Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Born Today September 23: Mickey Rooney


Born Joseph Yule Jr. in New York City to vaudevillian parents, he was literally born into "the business."  At the time of his birth, to a Scottish immigrant father, and an American mother of English ancestry, his parents were literally appearing in a Brooklyn production of A Gaiety Girl.  So basically he was a child actor, even an infant actor, as his first stage appearance came at the age of 17 months of age (one account puts him at 15 months).  During his acting career, he acted and on and in vaudeville, the Stage--including Broadway, radio, films and television.  He appeared in over 300 films.  He is listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records as having the longest movie career at 86 years of any other actor (male or female); if one were inclined to add his earliest work on, he might have the longest acting career in history.  As to how he came to the name "Mickey Rooney" from Joe Yule Jr. actually applies to the subject of this blog--the silents.  Obviously, being born in 1920 means that he was a seriously young child actor in that decade.  After his parents separated, his mother moved him to Hollywood (after moving from New York to Kansas City where she had relocated during a vaudeville slump, with husband traveling for work).  She took him to an audition call from Fox Fontaine for a dark haired child actor (according to legend she couldn't afford to have his hair dyed, so she rubbed his hair down with burnt cork), he got the part and his first role came in 1926 as Mickey McBan, a barely disguised version of the character he came to play formed from a strip cartoon (in that he is credited with same name as the character McBan).  This led to a contract for a series of short films based on the actual character named "Mickey McGuire," the cartoon character that Fox was, well, ripping off to begin with the McBan credit.  Because of this, Fox convinced his mother to have his name legally changed to the character's name, in a disgustingly slimy move on their part to get around paying royalties to the cartoon strip writers--his mother changed her last name to McGuire as well.  There was a very nasty law suit filed against the studio that they lost, which, I guess meant he was legally returned to his birth name (not at all sure about this, it's vague and the ligation was messy).  Well, there comes the "Mickey" part--and these are the movies that will be featured below in this post.  As to the "Rooney" part, that came when there was a series interruption of Mickey McGuire shorts which came in 1932 and his mother wanted to take him out on a touring vaudevillian Show, she wanted to bill him as "McGuire," and Fox was compelled to sue her to keep her from doing that because it was part of the legal settlement that he not be allowed to use the name in any way whatsoever.  So she suggested Looney, since he was known as a comedic actor, but the kid had enough sense to suggest "Rooney" instead, reminding his mother about lawsuits--it would have been a copyright infringement on Warner's Looney Tunes. Hence Mickey Rooney was born when he was 12 years of age.  Fatherless, a number early Hollywood big shots took on fatherly like roles as he appeared in films with them, people like Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore, but it was Louie B. Mayer that became the most important man in his younger life.  From there on, he had one hell of a reputation, if one is inclined to delve, you don't have to go too deep to find some truly dark stuff!  He was well known to have a terrible gambling problem and was married 8 times--none of them successful (he was separated from his last wife at the time of his death), but that's about as far I will go here, especially given that it's his child work in the 20's that this blog is concerned with.  On the other hand, it has to be pointed out that he worked right up to his death, not something often seen with actors in very advanced years.  Clearly he truly loved the entertainment business--he came in the world an actor and he left it the same way.  He died on the 6th of April 2014 at the staggering age of 93.  Vanity Fare called him "the original Hollywood train wreck."  Like so many other famous people in Hollywood, he is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The 1920's Mickey McGuire Shorts:

Not To Be Trusted (1926) (credited to Mickey McBan)

Mickey's Brown Derby (1929) (partial silent)

No comments:

Post a Comment