RIP the Number One Box Office Draw from 1939 to 1940
April 6, 2014 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Mickey Rooney the former child star, who made his stage debut at the age of 18 months and was in show business for over 8 decades, died Sunday, aged 93. He was known for his relationship with MGM where he played such roles as Andy Hardy and starred in several pictures with Judy Garland. For a period of two years, he was considered the top star in Hollywood. posted by inturnaround (83 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's it, really, isn't it. He was the last of that era.

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posted by tzikeh at 9:12 PM on April 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh my goodness. Mickey Rooney is gone? I thought he was always going to be here.

I've seen so many things that he was involved in, it's like he's part of the weave of my life.

He hasn't been active much in the past while, but anyone who knows film from earlier than the past 20 years has likely encountered his work. His legacy will live on as long as channels like TCM and movie revival houses exist.

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Also, we're just tiny little specks about the size of Mickey Rooney!
posted by hippybear at 9:14 PM on April 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


Aww, that's a shame. I enjoyed him.
Knew him best from his later work and thought he stole every scene he was in.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:14 PM on April 6, 2014


I had a friend who spent a day in Los Angeles sort of shepherding Donald O'Connor and Mickey Rooney around. This was 15 years ago, so both were already old.

How was it, I asked my friend. He thought about it a minute before answering:

Exhausting.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:14 PM on April 6, 2014 [18 favorites]


Interestingly, he was born 20 days before my father (who died 3 years ago this week)

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posted by oneswellfoop at 9:16 PM on April 6, 2014


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posted by 1367 at 9:18 PM on April 6, 2014


RIP to a classic, last of his generation.

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posted by dbiedny at 9:18 PM on April 6, 2014


I only knew him from Breakfast at Tiffany's, but in true Hollywood actor style, he forgave the film critics who didn't like his work: "Those that didn't like it, I forgive them and God bless America, God bless the universe, God bless Japanese, Chinese, Indians, all of them and let's have peace."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:22 PM on April 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


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posted by wanderingmind at 9:26 PM on April 6, 2014


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It doesn't seem sufficient. And yet.
posted by MissySedai at 9:26 PM on April 6, 2014


Aww, Rest In Peace Mickey Rooney. I've enjoyed so many of his charming films over so many years. National Velvet, all the Andy Hardy ones. Mickey Rooney talks about Judy Garland: Zing went the strings of his heart.

Adding my too late post into the mix, minus the links already posted:

Mickey Rooney, the pint-sized actor who was one of MGM’s giant box office attractions in the late ’30s and early ’40s, died on Sunday. He was 93. | Born Ninian Joseph Yule Jr. , his IMDb page | Velvet Brown meets the Pie and Mi in National Velvet | "Love Laughs At Andy Hardy"..1946

The Trailers of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland

My Outlaw Brother - Full Length Western Movie
posted by nickyskye at 9:29 PM on April 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


RIP the Number One Box Office Draw from 1939 to 1940

Two decades!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:37 PM on April 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


. to a great entertainer with many thanks.
posted by aryma at 9:39 PM on April 6, 2014


Oh, wait. Must include this gem! Mickey as Puck and even more wonderful in the final scene of Midsummer Night's Dream, 1935.
posted by nickyskye at 9:46 PM on April 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


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posted by philip-random at 9:47 PM on April 6, 2014


RIP Mickey Rooney :(
posted by h00py at 9:48 PM on April 6, 2014


Jiminy jillickers
posted by MoonOrb at 9:58 PM on April 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wow. He's one of the few people left from that era.

RIP, Andy.
posted by jonmc at 10:00 PM on April 6, 2014


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posted by Cash4Lead at 10:01 PM on April 6, 2014


. What a life.
posted by oneironaut at 10:06 PM on April 6, 2014


Dude, if you liked Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's? That's fine, seriously. But don't give props to the man for "forgiving" his critics. It's like, seriously, how dare those critics accuse him of playing a cheap Asian caricature after he played a cheap Asian caricature, right?

"Those that didn't like it, I forgive them." Yes, how very magnanimous of the man. I sometimes wonder if he ever thought he did anything wrong.

Anyway, I liked him in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He fit into the flick real well. A

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for him.
posted by KChasm at 10:06 PM on April 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't think anyone liked Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany's. But he was hired to play a specific role, and while it wasn't in the best taste by any measure, it wasn't that out of line for the time in which it happened, and Rooney was doing what he was hired to do. Because that's what actors from Rooney's era did -- they played the role they were hired to do.

