He may be short in stature (he comes in at five-foot-1 or 3 depending on who you ask), but Mickey Rooney has never been short on confidence.
The actor who ranked No. 1 at the U.S. box-office from 1939-1941 has, in a nine decade career, starred in more than films opposite such leading ladies as Lana and Liz and, of course, Judy.
His shelves are filled with heaps of hosannas, including two Oscars, two Golden Globe and an Emmy Award. (He earned an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement and a special Juvenile Oscar shared with Deana Durbin in 1939.)
He married eight times, including not-so-wedded bliss to sex siren Ava Gardner. (We don’t even want to think about that one.)
He became born again in the ’70s, reportedly after an angel appeared to him in a coffee shop.
He comes across crass and brass (we chatted with him for Us years ago and found him surly and rude and arrogant and, well, you get the point).
But what do you expect from someone who made his career debut when he was at two weeks old.
At 17 months old, his talent surfaced, he says, “by accident.” While hiding underneath a shoeshine stand in a Chicago theater, he let out a sneeze while watching his father’s act. A spotlight “found” him; not knowing what to do, Rooney recalls that he “stood up and blew on” his tiny toy mouth organ that was hanging on a string around his neck. “The audience erupted with laughter.” A special-made tuxedo was made.
And a star was born.
In Hollywood, he quickly became the child star as the lead in dozens of films as comic strip character Mickey McGuire. (He played a cigar-smoking midget con man in 1926.) Signed to MGM’s legendary stable of contract stars in 1934, the spirited and charismatic Rooney appeared in 15 Andy Hardy films, the role that most defines his prolific and iconic career.
How the hell had he done it?
Mickey insists “That’s the way I have always lived, for the laughs—today. N-O-W. No Other Way.”
More answers can be found in Mickey Rooney: The Long & Short of it, a six-disc collector’s set from Infinity Entertainment Group. The set is part of their “Legends of laughter” series, and though these flicks are in public domain, they are still keepers. The set is crammed with 14 classic films (1932-76); three Mickey McGuire film shorts (1929-43); television shows and appearances (1954-57); and movie trailers charting his career (1934-86).
Film fans will go nuts over the rare footage . . . and the appearances by zillions of Rooney’s famous friends, such as Vincent Price, Richard Burton, Phyllis Diller, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Edward G. Robinson, Peter Lorre, Billy Barty, Hattie McDaniel, Robert Preston, Robert Stack, Dick Martin, Rose Marie, Sam Jaffe and John Candy.
Sorry, no Ava.
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