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Mickey Rooney (born September 23, 1920) is an American film actor and entertainer whose film, television, and stage appearances span nearly his entire lifetime. During his career he has won multiple awards, including an Honorary Academy Award, a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award. Working as a performer since he was a small child, he was a superstar as a teenager for the films in which he played Andy Hardy, and he has had one of the longest careers of any actor, to date spanning more than 80 years. For a younger generation of fans, he gained international fame for his leading role as Henry Dailey in The Family Channel's, The Adventures of the Black Stallion, as well as the film itself.
Rooney was born Joseph Yule, Jr. in Brooklyn, New York, to a vaudeville family. His father, Joseph Yule, was from Scotland, and his mother, Nellie W. (née Carter), was from Kansas City, Missouri. Both of his parents were in Vaudeville, and appearing in a Brooklyn production of A Gaiety Girl when Joseph, Jr. was born. He began performing at the age of 17 months as part of his parents' routine, wearing a specially tailored tuxedo.
When he was 14 months old, he crawled on stage unbeknownst to everybody with overalls and a little harmonica around his neck. He sneezed and his father, Joe Sr., grabbed him out of the stage, calling him Sonny Yule, where he felt the spotlight was on him. He felt like he was in his mother's womb. From that moment on, he felt like his home was his first stage. He felt at ease in his first performance that he rocked the house down, but afterwards, his father was disgusted at his son's scene stealing, until the theater manager paid him an additional $5 a month, while working for an act with the song and dance man, Sid Gold, within a month.
His father was always into chasing women and heavy drinking, leaving a lack of a relationship with Joe Jr., which led to a separation, when he was only 3. While Joe Sr. was traveling, Joe Jr. and his mother moved from Brooklyn, New York to Kansas City, Missouri to live with his aunt. While his mother was reading the entertainment newspaper, Nellie was also interested in getting Hal Roach to approach the young star to participate in the Our Gang series in Hollywood. It paid off for Joe Jr., where he was working under the direction of Roach, in doing his first series, for $5 a day. Unlike Joe Jr., the other young stars got paid 5x more than him, there was no way he was going to get paid more than what he'd expected, therefore, he and his mother moved back to Kansas City.
While selling newspapers around the corner, he also entered into Hollywood Professional School, where he went to school with dozens of unfamiliars students such as: Joseph A. Wapner, Nanette Fabray, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, among many others, and later Hollywood High School, where he graduated in 1938.
The Yules separated in 1924 during a slump in vaudeville, and in 1925, Nell Yule moved with her son to Hollywood, California, where she managed a tourist home. Fontaine Fox had placed a newspaper ad for a dark-haired child to play the role of "Mickey McGuire" in a series of short films. Lacking the money to have her son's hair dyed, Mrs. Yule took her son to the audition after applying burnt cork to his scalp. Joe got the role and became "Mickey" for 78 of the comedies, running from 1927 to 1936, starting with Mickey's Circus, released September 4, 1927. These had been adapted from the Toonerville Trolley comic strip, which contained a character named Mickey McGuire. Joe Yule briefly became Mickey McGuire legally in order to trump an attempted copyright lawsuit (if it was his legal name, the movie producers did not owe the comic strip writers royalties). His mother also changed her surname to McGuire in an attempt to bolster the argument, but the film producers lost. The litigation settlement awarded damages to the owners of the cartoon character, as well as compelled the twelve year old actor to refrain from calling himself by the name Mickey McGuire on and off screen.
Rooney later claimed that, during his Mickey McGuire days, he met cartoonist Walt Disney at the Warner Brothers studio, and that Disney was inspired to name Mickey Mouse after him, although Disney always said that he had changed the name from "Mortimer Mouse" to "Mickey Mouse" on the suggestion of his wife.
During an interruption in the series in 1932, Mrs. Yule made plans to take her son on a ten-week vaudeville tour as McGuire, and Fox sued successfully to stop him from using the name. Mrs. Yule suggested the stage name of Mickey Looney for her comedian son, which he altered slightly to Rooney, a less frivolous version. Rooney did other films in his adolescence, including several more of the McGuire films, and signed with MGM in 1934. MGM cast Rooney as the teenage son of a judge in 1937's A Family Affair, setting Rooney on the way to another successful film series.
