Sunday, April 6, 2014


They say Mickey Rooney just passed. He was a fixture in my life when I was a boy in the 1940s, and continued to be up until recently. Not just because of the old movies of his that play on TCM and other retro channels now and then, or because he continued to pop up in movies and on TV, or because he was in the news last year or so as the face of elder abuse when a stepson ripped him off for a few millions.

He was the biggest star in Hollywood for several years when he was just a teenager. The biggest box office star. He was the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar. He helped make other young people into stars, like Elizabeth Taylor in NATIONAL VELVET and JUDY GARLAND in the Andy Hardy movies and then the others they teamed up for like BABES IN ARMS.

He also married the woman considered the most beautiful in Hollywood, Ava Gardner, when they were young. The first of seven marriages. And he could do it all, comedy, drama, satire, farce (although his farcical "Japanese" man in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S he regretted when some saw it as racist rather then comic). And, still a teen, he was a really good drummer.

He started in vaudeville when he was just a baby, and as a toddler, the way I heard it, was tossed around the stage by his vaudeville parents as part of their act, and sometimes dropped. (As, if I remember correctly, Buster Keaton was too.)

He had a lot of friends in Hollywood, but also a lot of folks didn't like him when he was at the top because some thought he had gotten too big for his britches, as they used to say. I remember on my first Hollywood sound stage when the camera man called for a "Mickey Rooney" and I thought the actual man was going to show up. But he explained it was a very slow and short tracking shot. When I asked why that was called a "Mickey Rooney" he said, "It's a little creep."

Well, the little guy seemed to usually have the last laugh. Definitely one of, if not the, longest show business careers in history. As aggravating as his sometimes too-eager-to-please young movie persona was, I still love watching his early movies, as well as some of his later classic acting jobs like in REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT.

R.I.P. Mick.