American actor Mickey Rooney has created a reputation as one of Hollywood's most productive performers with more than 200 films in his pocket since making his professional debut in “Not To Be Trusted” (1926). As a juvenile, he rose to prominence starring as Mickey McGuire on a series of short films produced between 1927 to 1934 and became a No. 1 box office actor thanks largely to his work in the popular “Andy Hardy” series. A four-time Oscar nominee, Rooney took home his first nomination for “Babes in Arms” (1939) and his second for “The Human Comedy” (1943), but was forced to deal with a setback after he returned from WWII, during which time he entertained the troops. The actor enjoyed success with his subsequent Oscar nomination for “The Bold and the Brave” (1956) and a Golden Laurel nomination for “Baby Face Nelson” (1957). The star of the short-lived comedy “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954-1955) continued to gain popularity on the small screen with his Emmy-nominated roles in “The Comedian” (1957) and “Alcoa Theater” (1958) and a Golden Globe Award-winning role in the ABC sitcom “Mickey” (1964). He reached the peak of his TV success in the early 1980s when he brought home an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for his starring role in the made-for-TV film “Bill” (1981). Prior to the victory, Rooney enjoyed success with work in the movie “The Black Stallion” (1979) and the Broadway hit “Sugar Babies” (1979).
Hollywood living legend Rooney has four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, including two for his motion picture and television work. He also received a special Juvenile Oscar (1939) and an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement (1983), the cinematic industry's highest acknowledgment of film legends. Rooney was handed a Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award from the Young Artist awards (1991) and a Lifetime Achievement Award form the Pocono Mountains Film Festival (2004).
“People say, 'How can you be married eight times?' But I played the hand dealt me the way I was supposed to. I was friendly with most of my ex-wives. My God, there's a Mickey Rooney's Former Wives Marching Band!” Mickey Rooney
Off camera, Rooney is known for marrying eight different women. He has eight biological children, an adopted son and a stepson. On September 23, 2006, Timothy, Rooney's son from second wife Betty Jane Rase, died after a five-year battle with the muscle disease dermatomyositis. Rooney and his current wife, multi-talented singer, songwriter and actress Jan Rooney, now live in Ventura County, California. They are both intense Animal Rights Advocates.
Childhood and Family:
Joe Yule Jr., who would later be popular as Mickey Rooney, was born on September 23, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York, to Joe Yule, a comic from Scotland, and Nellie W. Carter, a Kansas City, Missouri-born chorus girl. Son of well-known vaudeville performers, Mickey toured with his parents throughout North America shortly after his birth and by the time he was 15 months old, had become part of the family act. In a specially tailored tuxedo, the child showed his talent on stage by performing small ballads and speeches.
After the divorce of his parents, 3-year-old Mickey lived with his mother in Kansas City, Kansas. With the hope of making her son a star, she brought Mickey to Hollywood a year later so that he could audition for a part in “Hall Roach's Our Gang” series. When they discovered the pay was low, however, they soon packed up and moved back to Kansas City and did not return to California until Mickey was 6. Shortly after this second arrival, Mickey was cast in his first on-screen role in “Not To Be Trusted.”
“When I say ‘I do,’ the Justice of the Peace replies, 'I know, I know.' I'm the only man in the world whose marriage license reads, 'To Whom it May Concern.' But to have been married eight times is not normal. That's only half-way intelligent.” Mickey Rooney
Mickey, whose nicknames are The Mick and The Mickster, has been married eight times. He married Hollywood star Ava Gardner on January 10, 1942, but their marriage only lasted 16 months. He married Betty Jane Rase on September 30, 1944. The bond, however, ended in divorce in June 1948 after producing two children, Mickey Rooney Jr. and Timothy Rooney. Mickey was then married to Michigan-born actress Martha Vickers on June 3, 1949, and had a son named Theodore Rooney. The couple divorced on September 25, 1952. After his six-year marriage to his forth wife, actress Elaine Devry, ended in separation in 1958, he married actress Carolyn Mitchell (aka. Barbara Ann Thompson) on December 1, 1958, and stayed with her until her death on January 31, 1966, (she was murdered). The couple had a son, Kyle Rooney, and three daughters, Kimmy Sue Rooney, Kerry Rooney and Kelly Ann Rooney.