Andy Hardy and Judy Garland
In 1937, Rooney was selected to portray Andy Hardy in A Family Affair (1937), which MGM had planned as a B-movie. Rooney provided comic relief as the son of Judge James K. Hardy, portrayed by Lionel Barrymore (although Lewis Stone would play the role of Judge Hardy in later films). The film was an unexpected success, and led to thirteen more "Andy Hardy" films between 1937 and 1946, and a final film in 1958. Rooney also received top billing as Shockey Carter in Hoosier Schoolboy (1937).
Also in 1937, Mickey made his first film alongside Judy Garland with Thoroughbreds Don't Cry. Garland and Rooney became close friends and a successful song and dance team. Besides three of the Andy Hardy films, where she portrayed Betsy Booth, a younger girl with a crush on Andy, they appeared together in a string of successful musicals, including the Oscar-nominated Babes in Arms (1939). During an interview in the documentary film, When the Lion Roars, Rooney describes their friendship:
"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's breakthrough role as a dramatic actor came in 1938's Boys Town opposite Spencer Tracy as Whitey Marsh, which opened shortly before his 18th birthday. Rooney was named the biggest box-office draw in 1939, 1940 and 1941. Unquestionably a well-known entertainer by the early 1940s Rooney, with Garland, was one of many celebrities caricatured in Tex Avery's 1941 Warner Bros. cartoon Hollywood Steps Out. As of 2010, Rooney is the only surviving entertainer depicted in the cartoon.
After the war
In 1944, Rooney entered military service. He served more than 21 months, until shortly after the end of World War II. During and after the war he helped entertain the troops in America and Europe, and spent part of the time as a radio personality on the American Forces Network. After his return to civilian life, his career slumped. He appeared in a number of films, including Words and Music in 1948, which paired him for the last time with Garland on film (he appeared with her on one episode as a guest on her CBS variety series in 1963). He briefly starred in a CBS radio series, Shorty Bell, in the summer of 1948, and reprised his role as "Andy Hardy", with most of the original cast, in a syndicated radio version of The Hardy Family in 1949 and 1950 (repeated on Mutual during 1952).
His first television series, The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan (created by Blake Edwards with Rooney as his own producer), appeared on NBC television for thirty-two episodes between August 28, 1954 and June 4, 1955. In 1951, he directed a feature film for Columbia Pictures, My True Story starring Helen Walker. Rooney also starred as a ragingly egomaniacal television comedian in the live 90-minute television drama The Comedian, in the Playhouse 90 series on the evening of Valentine's Day in 1957, and as himself in a revue called The Musical Revue Of 1959 based on the 1929 movie The Hollywood Revue Of 1929 which was edited into a film in 1960, by British International Pictures. In 1958, Rooney joined Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in hosting an episode of NBC's short-lived Club Oasis comedy and variety show.
In 1960, Rooney directed and starred in The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, an ambitious comedy known for its multiple flashbacks and many cameos. In the 1960s, Rooney returned to theatrical entertainment. He still accepted film roles in undistinguished movies, but occasionally would appear in better works, such as Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and The Black Stallion (1979). One of Rooney's more controversial roles came in the highly acclaimed 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's where he played a stereotyped buck-toothed myopic Japanese neighbor (Mr. Yunioshi) of the main character, Holly Golightly. Producer Richard Shepherd apologized for this in the 45th anniversary DVD, though Director Blake Edwards and Rooney himself do not.
On December 31, 1961, he appeared on television's What's My Line and mentioned that he had already started enrolling students in the MRSE (Mickey Rooney School of Entertainment). His school venture never came to fruition, but for several years he was a spokesman/partner in Pennsylvania's Downingtown Inn, a country club and golf resort.
In 1966, while Rooney was working on the film Ambush Bay in the Philippines, his wife Barbara Ann Thomason (aka Tara Thomas, Carolyn Mitchell), a former pin-up model and aspiring actress who had won 17 straight beauty contests in Southern California, was found dead in their bed. Beside her was her lover, Milos Milos, an actor friend of Rooney's. Detectives ruled it murder-suicide, which was committed with Rooney's own gun.
Beloved, short character actor
In addition to his movie roles, Rooney made numerous guest-starring roles as a character actor for nearly six decades, beginning with an episode of Celanese Theatre. The part led to other roles such as: Schlitz Playhouse, Playhouse 90, Producers' Showcase, Alcoa Theatre, 2 episodes of Wagon Train, G.E. True Theater, Hennessey, 4 episodes of The Dick Powell Theatre, Arrest and Trial, Burke's Law, Combat!, The Fugitive, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Jean Arthur Show, The Name of the Game, Dan August, Night Gallery, The Love Boat, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, among many others.
