Mickey Rooney died yesterday at 93 and he leaves behind an incredible Hollywood legacy that spans 80+ years and more than 200 films, including Boys Town and The Black Stallion and most recently, Night At The Museum 2. Rooney was presented with two honorary Oscars nearly fifty years apart, the first in 1938, the second in 1982. Laurence Olivier, often referred to as the greatest actor himself, called Rooney “the greatest actor of them all.” At 5′ 3″, he was the unlikeliest of stars but during the Depression, when jobs were scarce and the national mood grim, audiences loved his spirit and his down-home appeal. Born Joe Yule, Jr. in a Brooklyn in rooming house on Sept. 23, 1920, Rooney made his first stage appearance at 17 months, as part of his comic father and dancer mother’s vaudeville performances. At age 6 he played the title character Mickey McGuire in 78 film shorts and in 1932, he changed his name to the catchier Mickey Rooney. Five years later, he landed the role that would define him for the rest of his career: the feisty teen-about-town Andy Hardy, with a cheeky grin, irresistible boy-next-door charm. Believe it or not, Rooney was the Tom Cruise of his time: the No. 1 box-office draw in the country. And you can call Rooney, who said “I do” eight times, the male Elizabeth Taylor too. Rooney was dismissive of all the fascination with his bedroom antics and insisted that he wasn’t addicted to walking down the aisle. He did so with, among others, model Elaine Mahnken, California beauty Barbara Ann Thomason and secretary Carolyn Hockett before ending up with country singer/songwriter Jan Chamberlin in 1978 but most famously with one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood or anywhere, Ava Gardner, with Mickey below. Rooney spent his twilight years with 8th wife Jan in a posh Los Angeles home filled with family pictures. He wrote. He painted. In 2001 he said, “I don’t retire, I inspire. Mickey Rooney is not great. Mickey Rooney was fortunate to have been an infinitesimal part of motion pictures and show business.” The video is of a 14 year-old Mickey in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It ends with a short soliloquy from Puck that’s the most fitting farewell there is.
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