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Legendary star Mickey Rooney dies at 93
Question of the Day
But no one ever could count Rooney out. He earned a fourth Oscar nomination, as supporting actor, for 1979’s “Black Stallion,” the same year he starred with Ann Miller in the Broadway revue “Sugar Babies,” which brought him a Tony nomination and millions of dollars during his years with the show.
“I’ve been coming back like a rubber ball for years,” Rooney wisecracked at the time.
In 1981 came his Emmy-winning performance as a disturbed man in “Bill.” He found success with voice roles for animated films such as “The Fox and the Hound,” ”The Care Bears Movie” and the blockbuster “Finding Nemo.”
“He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Singing, dancing, performing … all with great expertise,” Margaret O’Brien said. “I was currently doing a film with him, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.” I simply can’t believe it. He seemed fine through the filming and was as great as ever.”
Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three short-lived series: “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954); “Mickey” (1964); and “One of the Boys” (1982). A co-star from “One of the Boys,” Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn’t stop boasting he once was “the number one star … IN THE WO-O-ORLD!”
A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: “i.e., an Autobiography” published in 1965, and “Life Is Too Short,” 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, “The Search for Sonny Skies,” in 1994.
In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1½ and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience.
The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.
Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.
While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of “Pal o’ My Cradle Days.” During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut in 1926’s “Not to Be Trusted.”
The Mickey McGuire short comedies that followed gave him a new stage name, later appended, at his mother’s suggestion, to the last name Rooney, after vaudeville dancer Pat Rooney.
After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)
His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.
The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.
A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett - another divorce after five years and one daughter.
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