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Police: Legendary star Mickey Rooney dies at 93

KDWN

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mickey Rooney’s approach to life was simple: “Let’s put on a show!” He spent nine decades doing it, on the big-screen, on television, on stage and in his extravagant personal life.

A superstar in his youth, Rooney was Hollywood’s top box-office draw in the late 1930s to early 1940s. He epitomized the “show” part of show business, even if the business end sometimes failed him amid money troubles and a seesaw of career tailspins and revivals.

Pint-sized, precocious, impish, irrepressible – perhaps hardy is the most-suitable adjective for Rooney, a perennial comeback artist whose early blockbuster success as the vexing but wholesome Andy Hardy and as Judy Garland’s musical comrade in arms was bookended 70 years later with roles in “Night at the Museum” and “The Muppets.”

Rooney died Sunday surrounded by family at his North Hollywood home, police said. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office said Rooney died a natural death.

There were no further immediate details on the cause of death, but Rooney did attend Vanity Fair’s Oscar party last month, where he posed for photos with other veteran stars and seemed fine. He was also shooting a movie at the time of his death, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde,” with Margaret O’Brien.

He was nominated for four Academy Awards over a four-decade span and received two special Oscars for film achievements, won an Emmy for his TV movie “Bill” and had a Tony nomination for his Broadway smash “Sugar Babies.”

“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,” Carol Channing said.

A small man physically, Rooney was prodigious in talent, scope, ambition and appetite. He sang and danced, played roles both serious and silly, wrote memoirs, a novel, movie scripts and plays and married eight times, siring 11 children.

His first marriage – to the glamorous, and taller, Ava Gardner – lasted only a year. But a fond recollection from Rooney years later – “I’m 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava” – summed up the man’s passion and capacity for life.

Rooney began as a toddler in his parents’ vaudeville act in the 1920s. He was barely six when he first appeared on screen, playing a midget in the 1926 silent comedy short “Not to Be Trusted,” and he was still at it more than 80 years later, working incessantly as he racked up about 250 screen credits in a career unrivaled for length and variety.

“I always say, `Don’t retire – inspire,’” Rooney said in an interview with The Associated Press in March 2008. “There’s a lot to be done.”

This from a man who did more than just about anyone in Hollywood and outlasted pretty much everyone from old Hollywood.

Rooney was among the last survivors of the studio era, which his career predated, most notably with the lead in a series of “Mickey McGuire” kid comedy shorts from the late 1920s to early `30s that were meant to rival Hal Roach’s “Our Gang” flicks.

After signing with MGM in 1934, Rooney landed his first big role playing Clark Gable’s character as a boy in “Manhattan Melodrama.” A year later, still only in his mid-teens, Rooney was doing Shakespeare, playing an exuberant Puck in Max Reinhardt’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which also featured James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.

Rooney soon was earning $300 a week with featured roles in such films as “Riff Raff,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” “Captains Courageous” and “The Devil Is a Sissy.”

Then came Andy Hardy in the 1937 comedy “A Family Affair,” a role he would reprise in 15 more feature films over the next two decades. Centered on a kindly small-town judge (Lionel Barrymore) who delivers character-building homilies to troublesome son Andy, it was pure corn, but it turned out to be golden corn for MGM, becoming a runaway success with audiences.

“I knew `A Family Affair’ was a B picture, but that didn’t stop me from putting my all in it,” Rooney recalled.

Studio boss Louis B. Mayer saw “A Family Affair” as a template for a series of movies about a model American home. Cast changes followed, most notably with Lewis Stone replacing Barrymore in the sequels, but Rooney stayed on, his role built up until he became the focus of the films, which included “The Courtship of Andy Hardy,” “Andy Hardy’s Double Life” and “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” the latter featuring fellow child star Garland.

He played a delinquent humbled by Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan in 1938′s “Boys Town” and Mark Twain’s timeless scamp in 1939′s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Rooney’s peppy, all-American charm was never better matched than when he appeared opposite Garland in such films as “Babes on Broadway” and “Strike up the Band,” musicals built around that “Let’s put on a show” theme.

One of them, 1939′s “Babes in Arms,” earned Rooney a best-actor Oscar nomination, a year after he received a special Oscar shared with Deanna Durbin for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”

He earned another best-actor nomination for 1943′s “The Human Comedy,” adapted from William Saroyan’s sentimental tale about small-town life during World War II. The performance was among Rooney’s finest.

“Mickey Rooney, to me, is the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with,” “Human Comedy” director Clarence Brown once said.

Brown also directed Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in 1944′s horse-racing hit “National Velvet,” but by then, Rooney was becoming a cautionary tale for early fame. He earned a reputation for drunken escapades and quickie romances and was unlucky in both money and love. In 1942 he married for the first time, to Gardner, the statuesque MGM beauty. He was 21, she was 19.

