Monday, April 7, 2014

MICKEY ROONEY (1920-2014) - A Tribute
What can you say about Mickey Rooney that hasn't been said already? The guy had a true one-of-a-kind life, in addition to a remarkably long life and lengthy career. He was well and truly woven into the historical fabric of 20th century America.

Mickey was one of the rare child stars who went on to become an adult star. And he didn't just become an adult star, for several years at his peak he was the star, ranked Number One at the American box office. His films as Andy Hardy and co-starring with Judy Garland are icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
He didn't just make a movie with Clark Gable - he played Gable's character as a child in 1934's Manhattan Melodrama. This was also the movie John Dillinger watched at the Biograph Theater just before he was shot down by the feds. Twenty-two years later, Mickey played real-life gangster Baby Face Nelson in the 1957 film of that name. Nelson and Dillinger had been cohorts, and Nelson was also shot dead by the feds in 1934. How's that for a weird full circle?
Mickey's first wife was Ava Gardner. Just that alone would be enough for a lifetime for most men.
But, in the end, Mickey had eight wives total. His fortunes went through numerous booms and busts.
Mickey was on the cover of Time magazine.

Mickey made great A pictures, and some memorable B pictures, and a few truly whacked out wonders like The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960 - he played the Devil and co-directed the picture) and the awful/wonderful Skidoo (1968).
Mickey was a hit in the movies, and on Broadway.
Mickey sang and danced and acted and wrote and directed.
Sir Laurence Olivier once referred to him as the greatest film actor America ever produced.
And on and on and on - and then on some more. Mickey Rooney in many ways embodied the expression too much is never enough.

Tonight, to mark his passing, we'll be watching him in my favorite of his films, the excellent domino noir, Quicksand (1950). I think it's one of his best dramatic roles, and it was made smack in the middle of the century he straddled like few others. (In Quicksand, Mickey has one scene with a young Jack Elam, whom I used to see almost every morning at a bakery I worked at. So for a time, I guess I was just a couple of degrees of separation from Mickey...)

I'm not going to lie and say the Mickey Rooney was ever one of my favorite performers, but I absolutely recognize and respect his place in American film history, and American history in general. He led a life in the movies, and a life that was like a movie.
Rest in peace, Mickey. I hope that Ava's there to give you a kiss.

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