Mickey Rooney: The 'Mayor of Boys Town' dies

Rooney (R) & Tracey in Boys Town

Actor Mickey Rooney has died. His career began in the silent era, but big break came playing opposite Spencer Tracy in 1938's Boys Town - the real life story of Fr Edward Flanagan, who founded the home wayward boys.

 

Mickey Rooney (born Joseph Yule Jr). American actor and entertainer.

Born 1920; died 2014.

- By Ronald Bergan, The Guardian

In 1938, the extraordinary, multi-talented 18-year-old Mickey Rooney was America's No 1 box-office star, earning more than $300,000 annually. In 1939, he was awarded a special Oscar for his 'spirit and personification of youth.'

In 1962, Rooney declared himself bankrupt, revealing that he had nothing left of the $12m he had earned over the years. After being an MGM luminary for a decade, he was forced to appear in dozens of B movies to pay off his debts and alimony payments (by then he had been married seven times).

But Rooney, who has died aged 93, always lived by the creed of his profession: 'The show must go on.'

He was in show business all his life. His father, Joseph Yule (known as 'Red' Yule), and mother, Nell Carter, were in vaudeville, and Mickey, born Joe Yule Jr in Brooklyn, New York, first appeared on stage as part of the family act at the age of 17 months, playing a mouth organ. When his parents separated in 1924, he and his mother took off, in a Model T Ford, for Hollywood.

There he made his film debut, aged five, as a dwarf pretending to be a child in a short called Not to Be Trusted (1926), in which he had to puff on a cigar.

He became Mickey Rooney in 1932 when he started to appear in features at MGM, the studio with which he was to be associated for the next 16 years, beginning by playing a variety of brash kids.

In 1937, in a modest comedy called A Family Affair, Rooney played Andy Hardy, a small town judge's son. It was the first of 15 vastly popular Hardy Family films – idealised, over-sentimental views of American life.

Besides appearing in other examples of warm-hearted Americana, he was allowed to play a juvenile delinquent reformed by a priest (Spencer Tracy) in Boys Town (1938).

Off screen, Rooney was busily chasing women, and was seen at nightclubs with them. 'I didn't ask to be short," Rooney once complained. 'I didn't want to be short. I've tried to pretend that being a short guy didn't matter. I tried to make up for being short by affecting a strut, by adopting the voice of a much bigger man, by spending more money than I made, by tipping double or triple at bars and restaurants, by dating tall, beautiful women.'

Thoroughbreds Don't Cry in 1937 launched Mickey and Judy Garland as one of Hollywood's great teams. Rooney sang, danced, played musical instruments, did imitations and handled comic and emotional scenes with equal aplomb.

In 1982, Rooney was presented with a special Oscar for lifetime achievement.
 He continued to work throughout the 1990s and beyond.

READ FULL OBITUARY: 

RELATED:

Mickey Rooney's ties to Boys Town will endure (Miami Herald)

WATCH:

Remembering Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney (CNN/YouTube)

Interview with Mickey Rooney- Private Screenings (YouTube)

Mickey Rooney--What's My Line (YouTube)

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