Television, stage and The Black Stallion
Rooney made a successful transition to television and stage work. In 1961, he guest starred in the 13-week James Franciscus adventure-drama television series The Investigators on CBS. In 1963, he even entered The Twilight Zone, giving a one-man performance in the episode "The Last Night of a Jockey". In 1964, he launched another half-hour sitcom, Mickey, on ABC. The story line had "Mickey" operating a resort hotel in southern California. Son Tim Rooney appeared as Rooney's teenaged son on the program, and Emmaline Henry starred as Rooney's wife. It lasted 17 episodes, ending primarily due to the suicide of co-star Sammee Tong in October 1964.
He won a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for his role in 1981's Bill. Playing opposite Dennis Quaid, Rooney was a mentally challenged man attempting to live on his own after leaving an institution. He reprised his role in 1983's Bill: On His Own, earning an Emmy nomination for the role.
Rooney did the voices for four Christmas TV animated/stop action specials: Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970), The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974), Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979), and A Miser Brothers' Christmas (2008) — always playing Santa Claus. In 1970, he was approached by television producer Norman Lear to consider taking on the role of Archie Bunker in the upcoming CBS series, All in the Family. Like Jackie Gleason before him, Mickey rejected the project. The role ultimately went to Carroll O'Connor.
Rooney continued to work on stage and television through the 1980s and 1990s, appearing in the acclaimed stage play Sugar Babies with Ann Miller beginning in 1979. He also starred in the short-lived sitcom, One of the Boys, along with 2 unfamiliar young stars, Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane, in 1982. He toured Canada in a dinner theatre production of The Mind with the Naughty Man in the mid-1990s. He played The Wizard in a stage production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with Eartha Kitt at Madison Square Garden. Kitt was later replaced by Jo Anne Worley. He also appeared in the documentary That's Entertainment! III.
Rooney voiced Mr. Cherrywood in The Care Bears Movie (1985), and starred as the Movie Mason in a Disney Channel Original Movie family film 2000's Phantom of the Megaplex. He had a guest spot on an episode of The Golden Girls as Sophia's boyfriend Rocko, who claimed to be a bank robber. He played himself in the Simpsons episode "Radioactive Man" of 1995. In 1996–97, Mickey played Talbut on the TV series, Kleo The Misfit Unicorn produced by Gordon Stanfield Animation (GSA). He co-starred in Night at the Museum in 2006 with Dick Van Dyke and Ben Stiller.
After starring in one unsuccessful TV series and for turning down an offer on a huge TV series, Rooney finally hit the jackpot, at 70, when he was offering a starring role on The Family Channel's, The Adventures of the Black Stallion, where he reprised his role as Henry Dailey from the film of the same name, eleven years earlier. The show was also based on a novel by Walter Farley. For this role, he even had to travel all the way from his native Hollywood to Vancouver to work long hours on- and off- the set. Just like the film itself, the Black Stallion TV series, Rooney became one of the most beloved stars, that the show itself became an immediate hit with teenagers, young adults and people all over the world. The show was also seen in 70 countries. It also lost out to Harry and the Hendersons, when the show was nominated for a Young Artist Award in the "Best Off-Prime Time or Cable Family Series" category.
Also starring on Black Stallion were Docs Keepin Time who played "The Black Stallion," but did not have a voice part in the series, despite appearing in every episode of the series, with an unfamiliar Canadian high school student, a fan of Rooney's films, a voice-over actor, a future acting instructor, and online radio host, Richard Ian Cox, in the role of Henry's teenaged traveler, Alec Ramsay. The on- and off-screen chemistry between Rooney and Cox was an immediate success story of 1990s television. Richard also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Mickey's real-life family, when not filming.
For its three seasons on air, Rooney was nominated for a Gemini Award in the category of "Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role", but didn't win. By the end of the third season, Black Stallion's ratings were declining, the show was cancelled in 1993, after three seasons and 78 episodes.
Richard Ian Cox described Mickey Rooney, as a young child actor before he became as popular as Brando or perhaps Tom Hanks and Russell Crowe, as he defined his TV trainer as a TV/movie legend, while he was being funny at times, "He certainly can be funny at times. He was a great guy to work with, a massive influence; and also somebody [who frankly] is part of that Hollywood royalty, the people that he knew and the stories that he had we're amazing and there were funny stories and it's definitely up there with one of the best and most interesting experiences I had in my career, absolutely!" The last thing Cox said about his on- and off-screen chemistry with Rooney was this, "It was a heck of an experience, and, I loved to work with Mickey Rooney, sure!" After cancelation of the series, he lost touched with Rooney, up until 2010, where the two are now back to being best friends on Facebook. Though he did not attend Rooney's party, he gratefully wished Mickey, a Happy 90th Birthday.