They divorced a year later. Rooney joined the Army, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.

When he returned to Hollywood, disillusionment awaited him. His savings had been stolen by a manager and his career was in a nose dive. He made two films at MGM, then his contract was dropped.

“I began to realize how few friends everyone has,” he wrote in one of autobiographies. “All those Hollywood friends I had in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941, when I was the toast of the world, weren’t friends at all.”

His movie career never regained its prewar eminence. “The Bold and the Brave,” 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as “Off Limits” with Bob Hope, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” with William Holden, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” with Anthony Quinn.

In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as Audrey Hepburn’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor, and he was among the fortune seekers in the all-star comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

Rooney’s starring roles came in low-budget films such as “Drive a Crooked Road,” “The Atomic Kid,” “Platinum High School,” “The Twinkle in God’s Eye” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”

But no one ever could count Rooney out. He earned a fourth Oscar nomination, as supporting actor, for 1979′s “Black Stallion,” the same year he starred with Ann Miller in the Broadway revue “Sugar Babies,” which brought him a Tony nomination and millions of dollars during his years with the show.

“I’ve been coming back like a rubber ball for years,” Rooney wisecracked at the time.

In 1981 came his Emmy-winning performance as a disturbed man in “Bill.” He found success with voice roles for animated films such as “The Fox and the Hound,” “The Care Bears Movie” and the blockbuster “Finding Nemo.”

“He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Singing, dancing, performing … all with great expertise,” Margaret O’Brien said. “I was currently doing a film with him, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.” I simply can’t believe it. He seemed fine through the filming and was as great as ever.”

Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three short-lived series: “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954); “Mickey” (1964); and “One of the Boys” (1982). A co-star from “One of the Boys,” Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn’t stop boasting he once was “the number one star … IN THE WO-O-ORLD!”

A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: “i.e., an Autobiography” published in 1965, and “Life Is Too Short,” 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, “The Search for Sonny Skies,” in 1994.

In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1 1/2 and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience.

The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.

Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.

While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of “Pal o’ My Cradle Days.” During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut in 1926′s “Not to Be Trusted.”

The Mickey McGuire short comedies that followed gave him a new stage name, later appended, at his mother’s suggestion, to the last name Rooney, after vaudeville dancer Pat Rooney.

After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)

His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.

The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.

A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett – another divorce after five years and one daughter.

In 1978, Rooney, 57, married for the eighth – and apparently last – time. His bride was singer Janice Darlene Chamberlain, 39. Their marriage lasted longer than the first seven combined.

After a lifetime of carrying on, he became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He settled in suburban Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. In 2011, Rooney was in the news again when he testified before Congress about abuse of the elderly, alleging that he was left powerless by a family member who took and misused his money.

“I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated,” Rooney told a special Senate committee considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens. “But above all, when a man feels helpless, it’s terrible.”

That year Rooney took his stepson Christopher Aber and others to court on allegations that they tricked him into thinking he was on the brink of poverty while defrauding him out of millions and bullying him into continuing to work. At the time, Aber declined comment on the suit except to say, “this lawsuit is not from Mickey Rooney – it’s from his conservators who are stealing from him.” Both Rooney and his conservator were named as plaintiffs.

Biographical material in this story was written by former AP reporter David Germain and late AP reporter Bob Thomas. National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.

Police: Legendary star Mickey Rooney dies at 93

KDWN

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mickey Rooney’s approach to life was simple: “Let’s put on a show!” He spent nine decades doing it, on the big-screen, on television, on stage and in his extravagant personal life.

A superstar in his youth, Rooney was Hollywood’s top box-office draw in the late 1930s to early 1940s. He epitomized the “show” part of show business, even if the business end sometimes failed him amid money troubles and a seesaw of career tailspins and revivals.

Pint-sized, precocious, impish, irrepressible – perhaps hardy is the most-suitable adjective for Rooney, a perennial comeback artist whose early blockbuster success as the vexing but wholesome Andy Hardy and as Judy Garland’s musical comrade in arms was bookended 70 years later with roles in “Night at the Museum” and “The Muppets.”

Rooney died Sunday surrounded by family at his North Hollywood home, police said. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office said Rooney died a natural death.

There were no further immediate details on the cause of death, but Rooney did attend Vanity Fair’s Oscar party last month, where he posed for photos with other veteran stars and seemed fine. He was also shooting a movie at the time of his death, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde,” with Margaret O’Brien.

He was nominated for four Academy Awards over a four-decade span and received two special Oscars for film achievements, won an Emmy for his TV movie “Bill” and had a Tony nomination for his Broadway smash “Sugar Babies.”

