Mickey Rooney (born Joseph Yule, Jr.; September 23, 1920 – April 6, 2014) was an American actor of film, television, Broadway, radio, and vaudeville.
In a career spanning nearly nine decades and continuing until shortly before his death, he appeared in more than 300 films and was one of the last surviving stars of the silent film era. At the height of a career that was marked by precipitous declines and raging comebacks, Rooney played the role of Andy Hardy in a series of fifteen films in the 1930s and 1940s that epitomized American family values.
A versatile performer, he could sing, dance, clown and play various musical instruments, becoming a celebrated character actor later in his career. Laurence Olivier once said he considered Rooney “the greatest actor of them all.” Clarence Brown, who directed him in two of his earliest dramatic roles, National Velvet and The Human Comedy, said he was “the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with.”
Rooney first performed in vaudeville as a child and made his film debut at age six. At thirteen he played the role of Puck in the play and later the 1935 film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His acclaimed film performance was hailed by critic David Thomson as “one of cinema’s most arresting pieces of magic.” In 1938, he co-starred with Spencer Tracy in the Academy Award-winning film, Boys Town.
At nineteen he was the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar for his leading role in Babes in Arms, and he was awarded a special Academy Juvenile Award in 1939. At the peak of his career between the ages of 15 and 25, he made forty-three films and co-starred alongside Judy Garland, Wallace Beery, Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. He was one of MGM’s most consistently successful actors and a favorite of studio head Louis B. Mayer.