Mickey Rooney, who had an enviably long acting career that began when he was just a child, died on Sunday at the age of 93. After a lifetime of sharing the screen with the biggest stars of the day, Rooney has been called the most talented actor who ever lived by those who knew him; however, it was difficult for Rooney to get out from under the roles he was cast in as a young man and audiences quickly became tired of seeing him play the same sort of character.
The diminutive actor rose to fame in the 1930’s when he was just a teen, and for two consecutive years he was ranked number 1 when it came to big draws at the box office. After he returned from entertaining the troops in WWII, however, he realized it was time to make a change in his career.
“I was a 14-year-old boy for 30 years,” he said.
The problem was his short stature and baby face, although that didn’t keep him from winning favor with the ladies…or from ponying up at the casinos. Rooney wed eight times and incurred huge gambling debts that led to the demise of several of his relationships.
“I was a smash hit at the Riviera, where I drew $17,500 a week and lost twice that on the crap table,” Rooney wrote in his autobiography, “Life Is Too Short.”
Rooney quit drinking in the ’70s and began to turn things around with his career, putting together a revival of the burlesque show “Sugar Babies” that he toured with for several years. He later returned to film, and once said that he never felt like what he did was a “job”, per se.
“Growing up in vaudeville made me cognizant of the need to have fun at what you’re doing. You can’t get it done well without it being fun. And I’ve never felt that what I do is ‘work’,” he said.
Image via Wikimedia Commons