“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,” Carol Channing said.

A small man physically, Rooney was prodigious in talent, scope, ambition and appetite. He sang and danced, played roles both serious and silly, wrote memoirs, a novel, movie scripts and plays and married eight times, siring 11 children.

His first marriage – to the glamorous, and taller, Ava Gardner – lasted only a year. But a fond recollection from Rooney years later – “I’m 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava” – summed up the man’s passion and capacity for life.

Rooney began as a toddler in his parents’ vaudeville act in the 1920s. He was barely six when he first appeared on screen, playing a midget in the 1926 silent comedy short “Not to Be Trusted,” and he was still at it more than 80 years later, working incessantly as he racked up about 250 screen credits in a career unrivaled for length and variety.

“I always say, `Don’t retire – inspire,’” Rooney said in an interview with The Associated Press in March 2008. “There’s a lot to be done.”

This from a man who did more than just about anyone in Hollywood and outlasted pretty much everyone from old Hollywood.

Rooney was among the last survivors of the studio era, which his career predated, most notably with the lead in a series of “Mickey McGuire” kid comedy shorts from the late 1920s to early `30s that were meant to rival Hal Roach’s “Our Gang” flicks.

After signing with MGM in 1934, Rooney landed his first big role playing Clark Gable’s character as a boy in “Manhattan Melodrama.” A year later, still only in his mid-teens, Rooney was doing Shakespeare, playing an exuberant Puck in Max Reinhardt’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which also featured James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.

Rooney soon was earning $300 a week with featured roles in such films as “Riff Raff,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” “Captains Courageous” and “The Devil Is a Sissy.”

Then came Andy Hardy in the 1937 comedy “A Family Affair,” a role he would reprise in 15 more feature films over the next two decades. Centered on a kindly small-town judge (Lionel Barrymore) who delivers character-building homilies to troublesome son Andy, it was pure corn, but it turned out to be golden corn for MGM, becoming a runaway success with audiences.

“I knew `A Family Affair’ was a B picture, but that didn’t stop me from putting my all in it,” Rooney recalled.

Studio boss Louis B. Mayer saw “A Family Affair” as a template for a series of movies about a model American home. Cast changes followed, most notably with Lewis Stone replacing Barrymore in the sequels, but Rooney stayed on, his role built up until he became the focus of the films, which included “The Courtship of Andy Hardy,” “Andy Hardy’s Double Life” and “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” the latter featuring fellow child star Garland.

He played a delinquent humbled by Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan in 1938′s “Boys Town” and Mark Twain’s timeless scamp in 1939′s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Rooney’s peppy, all-American charm was never better matched than when he appeared opposite Garland in such films as “Babes on Broadway” and “Strike up the Band,” musicals built around that “Let’s put on a show” theme.

One of them, 1939′s “Babes in Arms,” earned Rooney a best-actor Oscar nomination, a year after he received a special Oscar shared with Deanna Durbin for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”

He earned another best-actor nomination for 1943′s “The Human Comedy,” adapted from William Saroyan’s sentimental tale about small-town life during World War II. The performance was among Rooney’s finest.

“Mickey Rooney, to me, is the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with,” “Human Comedy” director Clarence Brown once said.

Brown also directed Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in 1944′s horse-racing hit “National Velvet,” but by then, Rooney was becoming a cautionary tale for early fame. He earned a reputation for drunken escapades and quickie romances and was unlucky in both money and love. In 1942 he married for the first time, to Gardner, the statuesque MGM beauty. He was 21, she was 19.

They divorced a year later. Rooney joined the Army, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.

When he returned to Hollywood, disillusionment awaited him. His savings had been stolen by a manager and his career was in a nose dive. He made two films at MGM, then his contract was dropped.

“I began to realize how few friends everyone has,” he wrote in one of autobiographies. “All those Hollywood friends I had in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941, when I was the toast of the world, weren’t friends at all.”

His movie career never regained its prewar eminence. “The Bold and the Brave,” 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as “Off Limits” with Bob Hope, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” with William Holden, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” with Anthony Quinn.

In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as Audrey Hepburn’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor, and he was among the fortune seekers in the all-star comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

Rooney’s starring roles came in low-budget films such as “Drive a Crooked Road,” “The Atomic Kid,” “Platinum High School,” “The Twinkle in God’s Eye” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”

But no one ever could count Rooney out. He earned a fourth Oscar nomination, as supporting actor, for 1979′s “Black Stallion,” the same year he starred with Ann Miller in the Broadway revue “Sugar Babies,” which brought him a Tony nomination and millions of dollars during his years with the show.

