By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
It’s a sad day for Hollywood buffs and classic movie fanatics. Mickey Rooney, who will be most remembered for his role in the beloved Andy Hardy movies, passed away earlier in the week due to natural causes at age 93.
Born Joseph Yule Jr. in Brooklyn, Rooney made his stage debut at 17 months when his comedian father and dancer mother brought him along to one of their performances. He jumped from the stage to the small screen at age 6, playing the title character Mickey McGuire, who was based on the old Toonervile Trolley cartoons. Soon after, he borrowed the character’s name as his stage name, thus creating Mickey Rooney.
However, the roles he took on as a teenager made it difficult for him to transition from child actor, to adult superstar. In reality, he had the Great Depression of the 1930s to thank for his eventual rise to fame, because audiences suffering the USA’s economic downturn loved his cheerful attitude and homely appearance. Also, at 5 foot 3, Rooney was a short man with elf-like features that made him stand out in Hollywood. He wasn’t your typical “classic man,” but plenty of Hollywood producers and directors have stated that his acting was simply amazing.
Some of the most memorable moments in Mickey Rooney’s career. besides his turn as Andy Hardy in A Family Affair (1937), include his Oscar-nominated performance in Babes in Arms (1939), the incredible on-screen chemistry he had with actress Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet (1944), the wacky Fugly Floom character he played in Babe: Pig in the City (1998), and his masterful performance as a horse jockey in The Black Stallion (1979), where he earned his 4th and last Oscar nomination.
Despite Rooney’s success in the entertainment industry, fame could not stop him from being drafted in the 1944 war. Always infatuated with theater, he joined the entertainment brigade of the force, where he and other soldiers would travel 150,000 miles to entertain more than 2 million troops overseas. “I don’t retire, I inspire,” Rooney stated. “Mickey Rooney is not great. Mickey Rooney was fortunate to have been an infinitesimal part of motion pictures and show business.”
His legacy spans the course of 80 years, in which he made a couple hundred films and won two honorary Oscars.
Featured image courtesy of dbking on Flickr. Image of young Mickey Rooney courtesy of MickeyRooney.com.