Rooney appeared in television commercials for Garden State Life Insurance Company in 1999, alongside his wife Jan. In commercials shown in 2007, he can be seen in the background washing imaginary dishes.
In 2003, Mickey Rooney and his wife began their association with Rainbow Puppet Productions, providing their voices to the 100th Anniversary production of "Toyland!" an adaptation of Victor Herbert's "Babes in Toyland." Mickey created the voice for the Master Toymaker while Jan provided the voice for Mother Goose. Since that time, they have created voices for additional Rainbow Puppet Productions including "Pirate Party" which also features vocal performances by Carol Channing. Both productions continue to tour theaters across the country.
Rooney continues to work in film and tours with his wife in a multi-media live stage production called Let's Put On a Show! His first performance of this show after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack was in Bend, Oregon, where he and his wife Jan requested the show begin with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Jan off stage with only the American Flag visible on stage. On May 26, 2007, he was grand marshal at the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival. Rooney made his British pantomime debut, playing Baron Hardup in Cinderella, at the Sunderland Empire Theatre over the 2007 Christmas period, a role he reprised in 2009 at the Milton Keynes theatre. He appeared on BBC Points West dressed in a pair of shorts and socks.
In 2008, Rooney starred as "Chief", a wise old ranch owner, in the independent family feature film Lost Stallions: The Journey Home, marking a return to starring in equestrian-themed productions for the first time since the 1990s TV show Adventures of the Black Stallion. Also, although they have acted together many times before, Lost Stallions: The Journey Home is the first film where Rooney and his real-life wife Jan Rooney portray a married couple on screen.
Rooney has been married eight times. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was often the subject of comedians' jokes for his alleged inability to stay married, and he joked about it himself ("My marriage contract reads: 'To whom it may concern.'") His current marriage has lasted more than 30 years.
In 1942, he married Hollywood starlet Ava Gardner, but the two were divorced well before she became a star in her own right. While stationed in the military in Alabama in 1944, Rooney met and married local beauty queen Betty Jane Rase. This marriage ended in divorce after he returned from Europe at the end of World War II. His subsequent marriages to Martha Vickers (1949) and Elaine Mahnken (1952) were also short-lived and ended in divorce. In 1958, Rooney married Barbara Ann Thompson, but tragedy struck when she was murdered in 1966. Falling into deep depression, he married Barbara's friend, Marge Lane, who helped him take care of his young children. The marriage lasted only 100 days. He was married to Carolyn Hockett from 1969 to 1974, but financial instability ended the relationship. Finally, in 1978, Rooney married Jan Chamberlin, his eighth wife. As of 2011[update], they live in Westlake Village, California. Both are outspoken advocates for veterans and animal rights.
After battling drug addiction and a near bankruptcy caused by gambling and bad investments, Rooney became a born-again Christian in the 1970s, reportedly after an angel appeared to him in a coffee shop. Rooney shared his religious beliefs on Jim and Tammy Bakker's Christian television show The PTL Club.
Rooney's oldest child, Mickey Rooney, Jr., is also a born-again Christian, and has an evangelical ministry in Hemet, California. He and several of Rooney's other eight children have worked at various times in show business. One of them, actor Tim Rooney, died in 2006 at age 59.
On September 21, 2005, just days after the death of Liza Minnelli's ex-stepfather, Sid Luft, where he attended his service, Rooney celebrated his 85th Birthday at the Regent Theater in Arlington, Massachusetts, where his wife appeared with him in a play titled "Let's Put On A Show."
On September 23, 2010, Rooney celebrated his 90th Birthday at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in the Upper East Side of New York City. Among the people who were attending the party were: Donald Trump, Regis Philbin, Nathan Lane, Tony Bennett and Rooney's wife Jan, who threw the party for him. He also put on a show with wife Jan.
On February 16, 2011, Rooney was granted a temporary restraining order against Christopher Aber, 52, Rooney's stepson. Aber is the son of Rooney's eighth wife, Jan Chamberlin. On March 2, 2011 Rooney appeared before a special U.S. Senate committee that was considering legislation to curb elder abuse. Rooney stated that he was financially abused by an unnamed family member.