“I’ve been coming back like a rubber ball for years,” Rooney wisecracked at the time.

In 1981 came his Emmy-winning performance as a disturbed man in “Bill.” He found success with voice roles for animated films such as “The Fox and the Hound,” “The Care Bears Movie” and the blockbuster “Finding Nemo.”

“He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Singing, dancing, performing … all with great expertise,” Margaret O’Brien said. “I was currently doing a film with him, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.” I simply can’t believe it. He seemed fine through the filming and was as great as ever.”

Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three short-lived series: “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954); “Mickey” (1964); and “One of the Boys” (1982). A co-star from “One of the Boys,” Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn’t stop boasting he once was “the number one star … IN THE WO-O-ORLD!”

A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: “i.e., an Autobiography” published in 1965, and “Life Is Too Short,” 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, “The Search for Sonny Skies,” in 1994.

In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1 1/2 and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience.

The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.

Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.

While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of “Pal o’ My Cradle Days.” During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut in 1926′s “Not to Be Trusted.”

The Mickey McGuire short comedies that followed gave him a new stage name, later appended, at his mother’s suggestion, to the last name Rooney, after vaudeville dancer Pat Rooney.

After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)

His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.

The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.

A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett – another divorce after five years and one daughter.

In 1978, Rooney, 57, married for the eighth – and apparently last – time. His bride was singer Janice Darlene Chamberlain, 39. Their marriage lasted longer than the first seven combined.

After a lifetime of carrying on, he became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He settled in suburban Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. In 2011, Rooney was in the news again when he testified before Congress about abuse of the elderly, alleging that he was left powerless by a family member who took and misused his money.

“I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated,” Rooney told a special Senate committee considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens. “But above all, when a man feels helpless, it’s terrible.”

That year Rooney took his stepson Christopher Aber and others to court on allegations that they tricked him into thinking he was on the brink of poverty while defrauding him out of millions and bullying him into continuing to work. At the time, Aber declined comment on the suit except to say, “this lawsuit is not from Mickey Rooney – it’s from his conservators who are stealing from him.” Both Rooney and his conservator were named as plaintiffs.

Biographical material in this story was written by former AP reporter David Germain and late AP reporter Bob Thomas. National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.

Police: Legendary star Mickey Rooney dies at 93

KDWN

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mickey Rooney’s approach to life was simple: “Let’s put on a show!” He spent nine decades doing it, on the big-screen, on television, on stage and in his extravagant personal life.

A superstar in his youth, Rooney was Hollywood’s top box-office draw in the late 1930s to early 1940s. He epitomized the “show” part of show business, even if the business end sometimes failed him amid money troubles and a seesaw of career tailspins and revivals.

Pint-sized, precocious, impish, irrepressible – perhaps hardy is the most-suitable adjective for Rooney, a perennial comeback artist whose early blockbuster success as the vexing but wholesome Andy Hardy and as Judy Garland’s musical comrade in arms was bookended 70 years later with roles in “Night at the Museum” and “The Muppets.”

Rooney, who Los Angeles police said died Sunday at age 93, was nominated for four Academy Awards over a four-decade span and received two special Oscars for film achievements, won an Emmy for his TV movie “Bill” and had a Tony nomination for his Broadway smash “Sugar Babies.”

“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,” Carol Channing said.

A small man physically, Rooney was prodigious in talent, scope, ambition and appetite. He sang and danced, played roles both serious and silly, wrote memoirs, a novel, movie scripts and plays and married eight times, siring 11 children.

His first marriage – to the glamorous, and taller, Ava Gardner – lasted only a year. But a fond recollection from Rooney years later – “I’m 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava” – summed up the man’s passion and capacity for life.

Rooney began as a toddler in his parents’ vaudeville act in the 1920s. He was barely six when he first appeared on screen, playing a midget in the 1926 silent comedy short “Not to Be Trusted,” and he was still at it more than 80 years later, working incessantly as he racked up about 250 screen credits in a career unrivaled for length and variety.

“I always say, `Don’t retire – inspire,’” Rooney said in an interview with The Associated Press in March 2008. “There’s a lot to be done.”

This from a man who did more than just about anyone in Hollywood and outlasted pretty much everyone from old Hollywood.

Rooney was among the last survivors of the studio era, which his career predated, most notably with the lead in a series of “Mickey McGuire” kid comedy shorts from the late 1920s to early `30s that were meant to rival Hal Roach’s “Our Gang” flicks.

After signing with MGM in 1934, Rooney landed his first big role playing Clark Gable’s character as a boy in “Manhattan Melodrama.” A year later, still only in his mid-teens, Rooney was doing Shakespeare, playing an exuberant Puck in Max Reinhardt’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which also featured James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.

