Happy 90th birthday to perhaps the greatest of our remaining stars of the Golden Age! (Okay, Olivia de Havilland and Shirley Temple have a pretty good case too, and probably a couple of others slipping my mind. Depends how your tastes run I'd imagine.) I've found myself so immersed in Mickey Rooney lately I almost wonder if I subconsciously planned it all around this birthday bash.
First I reviewed the first of the Hardy movies, but the timing was purely coincidental as it was a response to a long overdue reader request. Next we covered Jackie Cooper's birthday which led to my watching The Devil Is a Sissy (1936). Earlier this week I posted a Bonita Granville Bullet Bio which included a couple of paragraphs on her two appearances opposite Rooney's Andy Hardy. Yesterday a copy of Rooney's 1991 autobiography, Life is Too Short, arrived in the mail and I find myself already about 100 pages in (more on that experience below). Then last night I took a peek at the TCM schedule and realized, oh boy, Thursday was Mickey Rooney day on TCM!
So I apologize if this feels like it's turned into a Mickey Rooney fan site recently, I think it's all coincidence, at most a phase ... which will surely end when I begin pummeling you with Fredric March articles celebrating his status as TCM's Star of the Month throughout October.
I really like Thursday's TCM schedule and it's going to have my DVD recorder humming all day as I need to capture all but two of the Rooney choices. What do I like? Well it's young Mickey Rooney, post-Mickey McGuire and pre-mega stardom. I think TCM had a day, or at least a partial day, of Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland features a week or two back. He's big by then, at his peak, but what TCM gives us on Thursday is a partial survey of Mickey Rooney's rise to stardom.
It starts with pre-coder The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933), which if you're familiar with the remake, They Made Me a Criminal (1939) starring John Garfield, finds Mickey playing one of the kids who'd morph into a Dead End Kid in the later picture. Broadway to Hollywood (1933) gets a decent mention in Rooney's book, where he calls it "a rags-to-riches saga with songs," as important to his career, and then we come to the film which really sparked things towards that mega-stardom, A Family Affair (1936), the first of the Hardy Family movies.
Missing items of interest which would have perhaps improved Thursday's choices are Manhattan Melodrama (1934), Ah, Wilderness! (1935), Captains Courageous (1937), and Boys Town (1938), which would have capped things off nicely. Still, three of those are pretty commonly shown and I'll never fault TCM for breaking out the rarer stuff, so this is great!
Mickey Rooney TCM Birthday Schedule
September 23, 2010 - All times EST
- 6:15 am The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933) starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Loretta Young, Aline MacMahon
- 7:45 am The Chief (1933) starring Ed Wynn, Chic Sale, Dorothy Mackaill
- 9:00 am Broadway to Hollywood (1933) starring Alice Brady, Frank Morgan, Jackie Cooper
- 10:30 am Death on the Diamond (1934) starring Robert Young, Madge Evans, Nat Pendleton
- 11:45 am A Family Affair (1936) starring Lionel Barrymore, Cecilia Parker, Eric Linden
- 1:00 pm Down That Stretch (1936) starring Patricia Ellis, Mickey Rooney, Dennis Moore
- 2:15 pm You're Only Young Once (1938) starring Lewis Stone, Cecilia Parker, Mickey Rooney
- 3:45 pm Stablemates (1938) starring Wallace Beery, Mickey Rooney, Arthur Hohl
- 5:15 pm Love Is a Headache (1938) starring Gladys George, Franchot Tone, Ted Healy
- 6:30 pm He's a Cockeyed Wonder (1950) starring Mickey Rooney, Terry Moore, William Demarest
I'm about 100 pages into Life Is Too Short as I write this, having just reached the chapter titled Lana and Judy. So far, so good, it kind of feels like I'm sitting around listening to a slightly foul-mouthed Andy Hardy tell me stories about the good old days. Rooney's razor sharp recollections of incidents happening as far back as when he was just 18 months old do seem to call the overall accuracy of what he writes into doubt, but then again there are brutally honest admissions mixed in that surely nobody would wish to make up. Rooney casually tells how he caught his mother prostituting herself in order to support them before he found regular work in Hollywood. He rips his father to pieces, rips Louis B. Mayer since his first mention. He brags about losing his virginity at age 11, a quick but graphic story. Already there's a good deal of shock value and he's only just turned 16 in the pages I've reached!
What I like about Life Is Too Short is I don't even feel like I'm reading. Instead I hear Rooney's voice talking to me as though he caught me hanging around the front of his house and decided to take some time to tell me all about the good old days. For some reason I picture myself seated on a milk crate, elbows on knees, hunched forward in fascination. What'll he say next?! I've only got about 240 pages til I reach the filmography and other back matter and all I know for sure it's going to be very direct even if he makes me stop to read a few lines over and over again before I get there!
Mickey Rooney Gallery of Vintage Collectibles
Following is an image gallery of vintage Mickey Rooney movie cards and collectibles from the 1930's through 1954. Just click any image to enlarge and you'll be able to scroll through them all from there. Enjoy!