Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney has died at his Los Angeles home. He was 93. With a remarkable career that spanned 10 decades, Mickey Rooney was one of the last surviving artists to have witnessed the evolution of film – from his first onscreen role in the 1926 silent film Not To Be Trusted, to his appearance in 2011’s The Muppets, and beyond.
After first taking to the stage at the age of 15 months, as part of his parents’ Vaudeville act, Joseph Yule Jr. soon progressed to child stardom – appearing in almost 80 silent comedy shorts as the comic strip character, Mickey McGuire. It was this character that would provide the star’s new name, as his mother decided a change was needed. Joseph Yule Jr. became Mickey Rooney, and signed with MGM in 1934 – soon taking to the screen alongside legends such as Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy.
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 and The Bold And The Brave earning 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 characterized 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.
Having spent an entire lifetime dedicated to the entertainment of others, Mickey Rooney has left the stage.