The producers of the film probably should have made better choices, even for their time, regarding that role. But they did not. And Rooney showed up and did exactly what he was hired to do.

Don't let that instance out of a lengthy career define who he was for you. He was so much more than that.
posted by hippybear at 10:10 PM on April 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


He also starred in a terriffic episode of The Twilight Zone.
posted by jonmc at 10:12 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dude, if you liked Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's?

can we please not go there?



yet
posted by philip-random at 10:20 PM on April 6, 2014 [4 favorites]




Got to add this into the mix. So very young, 25 year old, Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane promote their 1982 sitcom, One of the Boys, with Mickey Rooney.
posted by nickyskye at 10:24 PM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Elder abuse.
posted by stbalbach at 10:33 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Let's put on a show!

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posted by Lutoslawski at 10:35 PM on April 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


I love the story of how Joseph Yule, Jr. came to be known as Mickey Rooney:
The Yules separated in 1924 during a slump in vaudeville, and in 1925, Nell Yule moved with her son to Hollywood, where she managed a tourist home. Fontaine Fox had placed a newspaper ad for a dark-haired child to play the role of "Mickey McGuire" in a series of short films. Lacking the money to have her son's hair dyed, Mrs. Yule took her son to the audition after applying burnt cork to his scalp. Joe got the role and became "Mickey" for 78 of the comedies, running from 1927 to 1936, starting with Mickey's Circus, released September 4, 1927. These had been adapted from the Toonerville Trolley comic strip, which contained a character named Mickey McGuire. Joe Yule briefly became Mickey McGuire legally in order to trump an attempted copyright lawsuit (if it were his legal name, the film producer Larry Darmour did not owe the comic strip writers royalties). His mother also changed her surname to McGuire in an attempt to bolster the argument, but the film producers lost. The litigation settlement awarded damages to the owners of the cartoon character, compelling the twelve-year-old actor to refrain from calling himself Mickey McGuire on- and offscreen.

Rooney later claimed that, during his Mickey McGuire days, he met cartoonist Walt Disney at the Warner Brothers studio, and that Disney was inspired to name Mickey Mouse after him, although Disney always said that he had changed the name from "Mortimer Mouse" to "Mickey Mouse" on the suggestion of his wife.

During an interruption in the series in 1932, Mrs. Yule made plans to take her son on a ten-week vaudeville tour as McGuire, and Fox sued successfully to stop him from using the name. Mrs. Yule suggested the stage name of Mickey Looney for her comedian son, which he altered slightly to Rooney, a less frivolous version. (Wikipedia.)
If you haven't seen the Mickey McGuire stuff, you should! It's on YouTube.

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posted by Sys Rq at 10:52 PM on April 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


RIP, Mickey. He always seemed so troubled to me, but that intensity was, I think, what gave him star quality.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:54 PM on April 6, 2014


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posted by blob at 11:05 PM on April 6, 2014


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posted by jabo at 11:28 PM on April 6, 2014


I'll always remember him as Dingy Bell from "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

"Listen Dentist: I hate dentists. And I hate you so much that I'm not able to tell you how much I hate you in front of your wife!"

"You'd prefer 2/8ths instead of a quarter? How big of you!"

Also recommended(ish) I haven't seen/heard it myself, but I've heard his commentary track for the Twilight Zone episode "Last Night of a Jockey" is...surreal. Like he just plain doesn't want to be there at all, but still has to sit there talking about a quick gig from 50 years prior.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:44 PM on April 6, 2014


He discussed the elder abuse in the doc Last Will and Embezzlement.

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posted by brujita at 11:55 PM on April 6, 2014


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posted by Vibrissae at 12:13 AM on April 7, 2014


Let's have a big wake. My pop's got a barn!
posted by pracowity at 12:29 AM on April 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


He was in this bizarre movie called Revenge of the Red Baron (Everything Is Terrible YouTube link) in which the Baron's spirit inhabits a puppet flying a model airplane in modern times, which menaces Rooney (stealing his pills!) and a kid.

Rooney seems like he had a blast making it though! Check out his laughing at the end!
posted by JHarris at 12:30 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Of all the stories to be told about his long career, the first thought that comes to my mind about Mickey Rooney is OMG, he was married to Ava Gardner! And the second and third thoughts are that he was married eight times and had nine children. Then I remember his role with the young Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet in 1944. I wonder what life was like for him knowing that his career had peaked seventy years ago when he was the top box office draw for three years in a row beginning in 1939. That was the year Gone With The Wind was released but Mickey Rooney was a bigger box office draw that year and the next two years. What memories he must have had. Somehow he stayed in the game and kept on working.

