On Sunday, we lost another legend of the silver screen. Mickey Rooney passed away at age 93 in Los Angeles. He was one of the last surviving actors from the silent film era & the last surviving co-star of many of his movies from the 1930s & 1940s.
Born Joseph Yule, Jr on September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York to Vaudevillian parents, Mickey began acting on stage at age 17 months in his parents' show. His parents separated in 1924 & in 1925, his mother moved him to Hollywood. She took him to an audition for a series of shorts where he starred as Mickey McGuire from 1927 to 1936. He then had to change his name from Mickey McGuire to Mickey Rooney for legal reasons. In 1934, Mickey signed a contract with MGM where they set him on the road to stardom by casting him as Andy Hardy in 1937's A Family Affair. The Andy Hardy series spanned 13 films until 1958. It was during this period he starred along newcomer Judy Garland and from there bloomed a deep friendship until Judy's untimely death in 1967. The two also starred in other films and musicals aside from the Andy Hardy series such as 1939's popular Babes in Arms.
"Judy and I were so close we could've come from the same womb. We weren't like brothers or sisters but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It's very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other. It was so special. It was a forever love. Judy, as we speak, has not passed away. She's always with me in every heartbeat of my body."
-Rooney in the 1992 documentary MGM: When The Lion Roars
Mickey and Judy on set of Babes on Broadway, 1941
Mickey with Judy and friends at Judy's 17th birthday,
June 11, 1939
Busby Berkeley, Mickey, Louis B. Mayer, and Judy Garland
on set of Babes on Broadway, 1941
Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland
for MGM, circa 1942
Mickey with Judy and her daughter, Liza
Mickey enlisted in the Army during WWII, where he served 21 months entertaining and supporting troops in America and Europe. The Army even awarded him a Bronze Star Medal for entertaining the troops in a combat zone. His film career was not great after the war ended, and he ended up doing one last film with Judy Garland and a couple of radio shows where he reprised his role as Andy Hardy. In the 1950s Mickey appeared on his own television show, The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan for a total of 32 episodes. He directed a feature film, My True Story, and also played in a television drama, The Comedian, for Playhouse 90.
“The audience and I are friends. They allowed me to grow up with them. I've let them down several times. They've let me down several times. But we're all family.”
By the 1960s, Mickey had filed for bankrupcy as it was hard for a man who was only 5'3" to find work in Hollywood unless he was a young Andy Hardy. He found work in the theatre and unimpressive film roles but found the occasional gem like It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World & Breakfast at Tiffany's, though that role of the Asian next door neighbor was rather controversial. 1979 brought about the successful The Black Stallion which spawned several sequels and spin-off television shows, even through the 2000s.
1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's
Mickey was married eight times, including to Ava Gardner for a year in the 1940s, before she became a movie star herself. He had 9 children, also, one of which he adopted from wife Carolyn Hockett's previous marriage.
“I’m 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava."
Mickey's humor and charm will be missed. His classic movies will live on forever. We know he has gone to be with Judy again, and wherever they may be, they are surely happily reunited.
Until next time,