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Mickey Rooney: Unveiling the Scandalous Life of a Legendary Actor

Hollywood, 1942 was the era when Mickey Rooney reigned as the biggest star globally. For three consecutive years, he held the title of the most successful performer at the international box office. Not only did he receive a special Academy Award for child stars, but he also earned a nomination for the prestigious Best Actor Oscar among adults. Even Laurence Olivier hailed him as “the greatest actor of them all.” Amidst all this success, he was on the brink of marriage.

Fast forward to Milton Keynes in 2009, where sixty-seven years and eight marriages later, a financially struggling Mickey Rooney found himself performing in panto alongside Bobby Davro and Ben Adams, a finalist on Celebrity Big Brother. His tumultuous journey included battles with addiction, multiple bankruptcies, and the tragic loss of his fifth wife at the hands of her ex-lover.

Rooney’s career trajectory took a bizarre turn, marked by questionable choices and mistreatment by his stepson, who was accused of neglecting Rooney’s basic needs while misusing his finances to sustain a lavish lifestyle.

Mickey Rooney, who passed away a decade ago this week, was a unique figure in Hollywood’s history. Despite his diminutive stature of five foot two, he possessed a versatile talent—he could act, sing, dance, play the piano, compose music, excel in slapstick comedy and Shakespearean roles, and engage in romantic liaisons with many of Hollywood’s leading ladies. His self-deprecating description of being “half-human, half-goblin” only added to his enigmatic charm. Amidst his professional success, his personal life unfolded like a captivating novel, filled with twists and turns unlike any other.

Rooney, originally born as Joseph Yule, Jr. in 1920 to parents in the burlesque industry, made his debut in show business at a tender age of 15 months. His journey to Hollywood with his mother kickstarted his illustrious career, leading to his iconic portrayal of Mickey McGuire in a series of films that eventually gave him his stage name, Mickey Rooney.

In 1935, at the age of 15, Rooney delivered a standout performance as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, showcasing his unique approach by infusing the character with otherworldly eccentricities. While his role as the teenage protagonist Andy Hardy may have seemed more conventional, it solidified his status as a megastar through a series of 16 immensely popular films spanning two decades.

Rooney’s romantic escapades off-screen rivaled his on-screen charisma, with a string of relationships that captivated the Hollywood gossip mill. From his marriage to Ava Gardner, marked by intense power struggles and infidelities, to his turbulent union with Barbara Ann Thomason, culminating in a tragic turn of events involving her affair with a Serbian actor, Rooney’s personal life mirrored the melodrama of his film roles.

Despite enduring a rollercoaster of highs and lows in his career, including financial woes, controversial roles, and battles with addiction, Rooney’s resilience shone through in his later years. Honored with prestigious awards and accolades, including an honorary Oscar in 1983, he continued to captivate audiences with his stage presence and nostalgic charm in productions like “Sugar Babies” and British pantomimes, showcasing a timeless connection to the world of entertainment.

In his final years, Rooney faced harrowing allegations of abuse at the hands of his stepson, shedding light on the dark reality of elder abuse. His poignant testimony before the US Senate underscored the challenges he endured, highlighting the need for awareness and advocacy on the issue. Rooney’s legacy, marred by personal struggles and public scrutiny, remains a testament to his enduring spirit and unparalleled contribution to the golden age of Hollywood.

As we reflect on Mickey Rooney’s complex legacy, characterized by triumphs and tribulations, his on-screen legacy endures as a beacon of Hollywood’s enduring optimism. Despite the personal turmoil that defined his life, Rooney’s performances exuded a sense of joy and resilience that transcended his own struggles, earning him a place among the pantheon of legendary actors in cinematic history.