Rooney soon was earning $300 a week with featured roles in such films as “Riff Raff,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” “Captains Courageous” and “The Devil Is a Sissy.”

Then came Andy Hardy in the 1937 comedy “A Family Affair,” a role he would reprise in 15 more feature films over the next two decades. Centered on a kindly small-town judge (Lionel Barrymore) who delivers character-building homilies to troublesome son Andy, it was pure corn, but it turned out to be golden corn for MGM, becoming a runaway success with audiences.

“I knew `A Family Affair’ was a B picture, but that didn’t stop me from putting my all in it,” Rooney recalled.

Studio boss Louis B. Mayer saw “A Family Affair” as a template for a series of movies about a model American home. Cast changes followed, most notably with Lewis Stone replacing Barrymore in the sequels, but Rooney stayed on, his role built up until he became the focus of the films, which included “The Courtship of Andy Hardy,” “Andy Hardy’s Double Life” and “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” the latter featuring fellow child star Garland.

He played a delinquent humbled by Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan in 1938′s “Boys Town” and Mark Twain’s timeless scamp in 1939′s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Rooney’s peppy, all-American charm was never better matched than when he appeared opposite Garland in such films as “Babes on Broadway” and “Strike up the Band,” musicals built around that “Let’s put on a show” theme.

One of them, 1939′s “Babes in Arms,” earned Rooney a best-actor Oscar nomination, a year after he received a special Oscar shared with Deanna Durbin for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”

He earned another best-actor nomination for 1943′s “The Human Comedy,” adapted from William Saroyan’s sentimental tale about small-town life during World War II. The performance was among Rooney’s finest.

“Mickey Rooney, to me, is the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with,” “Human Comedy” director Clarence Brown once said.

Brown also directed Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in 1944′s horse-racing hit “National Velvet,” but by then, Rooney was becoming a cautionary tale for early fame. He earned a reputation for drunken escapades and quickie romances and was unlucky in both money and love. In 1942 he married for the first time, to Gardner, the statuesque MGM beauty. He was 21, she was 19.

They divorced a year later. Rooney joined the Army, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.

When he returned to Hollywood, disillusionment awaited him. His savings had been stolen by a manager and his career was in a nose dive. He made two films at MGM, then his contract was dropped.

“I began to realize how few friends everyone has,” he wrote in one of autobiographies. “All those Hollywood friends I had in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941, when I was the toast of the world, weren’t friends at all.”

His movie career never regained its prewar eminence. “The Bold and the Brave,” 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as “Off Limits” with Bob Hope, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” with William Holden, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” with Anthony Quinn.

In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as Audrey Hepburn’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor, and he was among the fortune seekers in the all-star comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

Rooney’s starring roles came in low-budget films such as “Drive a Crooked Road,” “The Atomic Kid,” “Platinum High School,” “The Twinkle in God’s Eye” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”

But no one ever could count Rooney out. He earned a fourth Oscar nomination, as supporting actor, for 1979′s “Black Stallion,” the same year he starred with Ann Miller in the Broadway revue “Sugar Babies,” which brought him a Tony nomination and millions of dollars during his years with the show.

“I’ve been coming back like a rubber ball for years,” Rooney wisecracked at the time.

In 1981 came his Emmy-winning performance as a disturbed man in “Bill.” He found success with voice roles for animated films such as “The Fox and the Hound,” “The Care Bears Movie” and the blockbuster “Finding Nemo.”

“He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Singing, dancing, performing … all with great expertise,” said actress Margaret O’Brien. “I was currently doing a film with him, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.” I simply can’t believe it. He seemed fine through the filming and was as great as ever.”

Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three short-lived series: “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954); “Mickey” (1964); and “One of the Boys” (1982). A co-star from “One of the Boys,” Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn’t stop boasting he once was “the number one star … IN THE WO-O-ORLD!”

A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: “i.e., an Autobiography” published in 1965, and “Life Is Too Short,” 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, “The Search for Sonny Skies,” in 1994.

In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1 1/2 and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience.

The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.

Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.

While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of “Pal o’ My Cradle Days.” During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut in 1926′s “Not to Be Trusted.”

The Mickey McGuire short comedies that followed gave him a new stage name, later appended, at his mother’s suggestion, to the last name Rooney, after vaudeville dancer Pat Rooney.

After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)

His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.

The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.

A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett – another divorce after five years and one daughter.

In 1978, Rooney, 57, married for the eighth – and apparently last – time. His bride was singer Janice Darlene Chamberlain, 39. Their marriage lasted longer than the first seven combined.

