Mickey Rooney was a celebrated child actor who embodied the All-American boy in the Andy Hardy films of the 1930s and 40s, and became one of the era’s top box-office draws.
One of the most enduring performers in show business, he made his debut on the vaudeville stage in 1922 as a toddler and toured into his late 80s in a two-person stage show with Jan Chamberlin, his eighth wife. They had been married since 1978.
A Family Affair in 1937 – based on the Broadway play ‘Skidding’ – created a second popular recurring character for Rooney in the shape of Andy Hardy. A series of 15 films would follow Rooney’s adventures as Hardy, leading to a special Academy Award honour in 1939, before he reached the age of 20. Riding high, Rooney was then paired onscreen with Judy Garland in 1940’s Babes In Arms – a film that earned him another Oscar nomination, and a lengthy professional relationship with Garland that produced many of the most memorable musical moments in cinematic history.
World War II proved to be something of a watershed in the career of Mickey Rooney. Working hard to entertain the troops from 1944-1946, he returned to attempt a transition from the mature teenage roles that had previously been dictated by his youthful appearance, to more adult challenges. This proved difficult, as Rooney found he was now playing to an audience whose attitude was altered by the effects of world conflict. Parting ways with MGM, Rooney found mixed success, with Quicksand sinking, while The Bold And The Brave earned him another Oscar nomination.
Seeking to move beyond performing, Rooney stepped behind the camera in 1951 and directed My True Story. His second directorial effort would follow in 1960 with The Private Lives Of Adam And Eve – opening a new decade that would see him transform into a masterful character actor, delivering sterling work in titles such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s and It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The 1960s also saw Rooney take to the small screen more often – being the first ever guest on The Judy Garland Show in 1963, and subsequently appearing on many comedy and variety shows with great success.
Following another Oscar nomination in 1980, for The Black Stallion, Mickey Rooney approached his senior years with the same admirable work ethic that had characterised his life since those early days in Vaudeville. When many would have chosen to slow down, Rooney was adding more awards to his trophy cabinet, with an Emmy and Golden Globe for Bill, and another honorary Academy Award. Rooney continued to hold his own on stage and screen, in addition to featuring in episodes of popular shows such as The Golden Girls, Murder, She Wrote and ER.
With an incredible 92 years of success behind him, Mickey Rooney was still working – having recently completed filming on horror project Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, for director B. Luciano Barsuglia. At the time of his passing, he also had Fragments From Olympus – The Vision Of Nikola Tesla and Old Soldiers on his slate. Though Hollywood will now mourn the loss of a true icon, audiences around the world can take comfort in his extraordinary legacy – over 330 brilliant performances committed to film.
Stars reacted to Mickey Rooney’s death on Twitter on Sunday night:
Lena Dunham: Mickey Rooney got all the best babes despite being short as hell. #RIP beautiful man
Cher: I loved The old MICKEY & JUDY MOVIES
Piers Morgan: “Always get married in the morning. That way if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted the whole day.” Mickey Rooney, who died today. RIP.
Jeff Dunham: Very sad to hear of the passing of Mickey Rooney; A piece of irreplaceable Americana has left us. #CrazyGenius
Johnny Knoxville: RIP Mickey Rooney xoxoxo
Dominic Monaghan: One of the true originators. A trail blazer. Old school legend. He must have had some stories. #MickeyRooney enjoy hyperspace.
William Shatner: My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Mickey Rooney. One of the greats!
Amber Patrice Riley: RIP Mickey Rooney
Billy Eichner: Mickey Rooney died. Thanks a lot, GAME OF THRONES.
Maria Menounos: Just heard about Mickey Rooney’s passing..legend and friend.will share pics and video tom for sure.
Stephanie J. Block: The one and only … #Hollywoodroyalty
Brett Ratner: G-d Bless Mickey Rooney!
Ricki Lake: Oh no. #RIPmickeyrooney. 🙁
Joshua Malina: R.I.P. Mickey Rooney. Take down the Hollywood sign.
Ben Bailey: Wow. A sad day for comedy. RIP Mickey Rooney.
Anne Rice: Seems we’ve just lost Mickey Rooney at age 93. Not only an actor, but a legend. Sad to think of him gone. But what an amazing life he lived.
Lee Unkrich: Mickey Rooney lived a life.