Yesterday the world lost one of its last connections to the golden age of Hollywood – Mickey Rooney, who died at the age of 93.
A contract player at MGM he was a child star who became the biggest box office star in the world. Sir Laurence Olivier once described him as ‘the greatest actor of them all’.
His career spanned eight decades and over 200 movies which earned over £2bn at the box office by 1965. He worked right up until the end of his life and had shot scenes for Night at the Museum 3 just a few month ago.
Born Joseph Yule Jr in Brooklyn in 1920, Rooney spent his childhood on the vaudevilles circuit with his parents Joe and Nellie. He was performing almost as soon as he could walk and drew audiences to his parents’ shows.
Rooney’s break came when he ‘portrayed Mickey Maguire on the silver screen and from then on he was hooked. Signing with MGM in 1937 to play the role of Andy Hardy in ‘A Family Affair’ with screen legend Lionel Barrymore. Rooney would play Hardy in 13 more movies that would also launch the careers of Judy Garland and Lana Turner.
His most memorable work would be with Garland, with whom he co-starred in 10 movies including ‘Babes in Arms’ and though his best remembered work is in musicals he also proved his acting ability in roles such as ‘Boys Town’ opposite Spencer Tracy for which he won a special Juvenile Academy Award. He would be nominated four times throughout his career.
He got up to just as much off screen. Though only 5ft 3inches he was an admitted womaniser and married eight times, including to actress Ava Gardner who
commented that Mickey went through women ‘like a hot knife through fudge’. Asked if he would marry all of his wives again, he said “Absolutely. I loved every one of them.
Rooney’s later years were overshadowed by allegations that he was being mistreated and abused by members of his family. He testified before a US committee on the prevention of elder abuse. Certainly no fitting end for a Hollywood legend. His live was certainly as interesting and any he portrayed on screen, and as he once said ‘you’ve got to pass failure on the way to success’
He is survived by his eight wife Jan who he has been separated from since 2012.