In a career that spanned from 1926 to the present day, Mickey Rooney was one of the hardest working men in the movie business. Unfortunately, time catches up to everyone eventually. The actor passed away on Sunday at the age of 93.
Joe Yule, Jr. (his real name) was born into a family of vaudeville performers and made his film debut at only 6-years-old in a 1926 silent short. He soon landed the lead in a series of popular comedies playing a character called Mickey McGuire, from which he adapted the stage name of Mickey Rooney. As a child and teen star, Rooney’s irrepressible “Golly gee!” enthusiasm was a hit with audiences, especially in his breakout role in the ‘Andy Hardy’ film series, which spanned 16 movies, three of which also featured a young Judy Garland. Rooney and Garland would go on to co-star together nine times in all.
From the years 1939 to 1942, Rooney was the biggest box office draw in the world. However, audiences after World War II turned fickle and lost interest in the “Let’s put on a show!” musical comedies that he was famous for. As an adult, Rooney’s short stature proved an obstacle to playing dashing leading man roles, and his status as a star waned quickly. A string of failed marriages (he was married eight times, including briefly to Hollywood beauty Ava Gardner) and a corrupt manager who stole his savings left Rooney in bad financial shape, but he managed to segue into a prolific career as a character actor in movies and TV.
Mickey Rooney was nominated for Academy Awards four times, the last as Best Supporting Actor in 1979’s ‘The Black Stallion‘. The Academy gave him both a special achievement “Juvenile Award” in 1939 and an honorary lifetime achievement award in 1983. Film critic Kenneth Turan has a fine appreciation of the actor in The Los Angeles Times that’s worth reading.