriend, actor Milos Milosevic. Rooney became deeply depressed and married Barbara's friend, Marge Lane, who helped him take care of his young family but the marriage lasted less than four months. He married Carolyn Hockett, his seventh wife, in 1969 but this too ended in divorce five years later. He finally found happiness and stability with his eighth wife, Jan Chamberlain to whom he remained married until his death.

As he has got older, Rooney became more accepted as the face of another, older Hollywood, a reminder of our yesterdays. In 1983 he received the "Lifetime Achievement" Oscar from the Academy and found himself as much in demand as he ever was in his younger days. In 1991 he published his autobiography, "Life Is Too Short" and he also authored a book "The Search for Sonny Skies: A Novel" which was released in 1995. He appeared to good effect in the hit 'Night at the Museum' in 2006 and in 2011 he found himself in the Guinness book of records for having the longest ever movie career - a phenomenal 86 years from 1925-2011.

Mickey Rooney died on April 6th, 2014 at his North Hollywood home, after a long illness. He was 93 years young.

Mickey Rooney Academy Awards

No Wins:
Four Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actor ... Babes in Arms (1939)
Best Actor ... The Human Comedy (1943)
Best Supporting Actor ... The Bold and the Brave (1956)
Best Supporting Actor ... The Black Stallion (1979)
Juvenile Award:
Shared with Deanna Durbin, "For their significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement." (1939)
Honorary Award:
"In recognition of his 50 years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances." (1983)


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Mickey Rooney Filmography

Not to Be Trusted (short)
Orchids and Ermine (uncredited)
Mickey's Circus (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Pals (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Eleven (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Battle (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Parade (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey in School (short) as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Nine (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Little Eva (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Wild West (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey in Love (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Triumph (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Babies (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Movies (short) as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Rivals (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey the Detective (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Athletes (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Big Game Hunt (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Great Idea (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Explorers (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Menagerie (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Last Chance (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Brown Derby (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Northwest Mounted (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Initiation (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Midnite Follies (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Surprise (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Mix-Up (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Big Moment (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Strategy (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Champs (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Champs (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Master Mind (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Luck (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Whirlwinds (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Warriors (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey the Romeo (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Merry Men (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Winners (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Musketeers (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Bargain (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Thrill Hunters (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Stampede (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Crusaders (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Rebellion (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Diplomacy (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Wildcats (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
The Hare Mail (short) (voice) (uncredited)
The Fisherman (short) (voice) (uncredited)
Mickey's Helping Hand (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Sideline (short) Mickey McGuire
Mickey's Busy Day (short) Mickey McGuire
The Beast of the City (uncredited)
Mickey's Travels (short) Mickey McGuire
Sin's Pay Day
Mickey's Holiday (short)
High Speed B (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Big Business (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Golden Rule (short) Mickey McGuire
Fast Companions
My Pal, the King
Mickey's Charity (short) Mickey McGuire
Officer Thirteen (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Ape Man (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
Mickey's Race (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
The Big Cage
The Kid's Last Fight(uncredited)
Mickey's Big Broadcast (short)
Mickey's Disguises (short)
The Big Chance
Ring Up the Curtain
Mickey's Touchdown (short)
Mickey's Tent Show (short)
The Chief
The World Changes
Mickey's Covered Wagon (short)
Mickey's Minstrels (short) (as Mickey McGuire)
The Lost Jungle
Mickey's Rescue (short)
I Like It That Way
Manhattan Melodrama
Love Birds
Mickey's Medicine Man (short)
Half a Sinner
The Lost Jungle
Blind Date
Chained (uncredited)
Death on the Diamond
The County Chairman
West Point of the Air
The Healer
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ah, Wilderness!
Little Lord Fauntleroy
The Devil Takes the Count
Down the Stretch
A Family Affair
Captains Courageous
Slave Ship
Yesterday's Hero
Live, Love and Learn
Thoroughbreds Don't Cry
You're Only Young Once
Love Is a Headache
Judge Hardy's Children
Hold That Kiss
The Boy from Barnardo's
Love Finds Andy Hardy
Boys Town
Out West with the Hardys
Loews Christmas Greeting (The Hardy Family) (short)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Hardys Ride High
Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever
Babes in Arms
Judge Hardy and Son
Andy Hardy's Dilemma: A Lesson in Mathematics... and Other Things (short)
Young Tom Edison
Andy Hardy Meets Debutante
1940 Strike Up the Band
Andy Hardy's Private Secretary
Men of Boys Town
Life Begins for Andy Hardy
Babes on Broadway
Personalities (short) (uncredited)
The Courtship of Andy Hardy
A Yank at Eton
Andy Hardy's Double Life
The Human Comedy
Girl Crazy
Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble
National Velvet
Love Laughs at Andy Hardy
Killer McCoy
Summer Holiday
Words and Music
The Big Wheel
Creole (short) (voice)
The Fox and the Hound
The Emperor of Peru
The Care Bears Movie (voice)
Lightning, the White Stallion
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (voice)
Erik the Viking
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
La vida láctea
Sweet Justice (uncredited)
Maximum Force
Die Abenteuer von Pico und Columbus (voice)
The Legend of Wolf Mountain
Outlaws: The Legend of O.B. Taggart
Making Waves
Revenge of the Red Baron
Killing Midnight
The Face on the Barroom Floor
Animals with the Tollkeeper
Michael Kael contre la World News Company
Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights
Babe: Pig in the City
Holy Hollywood
The First of May

Internet Love
Topa Topa Bluffs
To Kill a Mockumentary (video)
Strike the Tent
The Happy Elf (video) (voice)
Night at the Museum
The Yesterday Pool (short)
Lilith (video)
A Christmas Too Many (video)
Behind the Director's Son's Cut (video short)
Wreck the Halls
Lost Stallions: The Journey Home
Saddle Up! With Dick Wrangler and Injun Joe