One of the greatest American actors of all time was Mickey Rooney. He was a short actor, standing only at 5 feet 2 inches which is often seen as a barrier for most actors. Yet he managed to carve out a great career as both a character actor and a leading man.
Mickey Rooney acted in some of the best films throughout the decades and is rightfully remembered as one of the best actors of his generation and indeed he’s an icon of Hollywood.
Without question, the Life and Times of Mickey Rooney isn’t as discussed as it should be. His life was inspirational and can motivate us to follow our dreams. Sadly, his final years weren’t as easy.
Join FactsVerse to learn about Mickey Rooney’s life and career, the struggles in his life, and how he sadly died without a penny to his name…
MICKEY ROONEY’S EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Mickey Rooney was born as Joseph Yule Jr., on September 23, 1920, in New York City. It seemed that he was born to be a star as both his parents were involved in show business. His father was from Scotland and was a vaudeville performer. His mother was a chorus girl and previously worked as a burlesque dancer as well.
And at the time of his birth, both his parents were performing in a play together called “A Gaiety Girl.”
In fact, he later recalled that he began performing with his parents when he was only 17 months old!
While he was born at a time when stage performances were the preferred form of entertainment for most Americans, a new medium was largely gaining popularity as he grew older. Cinema was rapidly becoming the new medium that Americans fell in love with.
Mickey Rooney came into the industry at the right time. He got his first film credit in a short film when he was only 6. He was originally credited as Joe Yule Jr. in his early films before adopting the stage name Mickey MacGuire. Eventually, he would become Mickey Rooney and this was the name that he would be remembered as when he became a star.
In fact, the reason he became known as Mickey is because he became a star very early on. His early short films all revolved around a young boy named Mickey. These films included Mickey’s Babies, Mickey in Love, Mickey’s Nine, Mickey’s Menagerie, Mickey’s Initiation, and so on.
He was perhaps one of the early examples of a child star. But unlike many of today’s child stars, he managed to continue his career as he became an adult. As a child, Mickey became popular not just because of his acting but also because of his looks and his height.
However, as he grew older, he was still short compared to most adults – standing at 5 feet 2 inches. He also maintained his boyish looks which isn’t always ideal for a man who wants to become a leading man. Nevertheless, he was determined to make it. He was determined to become a star no matter what challenges stood in his way.
MICKEY ROONEY’S CAREER
Mickey Rooney’s first credit was in a short film made in 1926 called The Nephew. He was 5 or 6 years old when this short film was released. His final film was released 7 years after his death. It was a feature film called Holy Hollywood and was released in 2021 – which would have been the year he turned 101!
Let’s have a look at some of Mickey Rooney’s greatest career achievements.
His final “Mickey” film was the 1934 film Mickey’s Medicine Man. This was followed up with the film Half a Sinner. He had a supporting role in this drama film that followed a con artist masquerading as a preacher.
In 1935, he had a major role alongside Ralph Bellamy and Karen Morley in the film The Healer which followed a doctor treating polio victims. Year after year he made film after film and often had several films releasing in the same year. His next ‘big’ character was the boy Andy Hardy in the Judge Hardy films such as A Family Affair, You’re Only Young Once, and Judge Hardy’s Children. These were supporting roles but then he finally managed to secure a lead role as Andy Hardy in Love Finds Andy Hardy.
He continued to appear in these Hardy films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, even when he was in his mid-twenties, he was playing Andy Hardy though he was also securing different types of roles.
One of his biggest lead roles was as Augustus ‘Geechy’ Cheevers in the comedy crime film A Slight Case of Larceny. He had managed not to get typecast despite the fact that he was well-known as both Mickey and Andy Hardy. Those were his famous roles but they didn’t define him.
He soon graduated to television and had his own short-lived sitcom called The Mickey Rooney Show. He played Mickey Mulligan – a struggling actor.
Another one of his famous roles – though minor was as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He played the irascible Japanese landlord and this remains one of his most famous roles – despite the fact that its considered offensive particularly with today’s perspectives.
In the 1960s, he had another sitcom simply called ‘Mickey’ in which he played a character named Mickey Grady the manager of a luxury hotel.
He continued to focus mainly on comedy roles for the remainder of his career but also had the occasional dramatic roles. One of his underrated roles was a minor role in the film Pulp starring Michael Caine. He played Preston Gilbert – a retired actor who was known most for playing gangsters. This is a unique film and one of the hidden gems of Mickey Rooney’s career.
His career continued from strength to strength from the 70s onward. He appeared in the TV shows, The Adventures of the Black Stallion, The New Adventures of the Black Stallion, The Simpsons, One of the Boys, Kleo the Misfit Unicorn, ER, and American Dad!
He also appeared in great films such as Ace of Hearts, From Hong Kong With Love, The Intruder, Find the Lady, Pete’s Dragon, Arabian Adventure, The Care Bears Movie, Erik the Viking, Sweet Justice, The Milky Life, Babe: Pig in the City, The First of May, Night at the Museum, Gerald, Bamboo Shark, and The Woods.
His final film that was released in 2014, the year of his passing was Night of the Museum 2. Since his death, two films were released posthumously: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Holy Hollywood.
MICKEY ROONEY’S LIFE
As one can see, Mickey Rooney had arguably one of the most successful careers in cinematic history. Despite his setbacks, he worked year after year and he even had movies being released following his death.
His personal life had its ups and downs, however.
Mickey Rooney was married a total of 8 times and six of these marriages ended up in divorce. One of the marriages ended when his wife Barbara Thomason was murdered by her lover Miloš Miloš with whom she was having an affair with behind Mickey’s back.
His final marriage was to Jan Chamberlin which ended after his death. However, they had been separated for two years before his death.
Mickey had nine children of his own and sadly one of them, Tim, died in 2006, eight years before Mickey Rooney passed away. He claimed that he was a victim of elder abuse and he managed to get a restraining order against his stepson Christopher Aber.
He also had an addiction to sleeping pills for most of his life and it wasn’t until he was in his 70s that he was able to stop.
As one can see, while he arguably had a perfect career he sadly had many struggles and hardships in his personal life.
MICKEY ROONEY DIED WITHOUT A PENNY TO HIS NAME
Mickey Rooney was protective over his finances and his estate, especially after being a victim of elder abuse.
He was luckily declared to be competent so he could ensure to distribute his estate as he wished. Yet, after Mickey Rooney died at the age of 93 and having a career that spanned almost ONE CENTURY: remember, his first film was released in 1926 and his final one was released in 2021, his estate was valued at only $18,000.
Mickey Rooney died without a penny to his name.
But how did this happen?
While he was alive he stated that his stepson was involved in managing his finances and poor mismanagement as well as abuse caused him to lose most of his hard-earned money. It was determined that his stepson would have to pay back several millions of dollars back to Mickey Rooney’s estate but it seemed that this never went through.
Mickey Rooney’s surviving children were in a better financial condition so they didn’t inherit anything from him. His social security earnings would go to his wife Jan Chamberlin.
Before his death, Mickey Rooney assigned his attorney Michael Augustine to handle his estate. He lived like a king for much of his life and left behind an incredible body of work though he sadly died without much money and couldn’t even afford burial plots for his funeral.
But while this story has ended on a sad note, let us instead look back at one of the greatest careers we’ve ever seen in show business – and might not see again for quite some time.
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Mickey Rooney’s? Did you know about his tragic ending?
In fact, here’s what we want to know from you:
Do you think that there is a contemporary actor who has made the same impact as Mickey Rooney despite their short stature?
Or is there absolutely no one who can match up to the impact that he made?