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Hollywood legend and famed character actor Mickey Rooney died this Sunday, April 6th, at the ripe old age of 93 (skidoo!). The cause of death has not been released as of yet, but fans and celebrity friends alike have already exhibited an outpouring of sadness and reverence for the film and stage powerhouse. There is no doubt that we’ve lost a cinematic, television, and stage god among men. And a super hilarious one at that.
Rooney was born Joseph Yule, Jr. in 1920, and was hardly a toddler when his parents began throwing him on the vaudeville stage (some report he crawled on the stage for the first time by accident). At age 7, he snatched up the stage name Mickey Rooney, and started a career that would land him in over 300 films and television programs, as well as stage shows and all kinds of other media. From an early age he was a performing giant (despite his small stature).
Notable early roles included Andy Hardy in the 1937 A Family Affair, a role he took to so well that the creators put him in 13 more films as Hardy. In 1937, he was also in Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry, where he met Judy Garland. The duo became great friends and starred in numerous musicals together (which is astoundingly awesome). As a child and adolescent performer, he was super damn popular (he also shared the silver screen with Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn), and enjoyed pretty equal popularity after many months serving in World War II (some of the time as a radio entertainer).
Most recently, he was in Night at the Museum and The Muppets, so folks of a newer generation got to enjoy the man’s talent, but these more present works had him in smaller roles. To appreciate the actor now occupying a space on the boulevard in Heaven, it’s necessary to go back in entertainment history. Such a journey is worth it, because Rooney really was an incredible, hilarious, shining example of acting done to the highest levels of artistic passion. He didn’t get an Academy Honorary Award for nothing. USA Today reported that Laurence (“fuckin’”) Olivier named Rooney the greatest of all the actors ever (this borrowed from Huffington Post’s coverage).
Folks looking to delve into some awesome Rooney pictures should take a gander at “Babes in Arms,” “The Human Comedy,” “The Black Stallion,” and “The Bold and the Brave” among many, many others (those were the ones for which he got nominated for Academy awards).
Rooney is the author of The Search for Sonny Skies, a 1994 mystery novel, and his 1993 autobiography, Life Is Too Short, is worth a read. His legacy, beyond a massive piles of films, TV shows and plays spanning a 92 year career, includes a collection of eight failed marriages and 12 children. Now that’s Hollywood. Goodnight, you acting giant, goodnight.