Mickey married Carolyn's best friend, Marge Lane, who helped him babysit his young children, on September 10, 1966. They divorced in 1967 after having been together for 100 days. On May 27, 1969, Mickey married Carolyn Hockett, but they divorced after five years in 1974. They have a daughter, Jonelle Rooney, and an adopted son, Jimmy Rooney. Mickey married his current wife, actress Jan Rooney, on July 28, 1978. He has a stepson named Christopher Aber (born on February 5, 1959).
Mickey Rooney began performing when he was a small child. First appearing on stage as part of his parents' vaudeville act, he received his first break at age 6 when he was cast in the role of a midget in the silent short “Not To Be Trusted” (1926). Under the guidance of his mother, he next landed a role that would become one of his signatures, Mickey McGuire, on more than 50 short films that were broadcasted from 1927 to 1934. At that time, Rooney still used his birth name and for promotion reasons, his mother tried to legally change his name to Mickey McGuire. The comic's creator, however, disagreed with the suggestion and she renamed him Mickey Rooney instead.
Thanks to his work in the “Mickey McGuire” series, Rooney was established as a star. He appeared in small roles in such movies as “Blind Date,” “I Like It That Way,” “Half a Sinner” and “Death on the Diamond” (all 1934), among others, Rooney, however, did not sign a long term contract with MGM until he appeared in the Oscar winner “Manhattan Melodrama” (also 1934). The following year, he was outstanding in his role of Puck in the acclaimed comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which starred James Cagney, Dick Powell and Olivia de Haviland.
Rooney went on to build a prolific career with work in such projects as “Ah, Wilderness” (1935), adapted from the Eugene O'Neill play of the same name, “The Devil Is a Sissy” (1936), John Cromwell's “Little Lord Fauntleroy” (1936, starred Freddie Bartholomew), “Thoroughbreds Don't Cry” (1937, with Judy Garland) and “Boys Town” (1938), in which he costarred with the Oscar winner Spencer Tracy. His noted turn as a gifted singer and musician, Mickey Moran, in the Busby Berkeley directed “Babes in Arms” (1939) won the actor an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Actor in a Leading Role. He starred in the musical with his “Thoroughbreds Don't Cry” costar Judy Garland. Prior to receiving his first Oscar nomination, Rooney was honored with a 1938 Academy Juvenile Award thanks to his “considerable contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players, setting a high standard of ability and achievement.” He shared the award with fellow teen star Deanna Durbin.
After Mickey McGuire, Rooney won the role of Andy Hardy in “A Family Affair” (1937). Playing the son of Judge James K. Hardy (played by Lionel Barrymore), he successfully brought MGM's little B-film to a giant hit, a victory that propelled the actor to the top rank of actors in America. He went on to reprise the role in over 10 movies, including “Andy Hardy's Dilemma: A Lesson in Mathematics... and Other Things” (1938), “Love Finds Andy Hardy” (1938), “Judge Hardy's Children” (1939), “Andy Hardy Meets Debutante” (1940), “Life Begins for Andy Hardy” (1941), “Andy Hardy's Double Life” (1942) and “Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble” (1944).
Rooney rejoined director Busby Berkeley and star Judy Garland for “Strike Up the Band,” a 1940 comedy/romance which was nominated for three Oscars and won one in the category of Best Sound, and again in 1941 for the musical “Babes on Broadway,” which won an Oscar for the song “How About You?” The New York native received another Academy Award nomination in 1944 after starring as a teenager named Homer Macauley in “The Human Comedy” (1943), a drama directed by Clarence Brown. He was reunited with the Oscar-nominated director for the horse racing drama “National Velvet” (1944), in which starred a young Elizabeth Taylor, before putting his film career on the back burner to serve in WWII.
Back to film after two years, a 26-year-old Rooney could no longer play teenagers, but managed to make the last installment of the “Andy Hardy” series, “Love Laughs at Andy Hardy” (1946). He followed it up with roles in Roy Rowland's boxing film, “Killer McCoy” (1947, opposite Brian Donlevy), the based-on-play “Summer Holiday” (1948), the biopic “Words and Music” (1948), a last feature with Judy Garland, Edward Ludwig's “The Big Wheel” (1949), “The Fireball” (1950), “My Outlaw Brother” (1951), “Off Limits” (1953), “A Slight Case of Larceny “(1953), “The Atomic Kid” (1954) and “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” (1954) before turning to television. He was cast in the role of a fast-talking Mickey Mulligan on the NBC comedy series “The Mickey Rooney Show.” Unfortunately for Rooney, the show only lasted one season (1954-1955).
