The award-winning actor, one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's biggest stars during the golden years of Hollywood, was born in a trunk. His father Joseph and mother Nellie were vaudevillians and were appearing in Brooklyn when Rooney was born. By the age of 17 months, he was a member of his parents’ troupe, dressed in a little tuxedo.
After his parents separated when he was 4, his mother took him to Hollywood. She managed a tourist home — and her son's career, getting him cast in a series of short "Mickey McGuire" comedies from 1927 to 1936. His name was legally changed at one point to Mickey McGuire, but when his mother signed him to a vaudeville tour in 1932 as Mickey McGuire, 20th Century Fox sued her for using the name.
Eventually, his mother selected a new stage name, Mickey Rooney.
He made some films at Warner Bros., including 1935’s "A Midsummer Night's Dream," but his career really took off at MGM, especially as the exuberant girl-crazy Andy Hardy in 1937’s "A Family Affair." The series was such a hit that he made 13 more films between 1937 and 1946, many with the studio's top young female talents, including Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Esther Williams.
He and Garland became lifelong friends, appearing in several "let’s-put-on-a-show" musicals, including 1939's "Babes in Arms," for which he earned his first best actor Oscar nomination.
Rooney was the biggest box-office sensation in Hollywood in 1939, 1940 and 1941. He earned his second best actor nomination for a more dramatic turn in 1943's "The Human Comedy."
His career took a nosedive after he came back from service in World War II. His personal life was also in shambles.
Rooney has been married eight times. His first wife was Ava Gardner; his last marriage, to Jan Chamberlin, has lasted the last 32 years.
Rooney has been resilient. He earned a supporting actor nomination for the 1956 war film "The Bold and the Brave," and was nominated for an Emmy for his brilliant performance as cruel TV star in Rod Sterling’s 1957 "Playhouse 90" drama, "The Comedian." He also earned a second supporting actor Oscar nomination as a horse trainer in "The Black Stallion."
He won an Emmy as a mentally challenged man in the 1981 TV movie "Bill" and received a nomination for the 1983 sequel, "Bill: On His Own."
Rooney, who received a juvenile Academy Award in 1938, earned an honorary Academy Award for his lifetime achievement in 1983.
Finding success on Broadway in the early 1980s in "Sugar Babies," Rooney toured the country in countless plays including "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "The Wizard of Oz," both of which had engagements at the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.
He was introduced to a young audiences as one of the robbers in the 2006 hit "Night at the Museum."
Rooney died on April 6, 2014, at the Studio City home he shared with his son Mark Rooney and his daughter-in-law Charlene. He was 93.
|1939||Best Actor||Babes in Arms||Nomination|
|1943||Best Actor||The Human Comedy||Nomination|
|1956||Best Supporting Actor||The Bold and the Brave||Nomination|
|1979||Best Supporting Actor||The Black Stallion||Nomination|