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posted by Anitanola at 1:06 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


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Release the stars, release your love, release the stars
Release your love 'cause Old Hollywood is over

(Mickey will always be Old Hollywood to me. A proper star from the old studio days.)
posted by kariebookish at 2:16 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by Gelatin at 2:44 AM on April 7, 2014


Eight decades in show business...the mind boggles. Maybe he did seem a bit daft in his final years, and sometimes told stories that didn't quite match up with the facts, but so what? It's hard to imagine anyone ever having that sort of career again - I guess there could be some kid actor on, say, a Disney sitcom now who will still be working in 2094, but it seems unlikely.

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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 3:10 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


RIP MICKEY ROONEY
posted by ACair at 3:18 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


He's terrific in The Black Stallion, one of my all time favorite films.
posted by synthesizer at 3:27 AM on April 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


My kids would want me to mention Lampie, but it's probably not his best.
posted by MtDewd at 3:33 AM on April 7, 2014


Mickey Rooney, to millions of children young and old, will forever be the voice of Santa Claus. He was in "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Year Without a Santa Claus" as well as "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July" (ugh) and "Miser Brother's Christmas" (ehh).

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

I Believe in Santa Claus (weepy folks beware)

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posted by kimberussell at 3:51 AM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Whoa, Bronze Star.

RIP Mr. Rooney.
posted by buzzman at 4:01 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:04 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:10 AM on April 7, 2014


I can't say I was ever a fan of his, but it's still sad to see representatives of that era departing.

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posted by Thorzdad at 4:18 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by jquinby at 4:25 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by Melismata at 4:29 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by rahnefan at 4:35 AM on April 7, 2014


If nothing else, his appearance in Babe: Pig in the City is something to see. That whole movie is something to see, and Rooney makes it hit Weird Escape Velocity.
posted by COBRA! at 4:57 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


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I had though he died.
But, man, Ava Gardner? Man.

I first new him as Bill (full film) and then as Bill: On His Own, and it wasn't 'til later that I caught the Hardy movies.
He was an actor who acted as he was bid, then acted as he wanted, and then showed up in The Muppets and Babe: Pig In The City which are just generational mindfucks that I hope he knew what he was doing, and we should enjoy.
posted by Mezentian at 5:05 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Somewhere, at this moment, in heaven:

"You know what? With everyone we've got here, we could really put on a show!"
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:11 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


A parting shot.

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posted by jbickers at 5:13 AM on April 7, 2014


A lot of history there, both in him and through him.

Godspeed, Mickey Rooney.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:28 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by drezdn at 5:31 AM on April 7, 2014


I've told my favorite personal Mickey Rooney story on mefi before, but it seems appropriate here, too.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:45 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by condour75 at 5:47 AM on April 7, 2014


But, man, Ava Gardner? Man.

Among other interesting things, Gardner had this to say about Rooney:
“If the sex hadn’t been so good, it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it lasted,” she said. “It’s a pity nobody believes in simple lust anymore.”
posted by pracowity at 5:54 AM on April 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


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posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:16 AM on April 7, 2014


Bart: Wow, spanning two decades!

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posted by Chrysostom at 6:24 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by ashirys at 6:50 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by Atreides at 7:14 AM on April 7, 2014


During the filming of Mickey Rooney's cameo in The Muppets, Jason Segel noticed that the choreographer was treating Rooney with undue familiarity: bossing him around, addressing him as "Dad" and so forth. Segel objected to this treatment of a Hollywood legend, and complained. It turned out that the choreographer, Michael Rooney, in fact has every right to address his own father as "Dad."
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:32 AM on April 7, 2014 [14 favorites]



I don't know what it is, but every time I ever saw him in anything, I involuntarily cringed. As he aged, it got worse and worse.

We just watched the Simpsons Radioactive Man episode recently, and even then, I cringed. An hour with Mickey Rooney was once described by San Francisco radio personality Alex Bennet as "a forced march up Memory Lane."

That about covers it.

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Because he does represent something fundamental about Hollywood's golden era.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:14 AM on April 7, 2014


I don't think anyone liked Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany's. But he was hired to play a specific role, and while it wasn't in the best taste by any measure, it wasn't that out of line for the time in which it happened, and Rooney was doing what he was hired to do. Because that's what actors from Rooney's era did -- they played the role they were hired to do.

The producers of the film probably should have made better choices, even for their time, regarding that role. But they did not. And Rooney showed up and did exactly what he was hired to do.