Rooney revisited the big screen with a starring role as Reverend William Macklin II in the Western “The Twinkle in God's Eye” (1955), but fared better as Dooley on “The Bold and the Brave” (1956), from which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He next played Lester M. 'Baby Face Nelson' Gillis, a homicidal mobster, on Don Siegel's film “Baby Face Nelson” (1957), in which he picked up a Golden Laurel nomination for Top Male Action Star. He also reprised his famous role of Andy Hardy for the 1958 film “Andy Hardy Comes Home” and portrayed a convict in “The Last Mile” (1959). He then portrayed Sammy Hogarth on an episode of the celebrated CBS series “Playhouse 90” called “The Comedian” (1957) and netted a 1958 Emmy nomination for Best Single Performance - Lead or Support for his performance on the show. He captured his next Emmy nomination in 1959 for his portrayal of Eddie in an episode of the anthology series “Alcoa Theater,” starring Jack Lemmon.
Rooney, who made his feature directorial debut with the 1951 crime/drama “My True Story,” returned to the director's chair in 1960 for the dark comedy “The Private Lives of Adam and Eve,” in which he also starred as Nick Lewis/The Devil. He then delivered a good turn as an Asian man named Mr. Yunioshi on “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), helmed by Blake Edward and went on to shine in the sport-themed “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962), opposite Anthony Quinn and Jackie Gleason, and Ding 'Dingy' Bell in the comedy “It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963). However, he was largely ignored in “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini” (1965), “Ambush Bay” (1966) and “Skidoo” (1968).
Meanwhile, Rooney could also be seen in many TV programs. He guest starred in such series as “Wagon Train,” “Checkmate,” “Naked City,” “The Dick Powell Show,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Combat,” “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre,” “The Fugitive” and “The Jean Arthur Show.” For his impressive portrayal of a retiree who inherits a luxury hotel in the ABC sitcom “Mickey” (1964), the actor was handed a Golden Globe in the category of Best TV Star – Male.
During the 1970s, moviegoers enjoyed Rooney as Henry Dailey on the Carroll Ballard-directed family/adventure “The Black Stallion” (1979). The role brought him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Also that same year, he acted in the Broadway production of “Sugar Babies,” which went on to become a massive hit. Costarring with dancer Ann Miller, he won a Tony nomination. Rooney further confirmed he was on track by picking up both the Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for his performance in the CBS made-for-TV drama “Bill” (1981). He recreated the role in the sequel “Bill on His Own” (1983) and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special for his fine acting. 1983 also saw Rooney earn an honorary Oscar for “50 years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances.”
Still an active performer on TV and film during the 1990s, during which time he played Henry Dailey on the Family Channel series “The Adventures of the Black Stallion” (1990-1993), in 1994, Rooney served as one of the hosts of the documentary, “That's Entertainment III,” and wrote his first novel, “The Search for Sonny Skies.” He revisited the stage the following year to star in the Toronto production of “Crazy for You,” based on his film “Girl Crazy” (1943). Three years after filing for bankruptcy, in 1999, Rooney was rushed to the hospital to undergo emergency surgery because of a punctured colon.
Rooney's credits in the new millennium included playing Movie Mason in “Phantom of the Megaplex” (2000, TV), Simon/Henry Sr. in the biographical movie “Paradise (2003), Gus in “Night at the Museum” (2006, starred Ben Stiller), Trobadar in “The Yesterday Pool” (2007) and the boss in “The Greatest Show Ever” (2007, TV). Recently appearing in “Wreck the Halls,” “Bamboo Shark” and “Lost Stallions: The Journey Home” (all 2008), he is set to play roles in the upcoming “Tropic Thunder” (2008), “Driving Me Crazy” (2008) and “Gerald” (2009).
Pocono Mountains Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004
Giffoni Film Festival: François Truffaut Award, 1996
Young Artist: Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award, 1991
Academy Award: Honorary Award (In recognition of his 50 years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances), 1983
Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special, “Bill,” 1982
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, “Bill,” 1982
Golden Globe: Best TV Star – Male, “Mickey,” 1964
Academy Award: Juvenile Award, 1939