Mickey Rooney dies: Five of his most memorable movie roles
With his death at age 93 on Sunday, Mickey Rooney leaves a show-business legacy spanning eight decades and including more than 200 film credits -- not to mention his many appearances on television and the stage.
Here are five movie roles demonstrating the prolific actor’s range and endurance as a performer.
The “Andy Hardy” movies (1937-1946, 1958): Rooney began his career as a toddler in a tuxedo in his parents’ vaudeville show, but his breakthrough role -- and the one that would go on to define his career -- was the feisty all-American teen Andy Hardy in a string of popular MGM films beginning with “A Family Affair.”
Over the course of 15 features, the series focused on the romantic mishaps of Rooney’s boy-next-door character and presented an idealized portrait of American family life. Rooney’s costars included many of MGM’s top young female talents, including Judy Garland, with whom he would star in several musicals, Lana Turner and Esther Williams.
“The Human Comedy” (1943): Rooney received his second Oscar nomination (after 1939’s “Babes in Arms,” with Garland) for his performance in the wartime film “The Human Comedy,” directed by Clarence Brown and based on a screenplay by William Saroyan (which he also rewrote and published as a novel). In the film, Rooney showed off a more dramatic side in playing Homer Macauley, a high-school student and telegram delivery boy coming of age during World War II.
(Rooney never won a competitive Oscar, but received two special Academy Awards: one in 1938 for his work as a juvenile actor, and one in 1983 for his lifetime achievement.)
“The Bold and the Brave” (1956): After serving in the Army in the Jeep Theater from 1944 to 1946, Rooney had trouble navigating the transition from teen sensation to true leading man. With his prospects drying up, he reinvented himself as a character actor, and his resilience eventually paid off with a third Oscar nomination, this time for supporting actor in Lewis R. Foster’s WWII drama “The Bold and the Brave.” Rooney delivered a committed performance as a doomed G.I. who runs a floating crap game and has big dreams of opening up a fancy restaurant after the war.
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961): More infamous than famous, Rooney’s performance as Mr. Yunioshi, Audrey Hepburn’s bumbling Japanese neighbor in the screen adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella, was characterized by buck teeth and egregious stereotyping. Though the caricature did not raise many eyebrows at the time of the film’s release, it has since been denounced as racist.
In his 1991 autobiography “Life Is Too Short,” Rooney wrote that he was “downright ashamed” of his role in the movie and added, “I don’t think the director, Blake Edwards, was very proud of it either.”
“The Black Stallion” (1979): Working hard as ever decades into his career, Rooney earned his fourth Oscar nomination for his finely shaded performance as a retired jockey turned horse trainer who helps a boy (Kelly Reno) groom his steed in “The Black Stallion.”
Eleven years later, at the age of 70, Rooney would reprise his role in the television series “The Adventures of the Black Stallion,” which ran for three seasons and was shown throughout the world.
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