Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney dies aged 93

Nick Higham looks back on Mickey Rooney's life

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Mickey Rooney, the child actor who became the world's top box office star, has died aged 93.

Born in Brooklyn, he began his career aged 18 months in his parents' vaudeville act, Yule and Carter, and continued filming right to the end.

In a film and musical career spanning nine decades, Rooney was nominated for four Academy Awards and received two special Oscars for his body of work.

By 1965, Mickey Rooney's 200 films had earned more than $3bn (£1.8bn).

Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern, who was pictured with Rooney at this year's Vanity Fair party after the Oscars ceremony, told the BBC: "Mickey Rooney was everything that's right about Hollywood. He is Hollywood."

Sir Laurence Olivier once referred to him as the greatest film actor America ever produced.

Rooney's death was first reported by US entertainment magazine Variety. The actor is said to have been ill for some time.

Los Angeles Police Commander Andrew Smith said Rooney was with his family when he died at his North Hollywood home.

Reckless lifestyle

Smith said police took a death report but added that there was nothing suspicious and it was not a police case.

Star Trek actor William Shatner was one of the first to pay tribute to Rooney on Twitter, describing the actor as "one of the greats!"

Broadway star Carol Channing said: "I loved working with Mickey on Sugar Babies. He was very professional, his stories were priceless and I love them all... each and every one. We laughed all the time."

Rooney was married eight times, including a first marriage to screen beauty Ava Gardner.

He separated from his last wife, Jan, in 2012. They married in 1978.

Mickey Rooney in 2011 The actor's motto was to "never retire but inspire"
Mickey Rooney playing the piano in 2007 True to his word, he continued to work in film, television and theatre up until his death

Asked once if he would marry all his wives again, Rooney replied: "Absolutely. I loved every one of them."

Initially named Joe Yule Junior, he was barely six years old when he had his first film role as a cigar-smoking adult in Orchids and Ermine.

In 1937, the actor took the part of Andy Hardy in the film A Family Affair. Playing the son of a small-town judge proved a huge box-office draw, and spawned a hit series lasting eight years.

At the same time, a series of barnyard musicals - including Babes on Broadway and Strike Up the Band - paired him with another celebrated youth star, Judy Garland.

By 1939, Rooney was established as the film industry's top box office draw and that year, at the age of 19, he became the youngest person to be nominated for a best actor Oscar for his role in Babes on Broadway.

His other Oscar nominations were for The Human Comedy (1943), The Bold and the Brave (1956) and The Black Stallion (1979).

Rooney joined the Army in 1943, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.

Mickey Rooney's marriages

  • Ava Gardner: 1942 - 1943
  • Betty Jane Rase: 1944 - 1949
  • Martha Vickers: 1949 - 1951
  • Elaine Devry: 1952 - 1958
  • Barbara Ann Thomason: 1958 - 1966
  • Marge Lane: 1966 - 1967
  • Carolyn Hockett: 1967 - 1975
  • Jan Chamberlin: 1978 - 2014 (separated 2012)

On his return, he went on to enjoy international triumph alongside Elizabeth Taylor in the 1944 movie National Velvet.

But despite his success, Rooney admitted his fame had forced him to grow up too quickly. By the time he was 30, he said he felt 100 years old.

Rooney appeared in four TV series during his career, including The Mickey Rooney Show in the 1950s.

But his star was on the wane, as he dropped from leading man to second man in films such as Military Policeman with Bob Hope and Korean war drama The Bridges at Toko-Ri alongside William Holden and Grace Kelly the following year.

The show business legend was declared bankrupt by the early 1960s, with much of his money spent on maintenance for his ex-wives and a reckless lifestyle.

However, his career enjoyed a revival with the film Pete's Dragon in 1977, and his show Sugar Babies, which hit Broadway in the late 1970s.

True to his motto to "never retire but inspire", Rooney continued to work in film, television and theatre.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, at the time of his death, Rooney was working on a film called The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

And Night at the Museum 3 director Shawn Levy tweeted that Rooney had shot scenes for the film just last month.

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