I recommend the book Fifth Avenue, 5 AM to anyone interested in the making of Breakfast at Tiffany's. In addition to being a great book, it does talk about the casting and character of Yunioshi. Some of the other producers were against the casting, but Blake Edwards was adamant about keeping it in. Rooney showed up in character as Yunioshi and campaigned for the role. Both Edwards and Rooney were unapologetic about it for years though I know Edwards eventually acknowledged the mistake.

Also, screenings of the movie were protested by Japanese Americans when the movie first came out. A screening was cancelled in Sacramento because of the backlash. Even "at the time" there were people who thought it was in bad taste, although not as many as today.

I was a teenager when I first saw the movie and turned it off because of Yunioshi. I finally managed to watch it years later and do really like it, but that character is a huge turnoff.

Having said that, the whole controversy does in large part belong to another time and Rooney has an amazing legacy overall. But there's a troubling trend in thinking people all of a sudden started finding their "political correctness" in the 1990s and no one cared "at the time." They cared.
posted by sweetkid at 8:20 AM on April 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


The whole adaptation of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' was an abomination to anyone who's read the book (except for the casting of Audrey Hepburn).

Mickey Rooney lived an amazing life and had an astonishing career. I'll miss him.
posted by h00py at 8:23 AM on April 7, 2014


I was going to bring up my theory that the comics character Archie was inspired by the Andy Hardy films, but some cursory research indicates it's hardly novel:
Archie's first appearance in Pep Comics #22 on December 22, 1941, was drawn by Montana and written by Vic Bloom. With the creation of Archie, publisher Goldwater hoped to appeal to fans of the Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney.
posted by rochrobbb at 8:45 AM on April 7, 2014


He was really good in that "Bill" movie. There's a scene where he's trying to get home and he can't remember his phone number. It was really touching. Mickey was an actor.
posted by Trochanter at 8:51 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mickey Rooney on his Yunioshi role:

More infamous than famous, Rooney's performance as Mr. Yunioshi, Audrey Hepburn's bumbling Japanese neighbor in the screen adaptation of Truman Capote's novella, was characterized by buck teeth and egregious stereotyping. Though the caricature did not raise many eyebrows at the time of the film's release, it has since been denounced as racist.

In his 1991 autobiography "Life Is Too Short," Rooney wrote that he was "downright ashamed" of his role in the movie and added, "I don't think the director, Blake Edwards, was very proud of it either."

posted by mudpuppie at 9:26 AM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


A great performer in every way. I'm glad we had so much of Mr. Rooney to enjoy. RIP, sir.

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posted by blurker at 10:22 AM on April 7, 2014


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posted by wrapper at 10:28 AM on April 7, 2014


Though the caricature did not raise many eyebrows at the time of the film's release, it has since been denounced as racist.

also worth a second look in this regard is 16 Candles. Note Long Duc Dong, the Chinese exchange student and, among other things, the gong that tends to crash when he pops up on screen. Endless yuks.

Not to outright condemn a movie that many have fond memories of, just to put Mr. Rooney's transgressions in some kind of perspective. Hollywood's long been an overachiever when it comes to insensitivity, and no doubt remains so.
posted by philip-random at 1:02 PM on April 7, 2014


If you can separate the horrible stereotype from the performance, Rooney's physical comedy is very good in Breakfast at Tiffany's, as well as the comic delivery of his lines (timing, pauses, and word emphasis).

But yeah, the jaw-droppingly offensive caricature is so, so wrong -- very tone-deaf and it mars Breakfast at Tiffany's.

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posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:08 PM on April 7, 2014


From Laugh-In c. 1970:

Him: I heard Mickey Rooney had his pocket picked the other day.
Her: Oh, no! How could anybody stoop so low!


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posted by Herodios at 1:13 PM on April 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


We heard the news on NPR this morning, and the Mancub said "isn't that the guy yakko sings about?" So, even tangentially, Mickey touched a generation that can't comprehend the concept of being that old. I hope there's a barn in heaven with showgirls and show tunes and an audience that always laughs and claps.
posted by dejah420 at 1:56 PM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


....IN THE WORLD!
posted by Renoroc at 6:03 PM on April 7, 2014


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posted by kinnakeet at 6:47 PM on April 7, 2014


Somewhat prescient.
posted by timsteil at 6:53 PM on April 7, 2014


"...one of my all time favorites.."
Mine, too, synthesizer. Thanks for the link.
posted by Anitanola at 8:37 PM on April 7, 2014


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No longer a living piece of Hollywood history, sadly. A fine innings, sir.
posted by On the Corner at 4:50 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


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