“If you stomped on Mickey Rooney/ He’d still turn ’round and smile…” sang The Kinks in “Celluloid Heroes.” And indeed, for an actor who spent nearly every moment of his life under the spotlight, it’s hard to imagine a time he wasn’t wearing a big grin, but today that light has faded, with Mickey Rooney passing away over the weekend at 93 years old.
A multi-talented performer who could do comedy, drama, sing and dance—picking up those skills as part of the family vaudeville act that saw him part of the routine before he was even two years old—Rooney first shot to fame at MGM, where an appearance opposite Lionel Barrymore in 1937’s “A Family Affair,” was the start of a string of successful and popular films. From 1939-1941 he was the biggest box office draw in the country and barely entering adulthood, he could already count Judy Garland as a regular co-star, and in 1938 he was already taking home an Academy Juvenile Award. This era would mark the high point of his career.
World War II came in 1944 and Rooney served his country. After he went right back to working on the big and small screen when he returned home, but the hits came with a lot of misses. “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “The Black Stallion” and (more infamously) “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (with his turn as the bumbling Japanese character I.Y. Yunioshi since becoming the standard against racial insensitivity in performance and casting is measured) were the movies that stood out, but Rooney mostly became a character player, going wherever the work took him, either on the stage, television or in movies.
The honors Rooney picked up over his career are numerous: four more Oscar nominations (“Babes In Arms,” “The Human Comedy,” “The Bold & The Brave,” “The Black Stallion“) followed by Lifetime Achievement award in 1983; an Emmy will for 1981’s TV drama “Bill” (on top of more nominations); a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and much more.
While his personal life may not have always had him smiling as The Kinks might claim (the actor went through multiple marriages and various court battles), but for his fans, Rooney seemed to have it always turned on. His final role was reprising in his turn as Gus in “Night At The Museum 3,” but it’s not yet clear if his work on the in production movie has been completed. But even if it wasn’t, Rooney has left plenty behind for the next generation to discover. [Yahoo]