After a lifetime of carrying on, he became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He settled in suburban Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. In 2011, Rooney was in the news again when he testified before Congress about abuse of the elderly, alleging that he was left powerless by a family member who took and misused his money.

“I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated,” Rooney told a special Senate committee considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens. “But above all, when a man feels helpless, it’s terrible.”

That year Rooney took his stepson Christopher Aber and others to court on allegations that they tricked him into thinking he was on the brink of poverty while defrauding him out of millions and bullying him into continuing to work. At the time, Aber declined comment on the suit except to say, “this lawsuit is not from Mickey Rooney – it’s from his conservators who are stealing from him.” Both Rooney and his conservator were named as plaintiffs.

Biographical material in this story was written by former AP reporter David Germain and late AP reporter Bob Thomas. National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.

Police: Legendary star Mickey Rooney dies at 93

KDWN

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mickey Rooney’s approach to life was simple: “Let’s put on a show!” He spent nine decades doing it, on the big-screen, on television, on stage and in his extravagant personal life.

A superstar in his youth, Rooney was Hollywood’s top box-office draw in the late 1930s to early 1940s. He epitomized the “show” part of show business, even if the business end sometimes failed him amid money troubles and a seesaw of career tailspins and revivals.

Pint-sized, precocious, impish, irrepressible – perhaps hardy is the most-suitable adjective for Rooney, a perennial comeback artist whose early blockbuster success as the vexing but wholesome Andy Hardy and as Judy Garland’s musical comrade in arms was bookended 70 years later with roles in “Night at the Museum” and “The Muppets.”

Rooney, who Los Angeles police said died Sunday at age 93, was nominated for four Academy Awards over a four-decade span and received two special Oscars for film achievements, won an Emmy for his TV movie “Bill” and had a Tony nomination for his Broadway smash “Sugar Babies.”

“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,” Carol Channing said.

A small man physically, Rooney was prodigious in talent, scope, ambition and appetite. He sang and danced, played roles both serious and silly, wrote memoirs, a novel, movie scripts and plays and married eight times, siring 11 children.

His first marriage – to the glamorous, and taller, Ava Gardner – lasted only a year. But a fond recollection from Rooney years later – “I’m 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava” – summed up the man’s passion and capacity for life.

Rooney began as a toddler in his parents’ vaudeville act in the 1920s. He was barely six when he first appeared on screen, playing a midget in the 1926 silent comedy short “Not to Be Trusted,” and he was still at it more than 80 years later, working incessantly as he racked up about 250 screen credits in a career unrivaled for length and variety.

“I always say, `Don’t retire – inspire,’” Rooney said in an interview with The Associated Press in March 2008. “There’s a lot to be done.”

This from a man who did more than just about anyone in Hollywood and outlasted pretty much everyone from old Hollywood.

Rooney was among the last survivors of the studio era, which his career predated, most notably with the lead in a series of “Mickey McGuire” kid comedy shorts from the late 1920s to early `30s that were meant to rival Hal Roach’s “Our Gang” flicks.

After signing with MGM in 1934, Rooney landed his first big role playing Clark Gable’s character as a boy in “Manhattan Melodrama.” A year later, still only in his mid-teens, Rooney was doing Shakespeare, playing an exuberant Puck in Max Reinhardt’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which also featured James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.

Rooney soon was earning $300 a week with featured roles in such films as “Riff Raff,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” “Captains Courageous” and “The Devil Is a Sissy.”

Then came Andy Hardy in the 1937 comedy “A Family Affair,” a role he would reprise in 15 more feature films over the next two decades. Centered on a kindly small-town judge (Lionel Barrymore) who delivers character-building homilies to troublesome son Andy, it was pure corn, but it turned out to be golden corn for MGM, becoming a runaway success with audiences.

“I knew `A Family Affair’ was a B picture, but that didn’t stop me from putting my all in it,” Rooney recalled.

Studio boss Louis B. Mayer saw “A Family Affair” as a template for a series of movies about a model American home. Cast changes followed, most notably with Lewis Stone replacing Barrymore in the sequels, but Rooney stayed on, his role built up until he became the focus of the films, which included “The Courtship of Andy Hardy,” “Andy Hardy’s Double Life” and “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” the latter featuring fellow child star Garland.

He played a delinquent humbled by Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan in 1938′s “Boys Town” and Mark Twain’s timeless scamp in 1939′s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Rooney’s peppy, all-American charm was never better matched than when he appeared opposite Garland in such films as “Babes on Broadway” and “Strike up the Band,” musicals built around that “Let’s put on a show” theme.

One of them, 1939′s “Babes in Arms,” earned Rooney a best-actor Oscar nomination, a year after he received a special Oscar shared with Deanna Durbin for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”

He earned another best-actor nomination for 1943′s “The Human Comedy,” adapted from William Saroyan’s sentimental tale about small-town life during World War II. The performance was among Rooney’s finest.

