Sunday, December 28, 2008
Famous Classic Movie Stars - MICKEY ROONEY
Mickey Rooney is one of the few stars that I have written about that is still alive today, and for that we should all be very grateful. He was and still is a very talented actor who never quits.
Mickey Rooney was born as Joseph Yule Jr. on September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. He is an American film actor and entertainer whose film, television, and stage appearances span his lifetime. During his career he has won multiple awards, including an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy Award. Best know for his work as the Andy Hardy character, Rooney has one of the longest movie careers of any actor ever. entering the "Guinness Book of Records" as the actor with the longest career on both stage and screen.
Rooney was born into a vaudeville family. His father, Joseph Yule, was from Scotland and his mother, Nellie W. was from Kansas City, Missouri. Both parents were in vaudeville, and appearing in a Brooklyn production of "A Gaiety Girl" when Joseph Jr. was born. He began performing at the age of fifteen months as part of his parents routine, wearing a specially tailored tuxedo which he still owns to this day.
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, and, lacking the money to have her sons 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 to trump an attempted copyright lawsuit (as it was his legal name, the movie producers did not owe the comic strip writers royalties).
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 a less frivolous version. Rooney did other films, including a few more of the McGuire films, in his adolescence, and signed with MGM in 1934. MGM cast Rooney as the teenage son of a judge in 1937's "A Family Affair", setting Rooney on the way to another successful film series.
In 1937, Rooney was selected to portray Andy Hardy in "A Family Affair", which MGM had planned as a "B" movie. Rooney provided comic relief as the son of Judge James K. Hardy, portrayed by Lionel Barrymore (although Lewis Stone would play the role of Judge Hardy in later films). The film was an unexpected success, and led to thirteen more "Andy Hardy" films between 1937 and 1946, and then one final "Andy Hardy" film in 1958. Rooney received top-billing in a feature film as Shockey Carter in "Hossier Schoolboy" (1937). The same years, he made his first film alongside Judy Garland with "Thourbreds don't Cry". His breakthrough role as a dramatic actor came in 1938's "Boy's Town" opposite Spencer Tracy as Whitey Marsh, which opened shortly before his 18th birthday.
Garland and Rooney became a successful song and dance team. Besides three of the Andy Hardy films, where she portrayed Betsey Boothe, a younger girl with a crush on Andy, Garland appeared with Rooney in a string of successful musicals, including the Oscar nominated "Babes in Arms" (1939).
In 1944, Rooney entered military service for 21 months during World War II, during which time he was a radio personality on the American Forces Network. After his return to civilian life, his career slumped. He appeared in a number of films, including "Words and Music" in 1948, which paired him for the last time with Garland on film.
In 1960, he directed and starred in "The Private Lives of Adam and Eve", an ambitious comedy know for its multiple flashbacks and many cameos. In the 1960's Rooney returned to theatrical entertainment. Ne still accepted film roles in undistinguished movies, but occasionally would appear in better works, such as "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (1962) and "The Black Stallion" (1979). One of Rooney's more controversial riles came in the highly acclaimed 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" where he played a stereotyped buck toothed myopic Japanese neighbor of the main character, Holly Golightly. Producer Richard Shepard apologized for this in the 45th anniversary DVD, though director Blake Edwards and Rooney himself did not.
On December 31, 1961, he appeared on televisions "What's my Line" and mentioned that he had already started enrolling students in the MRSE (Mickey Rooney School of Entertainment). His school venture never came to fruition though, but for several years he was a spokesman/partner in Pennsylvania's Downington Inn, a country club and golf resort.
In 1966, while Rooney was working on a film in the Philippines, his wife Barbara Ann Thomason, a former pin up model and aspiring actress who had won 17 straight beauty contests in Southern California, was found dead in their bed. Beside her was her lover, Milos Milos, an actor friend of Rooney's. Detectives ruled it as a murder/suicide, which was accomplished with Rooney's own gun. Milos was also a bodyguard. Grief stricken and not in his right frame of mind, Rooney quickly married Barbara's friend, Marge Lane. The union lasted about one hundred days.
He was awarded an Academy Juvenile Award in 1938, and in 1983 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted him their Academy Honorary Award for his lifetime of achievement. Laurence Olivier called Rooney "the single best film actor America ever produced". a sentiment echoed by actor James Mason, Judy Garland stated that Rooney was "the worlds greatest talent". As a result of the "Andy Hardy" series, Rooney was the highest paid actor in Hollywood in the late 1930's.
Rooney continues to work in film and tours with his current wife in a multi-media live stage production called "Let's Put on A Show!" On May 26, 2007, he was grand Marshall at the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival. Rooney made his British pantomime debut, playing Baron Hardup in Cinderella at the Sunderland Empire Theater over the 2007 Christmas period. He appeared on BBC Points West dressed in a pair of shorts and socks. He is currently playing Baron Hardup in Cinderella now at the Bristol Hippodrome From December 12, 2008 to January 8, 2009.
As of 2008, Rooney and his wife Jan Chamberlin, live in Westlake Village, Californis. They met through his son Mickey Jr. whom Jan had been dating at the time. They were married on August 7, 1978, when Jan was 39 and Mickey was 57. Both are outspoken advocates for veterans and animal rights.
After battling drug addiction and a near bankruptcy caused by gambling and bad investments, Rooney became a born again Christian in the 1970's, reportedly after an angel appeared to him in a coffee shop.
Mickey Rooney's Marriages:
1. Ava Gardner (1942-1943)
2. Betty Jane Rase (1944-1949) (child- Mickey Rooney Jr. & Tim Rooney)
3. Martha Vickers (1949-1951) (child - Teddy Rooney)
4, Elaine Devry (1952-1958)
5. Barbara Ann Thomason (1958-1966) (children - Kyle Rooney, Kimmy Rooney, Kelly Rooney, Kerry Rooney)
6. Marge Lane (1966-1967)
7. Carolyn Hockett (1969-1974) (children - Jimmy Rooney, Jonelle Rooney)
8. Jan Chamberlin (1978-present)