Mickey Rooney, whose amazing entertainment career spanned an incredible ten decades, passed away yesterday (April 6). The four time Academy Award nominee (he was awarded two achievement Oscars during his career) was 93.
Born Ninian Joseph Yule, Jr on September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, the young man was soon appearing on stage in his parent’s vaudeville act. In 1926 he made his film debut in the short film “Not to Be Trusted.” The next year he began a successful run in a series of short films, detailing the adventures of young Mickey McGuire. It was during this time that he adopted his screen name, Mickey Rooney. These films led to him being signed by MGM and in 1937 he starred in “A Family Affair, ”the first of twenty feature films to spotlight his most popular screen character, Andy Hardy. It was due to the success of these films that the diminutive Rooney (he stood 5’2”) was named the Biggest Box Office Star in the World from 1939-1941.
But it wasn’t just comedy that Rooney excelled in. Films like “Boy’s Town” (one of my favorite Rooney performances), “National Velvet” and “Babes in Arms,” one of his many collaborations with Judy Garland, made him a favorite of fans everywhere. In 1940 he became the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar in a leading role for “Babes in Arms.” He also received a Best Actor nomination in 1944 for “The Human Comedy” and earned Best Supporting Actor nods in 1957 for “The Bold and the Brave” and 1980 for “The Black Stallion.” He also received an special juvenile Oscar in 1939 and an honorary Oscar in 1983 for his body of work. Among his more notable films: “Young Tom Edison,” “Strike Up the Band,” “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” “Breakfast at Tiffanys,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “Babe: Pig in the City,” “Night at the Museum” and 2011’s “The Muppets.” He was filming a new version of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” opposite another classic film star, Margaret O’Brian, at the time of his death.
As the Golden Age of Television began, Rooney kept himself busy with appearances on many of the popular shows of the day, including his most memorable role as Kris Kringle in the animated “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” He spent nearly two decades working successfully in the medium. As the 1970s wound down Rooney took to Broadway, starring opposite Ann Miller in the successful show, “Sugar Babies,” earning a Tony Award nomination for his performance. In 1981 he returned to television in a tour-de-force performance of a mentally challenged man in “Bill,” earning himself an Emmy and a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series.
Married eight times, Rooney always said he never regretted a single day of his life. He was a true star that will continue to burn brightly!