“Mickey Rooney, to me, is the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with,” “Human Comedy” director Clarence Brown once said.

Brown also directed Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in 1944′s horse-racing hit “National Velvet,” but by then, Rooney was becoming a cautionary tale for early fame. He earned a reputation for drunken escapades and quickie romances and was unlucky in both money and love. In 1942 he married for the first time, to Gardner, the statuesque MGM beauty. He was 21, she was 19.

They divorced a year later. Rooney joined the Army, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.

When he returned to Hollywood, disillusionment awaited him. His savings had been stolen by a manager and his career was in a nose dive. He made two films at MGM, then his contract was dropped.

“I began to realize how few friends everyone has,” he wrote in one of autobiographies. “All those Hollywood friends I had in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941, when I was the toast of the world, weren’t friends at all.”

His movie career never regained its prewar eminence. “The Bold and the Brave,” 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as “Off Limits” with Bob Hope, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” with William Holden, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” with Anthony Quinn.

In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as Audrey Hepburn’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor, and he was among the fortune seekers in the all-star comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

Rooney’s starring roles came in low-budget films such as “Drive a Crooked Road,” “The Atomic Kid,” “Platinum High School,” “The Twinkle in God’s Eye” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”

But no one ever could count Rooney out. He earned a fourth Oscar nomination, as supporting actor, for 1979′s “Black Stallion,” the same year he starred with Ann Miller in the Broadway revue “Sugar Babies,” which brought him a Tony nomination and millions of dollars during his years with the show.

“I’ve been coming back like a rubber ball for years,” Rooney wisecracked at the time.

In 1981 came his Emmy-winning performance as a disturbed man in “Bill.” He found success with voice roles for animated films such as “The Fox and the Hound,” “The Care Bears Movie” and the blockbuster “Finding Nemo.”

“He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Singing, dancing, performing … all with great expertise,” said actress Margaret O’Brien. “I was currently doing a film with him, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.” I simply can’t believe it. He seemed fine through the filming and was as great as ever.”

Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three short-lived series: “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954); “Mickey” (1964); and “One of the Boys” (1982). A co-star from “One of the Boys,” Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn’t stop boasting he once was “the number one star … IN THE WO-O-ORLD!”

A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: “i.e., an Autobiography” published in 1965, and “Life Is Too Short,” 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, “The Search for Sonny Skies,” in 1994.

In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1 1/2 and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience.

The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.

Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.

While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of “Pal o’ My Cradle Days.” During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut in 1926′s “Not to Be Trusted.”

The Mickey McGuire short comedies that followed gave him a new stage name, later appended, at his mother’s suggestion, to the last name Rooney, after vaudeville dancer Pat Rooney.

After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)

His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.

The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.

A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett – another divorce after five years and one daughter.

In 1978, Rooney, 57, married for the eighth – and apparently last – time. His bride was singer Janice Darlene Chamberlain, 39. Their marriage lasted longer than the first seven combined.

After a lifetime of carrying on, he became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He settled in suburban Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. In 2011, Rooney was in the news again when he testified before Congress about abuse of the elderly, alleging that he was left powerless by a family member who took and misused his money.

“I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated,” Rooney told a special Senate committee considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens. “But above all, when a man feels helpless, it’s terrible.”

That year Rooney took his stepson Christopher Aber and others to court on allegations that they tricked him into thinking he was on the brink of poverty while defrauding him out of millions and bullying him into continuing to work. At the time, Aber declined comment on the suit except to say, “this lawsuit is not from Mickey Rooney – it’s from his conservators who are stealing from him.” Both Rooney and his conservator were named as plaintiffs.

Biographical material in this story was written by former AP reporter David Germain and late AP reporter Bob Thomas. National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.

Police: Legendary star Mickey Rooney dies at 93

KDWN

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mickey Rooney, the pint-size, precocious actor and all-around talent whose more than 80-year career spanned silent comedies, Shakespeare, Judy Garland musicals, Andy Hardy stardom, television and the Broadway theater, died Sunday at age 93.

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

Smith said police took a death report but indicated that there was nothing suspicious and it was not a police case. He said he had no additional details on the circumstances of his passing.

Rooney started his career in his parents’ vaudeville act while still a toddler, and broke into movies before age 10. He was still racking up film and TV credits more than 80 years later – a tenure likely unmatched in the history of show business.

“I always say, `Don’t retire – inspire,’” he told The Associated Press in March 2008. “There’s a lot to be done.”

Among his roles in recent years was a part as a guard in the smash 2006 comedy “A Night at the Museum.”

