Home / CRUISING THE PAST / MICKEY ROONEY (1920-2014) RIP – from the RMS QUEEN MARY to the SUPER CHIEF to ANDY HARDY on the SS CATALINA…
MICKEY ROONEY (1920-2014) RIP – from the RMS QUEEN MARY to the SUPER CHIEF to ANDY HARDY on the SS CATALINA…

MICKEY ROONEY (1920-2014) RIP – from the RMS QUEEN MARY to the SUPER CHIEF to ANDY HARDY on the SS CATALINA…

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“Tennessee Williams, who knew more about actors than anybody in our time … said, ‘There’s only one great actor in the United States and that is Mickey Rooney. … He can do anything. He sings, he dances, he can make you weep. He can play tragedy, he can play comedy,’ ” Gore Vidal – 2007

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Mickey Rooney (one of the biggest stars in the world) arrives at Southampton (England) aboard the RMS QUEEN MARY.

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Mickey Rooney’s home in Encino, California. Where he lived with his mother, Mrs. Nell Pankey. 

Mickey Rooney, the exuberant entertainer who led a roller-coaster life — the world’s top box-office star at 19 as the irrepressible Andy Hardy, a bankrupt has-been in his 40s, a comeback kid on Broadway as he neared 60 — died on Sunday. He was 93 and lived in Westlake Village, Calif.

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland on promotional tour for the WIZARD OF OZ in 1939. 

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Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney set out for a “Wizard of Oz” tour from the Santa Fe Station in Pasadena, California – 1939.

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Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland board the All-Pullman Super Chief for Chicago.

His death was confirmed by his son Michael Joseph Rooney.
He stood only a few inches taller than five feet, but Mr. Rooney was larger and louder than life. From the moment he toddled onto a burlesque stage at 17 months to his movie debut at 6 to his career-crowning Broadway debut in “Sugar Babies” at 59 and beyond, he did it all. He could act, sing, dance, play piano and drums, and before he was out of short pants he could cry on cue.

MGM Preview: Mickey Rooney (as Andy Hardy) visits Catalina Island in the late 1930s aboard the SS Catalina. 

YOU’RE ONLY YOUNG ONE – Trailer/Preview – MGM created a milestone in family films with the 1937 dramatic comedy,You’re Only Young Once, the first to assemble all the pieces that would make up the studio’s popular Andy Hardy series. Although technically a B film — shot on a relatively low budget in a mere two-and-a-half weeks for exhibition as the second half of a double bill — You’re Only Young Once was more lavish than the A pictures of most studios. Its simple tale of a small-town family trying to get through their summer vacation on Catalina Island in one piece perfectly melded the elements of high-spirited youth and parental wisdom that would make the Hardy films so successful. (The trailer/preview is narrated by Frank Whitbeck. He was the longtime chief of advertising at MGM and narrated hundreds of theatrical trailers along with shorts while there.)

Hardy, growing up in the idealized fictional town of Carvel, Mr. Rooney was the most famous teenager in America from 1937 to 1944: everybody’s cheeky son or younger brother, energetic and feverishly in love with girls and cars. The 15 Hardy Family movies, in which all problems could be solved by Andy’s man-to-man talks with his father, Judge Hardy (played by Lewis Stone), earned more than $75 million — a huge sum during the Depression years, when movie tickets rarely cost more than 25 cents.


Wonderful clip from YOU’RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE aboard the SS Catalina with Mickey Rooney.

In 1939, America’s theater owners voted Mr. Rooney the No. 1 box-office star, over Tyrone Power. That same year he sang and danced his way to an Oscar nomination for best actor in “Babes in Arms,” the first of the “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” MGM musicals he made with Judy Garland.

He was box-office king again in 1940, over Spencer Tracy, and in 1941, with Clark Gable taking second place. Three years earlier, in The New York Times, Frank S. Nugent had written of Mr. Rooney’s performance as the swaggering bully redeemed by Tracy’s Father Flanagan in “Boys Town”:

“Mickey is the Dead End gang rolled into one. He’s Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and King Kong before they grew up, or knew a restraining hand. Mickey, as the French would understate it, is the original enfant terrible.”

A musical and comedy revue staged as a pirate party on Catalina Island. The short is highlighted by several cameo appearances from Cary Grant, Mickey Rooney Marion Davies and others. Music provided by Charles Rogers and his California Cavaliers as well as Sterling Young and his Orchestra. Wonderful shots of Catalina Island, the ships and an era that is now a memory.

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Mickey Rooney seen in the above MGM short.

Click here to read the complete Mickey Rooney obituary.

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About Michael L. Grace