News / Arts & Entertainment

Hollywood Superstar Mickey Rooney Dies at 93

  • Child star Mickey Rooney poses for a promotional photo at age 5 in this photo dated about 1925. Rooney, a Hollywood legend whose career spanned more than 80 years.
  • Mickey Rooney is against the ropes as Spencer Tracy stands by him in this scene from the 1938 movie "Boys Town." 
  • Film actor Mickey Rooney celebrates his 21st birthday at a party in a Hollywood night club. Here he slices his birthday cake with (left to right) Louis B. Mayer, studio head; Mrs. Nell Pankey, his mother, and Miss Ava Gardner, Hollywood, California, Sept. 23, 1941.
  • Mickey Rooney, accompanied by Judy Garland and Ann Rutherford, arriving at the theater in an old Jalopy, New York City, August 17, 1941.
  • Mickey Rooney, 21, Movieland's No. 1 box office star, and Ava Gardner, 19, of Wilson, N.C., pose together shortly after the couple applied for a marriage license, in Santa Barbara, California, Jan. 5, 1942.

  • Hollywood's Mickey Rooney, visiting an army post, demonstrates his riding ability with one of the Fourth Field Artillery's famous mules, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Jan. 29, 1942. 
  • Actor, singer and dancer, Mickey Rooney, is shown in this undated photo.
  • Actor Mickey Rooney and his bride, actress Martha Vickers, smile happily as they walk down the aisle of a church shortly after their wedding ceremony, in North Hollywood, California, June 3, 1949.
  • Actor Mickey Rooney is shown in this file photo as G.I. Dooley in the 1956 Hollywood movie "The Bold and the Brave." 
  • Actor, singer and dancer Mickey Rooney, wearing spats and a pinstriped suit, performs a dance routine during a rehearsal for the television show "George M. Cohan Story" in Hollywood, California, March 19, 1957. 
  • Actor Mickey Rooney portrays "Pinnochio," in this September 1957 file photo. 
  • Mickey Rooney in the movie "The Private Lives of Adam & Eve." Within the Garden of Eden, Rooney plays Satan, Sept. 8, 1959.
  • Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney are surrounded by Sugar Babies from the Broadway musical comedy revue of the same name as they film a portion for the newest "I Love New York" commercial, New York City, Oct. 31, 1980. 
  • Actor Mickey Rooney, left, gets a hug from entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. backstage during intermission at New York's Mark Hellinger Theater where Rooney is appearing in the Broadway musical comedy revue "Sugar Babies," April 6, 1981. 
  • Mickey Rooney, second from right, joins cast members Dirk Lumbard, Eartha Kitt and Caroline McMahon, left to right, during the opening performance curtain call for "The Wizard of Oz" at New York's Madison Square Garden, May 1, 1998.
  • Actor Mickey Rooney waves to admirers as he departs the Regent Wall Street Hotel in New York, March 16, 2002, to attend the wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest.
  • Mickey Rooney kisses the hand of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during a garden party celebrating her state visit to the U.S. at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., May 7, 2007.
  • Actor Mickey Rooney attends the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, March 2, 2014, in West Hollywood, California.
  • Tourists from Australia stand by a memorial wreath on the Hollywood Walk of Fame star of Hollywood legend, Mickey Rooney, on Vine Street, April 7, 2014, in Los Angeles.
Actor Mickey Rooney, who became the United States' biggest movie star while a brash teenager in the 1930s and later a versatile character actor in a career that spanned 10 decades, died on Sunday of natural causes, Los Angeles authorities said. He was 93.

Rooney, who developed a reputation as a hard-partying, off-screen brat in his heyday and married eight times, died at his home in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said, citing information from the Los Angeles Police Department.

"He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn't do," said actress Margaret O'Brien, who recently worked with Rooney on a film adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Actress Rose Marie, a long-time friend of Rooney, said he was one of the greatest talents show business had ever had. "I shall miss him and the world shall miss him," she said in a statement.

Other stars took to Twitter to express their sadness about Rooney's death.

"RIP Mickey Rooney. We can only be awed and grateful for so many great performances," actress Mia Farrow said.

Actor William Shatner described him as "one of the greats," and author Anne Rice said he was not only an actor but a legend.

"Sad to think of him gone. But what an amazing life he lived," Rice added on Twitter.

Rooney was an entertainer almost from the day he was born in New York on Sept. 23, 1920. His parents, Joe Yule Sr. and Nell, had a vaudeville act and Joe Jr., as he was known then, was not yet 2 when he became a part of it, appearing in a miniature tuxedo.

As he grew older, Rooney added dancing and joke-telling to his stage repertoire before landing his first film role as a cigar-smoking little person in the silent short "Not to Be Trusted."

After his parents split, Rooney and his mother moved to California where she steered him into a movie career. He was about seven when he was cast as the title character in the "Mickey McGuire" series of film shorts that ran from 1927 to 1934. Nell even had his name changed to Mickey McGuire before changing the last name back to Rooney when he began getting other roles.

