Written by Kerry at The Film Detective
The long-spanning career of Mickey Rooney served as an embodiment of Golden Age Hollywood, with a personality larger than any screen he appeared. A man marked by endearing childhood performances, multiple trips to the altar, and an unyielding charisma and ability to entertain, Mickey’s work traversed through practically every corner of show business. It’s no wonder nearly every living generation has something to enjoy in Mickey’s work; the man was on-screen for nearly ninety years!
No sooner was Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) learning to walk than he was performing on the vaudeville stage. Born as Joseph Yule Jr. on September 23 in 1920-Brooklyn to stage performing parents, it seems Mickey was born with that special, show-biz twinkle in his eye. With a film debut in the 1926 silent short Not to Be Trusted, Mickey took to years of two-reel comedies as Mickey McGuire.
By the 1930s, Mickey was making his move to feature films, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), a film that also helped to launch one of Hollywood’s other longest silver screen careers - that of Olivia de Havilland. An MGM man, Mickey also appeared in A Family Affair (1937), introducing audiences one of Mickey’s most iconic characters, Andy Hardy. The Andy Hardy character proved to be such a smash, it would bring Mickey more than a dozen more films, leading to team-ups with another young Hollywood dynamo - Judy Garland.
Two of the busiest (not to mention youngest) stars of the screen, Mickey and Judy would take on such high-energy movie musicals as Babes in Arms (1939), Strike Up the Band (1940), Babes on Broadway (1941), and Girl Crazy (1943). By 1939, the Academy had even recognized Mickey for his efforts on-screen, honoring him with a Juvenile Academy Award. Beyond the big screen, Mickey made several breaks into television, including The Adventures of the Black Stallion (1990-1993) and The Mickey Rooney Show (1954-1955).
Following service in World War II, Rooney’s subdued stage and screen career still managed to mirror some of the spotlight he had captured in his younger years. A character actor, Mickey gave notable performances in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), The Black Stallion (1979), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), and Baby Face Nelson (1957). The Academy recognized Mickey again in 1983 with an Honorary Academy Award, nearly 50 years after his Juvenile Award and with four Oscar nominations in between.
Recent young audiences even got a chance to experience Mickey on the big screen, whether alongside Dick Van Dyke and Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum (2006) or Amy Adams and Jason Segel in The Muppets (2011). With a rollercoaster of a personal life practically more buzzworthy than any character he played on screen, there’s no question the Mickey Rooney legacy will remain a Hollywood staple for generations to come.
In honor of the anniversary of Mickey Rooney’s birthday this Wednesday, September 23, we are featuring years of performances Mickey Rooney brought to the big and little screen on The Film Detective live channel, starting Wednesday at 1:30PM ET. Tune in for classics like Quicksand (1950), Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946), and My Outlaw Brother (1951) or stream anytime on The Film Detective app: http://bit.ly/TFD_MRooney