Posts Tagged ‘Judy Garland’

One of the best, for 70 years plus ...

One of the best


We are sad to see that Mickey Rooney died on Sunday, but he had a good innings when all’s said and done and has left us with a huge basket of great memories.

Let it be noted that he made over 200 films in total, which is remarkable. He enjoyed one of the longest careers of any actor, spanning 92 years actively making films in ten decades, from the 1920s to the 2010s, and was one of the few surviving actors from the era of silent films.

For current generations, Rooney will stay rooted in collective memory as a cheerful, avuncular old man playing roles in which he invariably saves some kid from loneliness, a life of crime, an empty Christmas or somesuch. In later years he developed quite a career as a character actor, and one that persisted almost till his death.

Not that his life didn’t have some ups and downs. Famously, he was married 9 times. The 1950s and 60s were a fallow period, although he worked regularly. On December 31, 1961, he appeared on television’s 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. This was a period of professional distress for Rooney. In 1962, his debts had forced him into filing for bankruptcy.

Then in 1966, while Rooney was working on the film Ambush Bay in the Philippines, his wife Barbara Ann Thomason (aka Tara Thomas, Carolyn Mitchell), a former pinup 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 murder-suicide, which was committed with Rooney’s own gun.

He never lost his essential optimism though. In 1983 he was voted an Honorary Oscar for his lifetime of achievement. His goodnaturedness endeared him to people the world over: he was mentioned in the 1972 song “Celluloid Heroes” by The Kinks: “If you stomped on Mickey Rooney/ He’d still turn ’round and smile…”

For all the variety of his life and work, it would be a shame if we forget the Rooney that first became famous as an irrepressible, laughing, cheeky jackanapes in loads of films with other cheeky chappies of his era, and especially with his oft-time-collaborator Judy Garland, with whom he formed a great friendship and working relationship: they were one of the top song and dance duos of their time.

Rooney had it all. He could sing – “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” anyone? – he could dance, he could act: his performances lit up the screen with humour and goodwill. He was thoughtful man, too, a commentator on religious and other matters in later life, and a regular hoot on a bunch of chat shows.

What people might forget, though, was his superb musical skills.

Man, that kid could play the drums.

Safe trip, Mickey. Heaven won’t know what hit it.