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Mickey Rooney

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Mickey Rooney

Born : 23 September 1920
City : Brooklyn, New York, United States
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Mickey Rooney Biography

Mickey Rooney (born Joseph Yule, Jr.; September 23, 1920 – April 6, 2014) was an American actor of film, television, Broadway, radio, and vaudeville. Beginning as a child actor, his career extended over 90 years, making him one of the most enduring performers in show business history. He appeared in more than 300 films and was one of the last surviving stars of the silent film era, having one of the longest careers in the medium's history.

At the height of a career that was marked by precipitous declines and raging comebacks, he played the role of Andy Hardy in a series of fifteen films in the 1930s and 1940s that epitomized American family values. A prolific talent, he became a noted character actor later in his career, and could sing, dance, clown and play various musical instruments. Laurence Olivier once said he considered Rooney "the greatest actor of them all", and Clarence Brown, who directed him in two of his earliest dramatic roles, National Velvet and The Human Comedy, said he was "the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with."

Rooney first performed in vaudeville as a child and made his film debut at age six. At age thirteen he played the role Puck in the play and later the film, A Midsummer Night's Dream in an acclaimed performance, which critic David Thomson praised as "one of cinema's most arresting pieces of magic." He co-starred in Boys Town (1938) with Spencer Tracy, who won an Oscar for his role. At nineteen he was the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar, for his leading role in Babes in Arms, co-starring Judy Garland, and was awarded a special Juvenile Academy Award in 1939.Overall, between the age of 15 and 25, while at his peak, he made forty-three pictures and co-starred alongside leading actors, including Judy Garland, Wallace Beery, Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. Rooney developed into one of MGM's most consistently successful actors, and a favorite of studio head, Louis B. Mayer.

Early life

Rooney was born Joseph Yule, Jr. in Brooklyn, New York, on September 23, 1920, the only child of vaudevillians Joe Yule (born Ninian Joseph Ewell; a native of Glasgow, Scotland) and Nellie W. Carter, a native of Kansas City, Missouri. At the time of their son's birth, they were appearing in a Brooklyn production of A Gaiety Girl. Rooney later recounted in his memoirs that he began performing at the age of 17 months as part of his parents' routine, wearing a specially tailored tuxedo.According to another account, he first appeared before audiences at 15 months in his parents’ vaudeville act, "singing 'Pal o' My Cradle Days' while sporting a tuxedo and holding a rubber cigar."

While Joe Sr. was traveling, Joe Jr. and his mother moved from Brooklyn to Kansas City to live with his aunt. While his mother was reading the entertainment newspaper, Nellie was interested in getting Hal Roach to approach her son to participate in the Our Gang series in Hollywood. Roach offered $5 a day to Joe, Jr., while the other young stars were paid five times more. As he was getting bit parts in films, he began working with established film stars such as Joel McCrea, Colleen Moore, Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Jean Harlow. While selling newspapers around the corner, he enrolled in the Hollywood Professional School and later attended Hollywood High School, from which he graduated in 1938.

Career

The Yules separated in 1924 during a slump in vaudeville, and in 1925, Nell Yule moved with her son to Hollywood, where she managed a tourist home. Joe Yule Jr.'s very first film appearance came in 1926, when he was in the short subject Not to be Trusted,but his breakthrough film role came a year later.

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, his first starring role, released September 4, 1927.The film was long believed lost, but was recently found in the Netherlands.The Mickey McGuire films were 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 film producer Larry Darmour 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, compelling the twelve-year-old actor to refrain from calling himself Mickey McGuire on- and offscreen.

Andy Hardy, Boys' Town and Hollywood stardom

In 1937, Rooney was selected to portray Andy Hardy in A Family Affair, which MGM had planned as a B-movie.[10] 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 subsequent films). The film was an unexpected success, and led to 13 more Andy Hardy films between 1937 and 1946, and a final film in 1958.

World War II and career decline

In 1944, Rooney enlisted in the United States Army. 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 and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for entertaining troops in combat zones. In addition to the Bronze Star Medal, Rooney also received the Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal, for his military service.

Character roles and Broadway comeback

In addition to his movie roles, Rooney made numerous guest-starring roles as a television character actor for nearly six decades, beginning with an episode of Celanese Theatre. The part led to other roles on such television series as Schlitz Playhouse, Playhouse 90, Producers' Showcase, Alcoa Theatre, Wagon Train, General Electric Theater, Hennesey, 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.

Published work

Rooney wrote a memoir titled Life is Too Short, published by Villard Books in 1991. A Library Journal review said that “From title to the last line, `I’ll have a short bier,’ Rooney’s self-deprecating humor powers this book.” He also wrote a novel about a child star, published in 1994, The Search For Sunny Skies.

Final years

In 2006 Rooney played the character "Gus" in Night at the Museum, a blockbuster hit movie comedy starring Ben Stiller and Robin Williams.He then returned to play the role again in the sequel Night at the Museum 2 in 2009.
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 at Bristol Hippodrome in 2008 and at the Milton Keynes theatre in 2009.

In 2011, Rooney made a brief cameo appearance in The Muppets and in 2014 returned to reprise his role as "Gus" in Night at the Museum 3.

Personal life

Rooney was married eight times. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was often the subject of comedians' jokes for his alleged inability to stay married. At the time of his death, he was married to Jan Chamberlin, although they had separated in June 2012.He had a total of nine children, as well as 19 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Mickey Rooney in 1986

In 1942, he married Hollywood starlet Ava Gardner, but the two were divorced in 1943, 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 Phillips. He had two sons with Betty Jane. This marriage ended in divorce after he returned from Europe at the end of World War II.

Death

Rooney died in his sleep from natural causes at his stepson Mark Rooney's home in Los Angeles, California on April 6, 2014 at the age of 93. He had gone for a nap after lunch, and family members called 911 when they sought to wake him and his breathing seemed labored. He was declared dead at 4 p.m.Rooney was survived by his wife of 37 years, Jan Chamberlain, from whom he was separated, as well as eight surviving children, two stepchildren, nineteen grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Legacy

Rooney was one of the last surviving actors of the silent picture era. His movie career spanned 88 years, from 1926 to 2014. During his peak years from the late 1930s to the early 1940s, Rooney was among the top box-office stars in the United States.He co-starred with other leading actors of the time, including Judy Garland, Wallace Beery and Spencer Tracy. Between the age of 15 and 25 he made forty-three pictures. Among those, his role as Andy Hardy became one of "Hollywood's best-loved characters," with Marlon Brando calling him "the best actor in films." For his acting the part in fifteen Andy Hardy films, he received an honorary Oscar in 1938 for "bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth" and for "setting a high standard of ability and achievement.

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