As a teenager, Rooney was cute, diminutive - he topped out at 5 feet 2 inches (1.6 meters) - and bursting with hammy energy. Those attributes served him well when he was cast as the wide-eyed, wise-cracking Andy Hardy in a series of films that would give movie-goers a brief opportunity to forget the lingering woes of the Great Depression in the late 1930s.

'Kid' Oscar

The first "Andy Hardy" film, "A Family Affair" in 1937, became a surprise hit and led to a series of 16, with Rooney's character becoming the main focus and helping make him the biggest box-office attraction of 1939 and 1940. The Hardy films were wholesome, sentimental comedies in which Andy would often learn a valuable lesson from his wise father, Judge Hardy.

In 1938, Rooney and Deanna Durbin received miniature Academy Awards for juveniles.

"Call him cocky and brash but he has the sort of exuberant talent that keeps your eyes on the screen," the New York Times said of Rooney in a 1940 review.

It was in "Love Finds Andy Hardy" that he first worked with Judy Garland, who was on the verge of superstardom herself with "The Wizard of Oz."

They made two more Hardy movies together and in 1939 were cast together in "Babes in Arms," a Busby Berkeley musical about two struggling young entertainers that earned Rooney, then 19, an Academy Award nomination.

Movie-goers loved the lively "let's put on a show!" chemistry that Rooney and Garland brought to the screen. They were paired again in "Girl Crazy" in 1943.

"We weren't just a team, we were magic," Rooney said in a stage show about his life.

Rooney proved he could handle serious roles, too, with a notable performance in 1938 in "Boys Town" as a troubled kid helped out by a kindly priest played by Spencer Tracy.

He picked up another Oscar nomination for "The Human Comedy" in 1943 and starred with Elizabeth Taylor in "National Velvet" in 1944.

Off the screen, the young Rooney was the Justin Bieber of his time. His fame, money, gambling, lust and mercurial nature were problems for the MGM studio, which did not like seeing its young star sully his reputation and box-office potential.

Retooled Career

The studio assigned a full-time staffer to keep Rooney out of trouble, but his antics still frequently ended up in gossip columns. MGM was greatly upset when Rooney, 21, married Ava Gardner, then a 19-year-old aspiring actress, in 1942. The marriage lasted barely a year.

From 1939 to 1941 Rooney had ranked as the top U.S. male box-office attraction. After he returned from serving the military as an entertainer during World War II, the public was growing weary of seeing him play teenagers and he would have to retool his career.

"I was a 14-year-old boy for 30 years," he once said.

After the rush of stardom, Rooney was battered by a stalled career, drug and gambling addictions, bad marriages, a failed production company and the deep financial problems they caused.

He lost his hair and grew paunchy but he persevered.

"I'm a ham who wants to be a small part of anything," he told the Times.

He took small parts, worked in lesser movies and tried a couple of television shows. He picked up two more Oscar nominations for 1956's "The Bold and the Brave" and "The Black Stallion" in 1979.

In 1979 he also broke through on Broadway, harking back to his vaudeville beginnings with "Sugar Babies," a burlesque-style revue with MGM tap dancer Ann Miller in which he sang, danced and dressed in drag. He said the role saved him from being "a famous has-been."

"The American public is my family," Rooney said. "I've had fun with them all my life."

Rooney won an Emmy and a Golden Globe in 1982 for the TV movie "Bill," playing a mentally handicapped man trying to live on his own. He was given a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1983.

In 1978 he found a lasting marriage with Country singer Jan Chamberlin. In his late 80s they toured the country with a song-and-dance act.

Rooney, who had five sons and five daughters, told a U.S. Senate committee on aging that he had been emotionally and financially abused by family members. He later said Christopher Aber, Chamberlin's son, had deprived him of food and medicine, prevented him from leaving the house and meddled in his financial affairs.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mark from: Virginia
April 07, 2014 8:58 AM
In our minds, these actors and actresses that we have loved and watched and enjoyed all these decades, will always live on. We tend to forget that they are mortal, after all, and as such, must pass on at some point. Still, it is sad when they do leave, but we must take comfort that they have moved on to better things. I have said this in my mind every time a famous person has died (only the name would change), and I will say it again today; "Today, we live in a world without Andy Rooney." God bless you, Andy, and thank you for the smiles you put on our faces at times when we needed them the most.
In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
April 07, 2014 7:26 PM that just now, too....had my Rooney's mixed up
In Response

by: Tim from: Canada
April 07, 2014 2:47 PM
Wrong Rooney, Mark, though I agree with the sentiment.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category: Keiko Matsuii
|| 0:00:00
November 25, 2015 1:45 PM
Keiko Matsui’s music has been labeled many things – Jazz, Smooth Jazz, New Age, World Music. But whatever the label, the pianist-composer’s sound is always her own. Keiko Matsui takes the VOA Stage to perform some of her best-loved songs, and to talk with Beyond Category host Eric Felten about her life in music.

Keiko Matsui’s music has been labeled many things – Jazz, Smooth Jazz, New Age, World Music. But whatever the label, the pianist-composer’s sound is always her own. Keiko Matsui takes the VOA Stage to perform some of her best-loved songs, and to talk with Beyond Category host Eric Felten about her life in music.