Rooney has made countless appearances in TV sitcoms and TV movies. He has also lent his voice to many animation films. Only his most important work is listed in this section.
|1954–1955||The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey Mulligan|
|1957||The Comedian (on Playhouse 90)|
|1981||Bill (won Emmy, Golden Globe, and Peabody Award for role of Bill)|
|1982||One of the Boys (canceled after 13 episodes)|
|1983||Bill: On His Own (sequel to 1981's "Bill" nominated for Emmy)|
|1990–1993||The Adventures of the Black Stallion|
|“||Always get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesn't work out, you haven't wasted a whole day.||”|
|Betty Jane Rase||1944–1949||Mickey Rooney, Jr. (born July 3, 1945)|
|Tim Rooney (January 4, 1947 — September 23, 2006)|
|Martha Vickers||1949–1951||Theodore Michael Rooney (born April 13, 1950)|
|Barbara Ann Thomason (Carolyn Mitchell)||1958–1966||Kelly Ann Rooney (born September 13, 1959)|
|Kerry Rooney (born December 30, 1960)|
|Michael Joseph Rooney (born April 2, 1962)|
|Kimmy Sue Rooney (born September 13, 1963)|
|Carolyn Hockett||1969–1975||Jimmy Rooney (adopted from Carolyn's previous marriage) (born 1966)|
|Jonelle Rooney (born January 11, 1970)|
- ^ Life Is Too Short. Autobiography (1991). ISBN 978-0-679-40195-7.
- ^ a b c Current Biography 1942. H.W. Wilson Co. (January 1942). pp704-06. ISBN 99903-960-3-5.
- ^ a b Mickey Rooney at the Internet Movie Database
- ^ Server, Lee, Ava Gardner "Love is Nothing" (2006), St. Martin's Press
- ^ a b Albin, Kira. Mickey Rooney: Hollywood, Religion and His Latest Show. GrandTimes.com Senior Magazine. 1995.
- ^ Rooney, Mickey. "The Lion Reigns Supreme", MGM: When the Lion Roars, 1992 film
- ^ "In 1939 [Rooney] became the top box-office star in the world, a title he held for three consecutive years." Branagh, Kenneth (narrator). 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year. Turner Classic Movies, 2009.
- ^ Dunning, John, On The Air: The Encyclopedia Of Old-Time Radio (1998), Oxford University Press
- ^ Marx, Arthur, The Nine Lives Of Mickey Rooney (1986), Stein & Day
- ^ http://www.richardiancox.com/_/Podcast/Entries/2010/5/3_The_Show_on_ric.com_Ep.7.html
- ^ Come Dine With Me Celebrity Special
- ^ Mickey Rooney makes panto debut. Channel4.com. 7 December 2007.
- ^ "Mickey Rooney: The Mickey show." The Independent. 14 December 2008.
- ^ "West End Whingers". 6 December 2009
- ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1053926/
- ^ Wyatt, Petronella (September 12, 2007). "What's 5ft 3in, Has 7 Ex-Wives and a Temper Like a Volcano? Mickey Rooney." Daily Mail.
- ^ Albert, James A. Jim Bakker: Miscarriage of Justice? Open Court Publishing, 1998, p. 6
- ^ Sanderson, Nancy. "Legend's Son at Home in Hemet: Mickey Rooney Jr., in Show Business Since Childhood, Is Also Involved in Ministry."The Press-Enterprise (Hemet, California) May 22, 2001
- ^ Weblogs Variety
- ^ Actor Mickey Rooney Turns 90 With Upper East Side Style
- ^ Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month
- ^ Mickey Rooney granted restraining order against stepson. BBC news. retrieved 2/16/2011
- ^ Mickey Rooney as Doctor in movie GERALD
- ^ http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/23571.html
- Rooney, Mickey (1991). Life Is Too Short. (New York: Random House)
- Marx, Arthur (1988/reprint). The Nine Lives Of Mickey Rooney. (New York: Berkley Publishing Group)
- mickeyrooney.com, Rooney's official website
- Mickey Rooney at the Internet Movie Database
- Mickey Rooney at the Internet Broadway Database
- Mickey Rooney at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Mickey Rooney on the Phil Silvers Show
- "Mickey Rooney on America, Christ and Judy Garland: The Hollywood Legend Speaks Out." Montreal Mirror interview 1998