Monday, April 7, 2014

Why Mickey Rooney Matters


Those of you who know me well know that I am a lover of the Golden Era of Hollywood.

That era lost one of its brightest stars  with word that Mickey Rooney has passed away at age 93.


Mickey Rooney still.jpg


Mickey Rooney started his career as a child, starring in dozens of shorts before graduating to the big screen.

His most iconic films?

Of course there are the Andy Hardy movies, which TCM still plays now and then and which still stand up as being lovely representations of family life and of kids who don't always do what their parents want them to do (Andy is always getting into scrapes and always has some kind of scheme up his sleeve).



And it was in those films of course that he was first paired with Judy Garland, and their successful pairing launched several Busby Berkeley films.  If you've ever said "we should get a barn and put on a show" when talking about raising money, you're quoting Mickey and Judy!



And who can forget National Velvet, one of my favourite films of all time, starring Tabitha's favourite, Elizabeth Taylor?



Or Boys Town with Spencer Tracy?

boys town 2.jpg


and even Breakfast at Tiffany's:


This casting was accused of being racist and I think the critics are right!

From 1939 to 1941, Mickey Rooney was the top box office draw in Hollywood, and he worked tirelessly to raise morale during the war.  He joined the army himself, and from 1944 to 1945, his job was to entertain the troops full-time.



For the rest of his life, he worked tirelessly to support veterans' rights.

If he was the Prince of Hollywood, his personal life was no less colourful.  Like his friend Elizabeth, he was married eight times.  His first wife was the gorgeous Ava Gardner, who later described his as one of the greatest lovers she'd ever been with.



Mickey worked his entire life and became a fixture later on TV.  He was by times a raconteur, a windbag, charming, pugilistic.

He become a punchline of many jokes, due in large part I think to the fact that he remembered when he was the biggest star even when others did not.  The same spunk that made him a star in his teens and twenties often made him seem like an old man out of touch later on.



But he was, till the end, a star.  He continued to work, most recently filming Night at the Museum 3.

At one of his last public outings at the end of February, Mickey attended an after-Oscars party, where he was attended by many actors who wanted to hear the stories one last time.




If you love movies, like I do, it is important to know the evolution of the medium, its history.

Imagine a time before TV, when times were hard, when all you had to cheer yourself up was a trip to the local movie theater, where for a nickel you could forget your troubles and watch a magical world where boys lived in nice families, got the girl, sung and danced their way through their troubles.

Mickey Rooney made people feel good in the 1930s and 1940s when they most needed to feel good.  He had a long and storied career doing the thing he loved best: entertaining people.

Many of his peers, including Sir Laurence Olivier, considered him a genius.

You'd be hard-pressed to imagine a bigger star than Mickey.

Somewhere right now, he has just finished a cocktail with Elizabeth, and he and Judy are already looking for a barn....

Thank you Mickey, and God Bless!





23 comments:

  1. Lovely tribute Wendy. He was quite the character! 93, same age as Nana was when she died last summer (she who would have turned 94 yesterday), I bet she's joined in the cocktails, she loved Mickey Rooney.

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    1. That's lovely visual of toasts beyond the pearly gates.

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  2. You could write his eulogy. Rillly Ava?!?!?

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  3. What a lovely tribute Wendy!

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  4. Another great post -- it must be so fun for your family to live with you, as you know so many interesting things! (Remind them that one of your blog readers said this when they aren't being nice to you! Or maybe that never happens. :) )

    As we get older, I am finding that more and more of the obituaries (of people and shows -- your DL post last week) mean something to me. It's a weird feeling to begin truly feeling like part of the older generation....

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    1. Right there with you ladies, starting to care about the obits.

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  5. In a former job, more than 20 years ago, my husband flew near weekly from LA to NYC. One flight he had the great pleasure of sitting next to Mickey Rooney. They laughed, drank and told stories the entire flight. Mickey was such a great traveling buddy that my husband still talks of the experience and remembers him fondly. He was as funny and entertaining as reported. RIP Mickey.

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    1. Imagine the stories he heard! How amazing!

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  6. Lovely tribute. Your passion for Hollywood history comes through so well.

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  7. YOU WILL ALWAYS PASS FAILURE ON THE WAY TO SUCCESS WMM, what amazed me most I think was Mickey's incredible work rate as a child and teen star. And we think Jennifer Lawrence has been busy. A life well and fully lived. Imagine the changes in the world and Hollywood that Mickey experienced, that always boggles me about those who have spanned most of 20th-21st century.

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    1. Agreed - Mickey endured because he was willing to transform himself as required, which is, I think, the key to a successful and long-term career!

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  8. Wonderful tribute Wendy and I recently watched with my mother the superb Captains Courageous with Spencer Tracy and Freddie Bartholemew. Mickey was a vastly underrated actor.
    My father during the 60s-70s looked just like Andy Williams, during the 90s couldn't walk thru the Atlanta Airport without being greeted with "Mr. President" due to his likness for Jimmy Carter. The last 10 years have seen him plump up and with his now 6th wife, his sister and I always remarked how much he looks like Mickey Rooney.

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    1. Hmm - like the seven stages of man only the seven stages of GSL's dad! How could I forget Captains Couragous! Am counting on TCM to do a salute to Mickey in the coming days and plan to tape them all. A couple of years ago on American Thanksgiving, they played ALL of the Andy Hardy movies. What a treat!

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  9. Just the sweetest video. Thanks for posting this... xox He was much loved and adored by so many for MANY years... xox

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  10. Married EIGHT times!! Wow. Interesting info. Thanks.

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  11. Great tribute. What a personality -- he was out and about, having fun, till the end -- the weekend before he died, he was at Santa Anita race track with buddies Dick Van Patten and Mel Brooks, clowning around, posing for pictures and betting the horses.

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