Rooney won two special Academy Awards for his film achievements, and reigned from 1939 to 1942 as the No. 1 moneymaking star in movies, his run only broken when he joined the Army. At his peak, he was the incarnation of the show biz lifer, a shameless ham and hoofer whom one could imagine singing, dancing and wisecracking in his crib, his blond hair, big grin and constant motion a draw for millions. He later won an Emmy and was nominated for a Tony.

“Mickey Rooney, to me, is the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with,” Clarence Brown, who directed his Oscar-nominated performance in “The Human Comedy,” once said.

Rooney’s personal life matched his film roles for color. His first wife was the glamorous – and taller – Ava Gardner, and he married seven more times, fathering seven sons and four daughters.

Through divorces, money problems and career droughts, he kept returning with customary vigor.

“I’ve been coming back like a rubber ball for years,” he commented in 1979, the year he returned with a character role in “The Black Stallion,” drawing an Oscar nomination as supporting actor, one of four nominations he earned over the years.

That same year he starred with Ann Miller in a revue called “Sugar Babies,” a hokey mixture of vaudeville and burlesque. It opened in New York in October 1979, and immediately became Broadway’s hottest ticket. Rooney received a Tony nomination (as did Miller) and earned millions during his years with the show.

To the end, he was a non-stop talker continually proposing enterprises, some accomplished, some just talk: a chain of barbecue stands; training schools for talented youngsters; a Broadway show he wrote about himself and Judy Garland; screenplays, novels, plays.

Rooney was among the last survivors of Hollywood’s studio era, which his career predated. Rooney signed a contract with MGM in 1934 and landed his first big role as Clark Gable as a boy in “Manhattan Melodrama.” A loanout to Warner Bros. brought him praise as an exuberant Puck in Max Reinhardt’s 1935 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which also featured James Cagney and a young Olivia de Havilland.

Rooney was soon earning $300 a week with featured roles in such films as “Riff Raff,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” “Captains Courageous,” “The Devil Is a Sissy,” and most notably, as a brat humbled by Spencer Tracy’s Father Flanagan in “Boys Town.”

The big break came with the wildly popular Andy Hardy series, beginning with “A Family Affair.”

“I knew `A Family Affair’ was a B picture, but that didn’t stop me from putting my all in it,” Rooney wrote. “A funny thing happened to this little programmer: released in April 1937, it ended up grossing more than half a million dollars nationwide.”

The critics grimaced at the depiction of a kindly small-town judge (Lionel Barrymore) with his character-building homilies to his obstreperous son. But MGM saw the film as a good template for a series and studio head Louis B. Mayer saw the series as a template for a model American home. With Barrymore replaced by Lewis Stone in subsequent films and Rooney’s part built up, Andy Hardy became a national hero and the 15 Hardy movies became a gold mine.

Rooney’s peppy, all-American charm was never better matched than when he appeared opposite his friend and fellow child star Garland in such films as “Babes on Broadway” and “Strike up the Band,” musicals built around a plot of “Let’s put on a show!” One of them, the 1939 “Babes in Arms,” brought him his first Oscar nomination. He was also in such dramas as “The Human Comedy,” 1943, which gained Rooney his second Oscar nomination as best actor, and “National Velvet,” 1944, with Elizabeth Taylor.

But Rooney became a cautionary tale for early fame. He earned a reputation for drunken escapades and quickie romances and was unlucky in both money and love. In 1942 he married for the first time, to Gardner, the statuesque MGM beauty. He was 21, she was 19.

“I’m 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava,” he said in later years. The marriage ended in a year, and Rooney joined the Army in 1943, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.

Rooney returned to Hollywood and disillusionment. His savings had been stolen by a manager and his career was in a nose dive. He made two films at MGM, then his contract was dropped.

“I began to realize how few friends everyone has,” he wrote in his second autobiography. “All those Hollywood friends I had in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941, when I was the toast of the world, weren’t friends at all.”

His movie career never regained its prewar eminence. “The Bold and the Brave,” 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as “Off Limits” with Bob Hope, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” with William Holden, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” with Anthony Quinn. In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as Audrey Hepburn’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor and was among the fortune seekers in the all-star comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

Rooney’s starring roles came in low-budget films such as “Drive a Crooked Road,” “The Atomic Kid,” “Platinum High School,” “The Twinkle in God’s Eye” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”

But his later career proved his resilience: The Oscar nomination for “Black Stallion.” The “Sugar Babies” hit that captivated New York, London, Las Vegas and major U.S. cities. Voicing animated features like “The Fox and the Hound,” “The Care Bears Movie” and “Little Nemo.” An Emmy for his portrayal of a disturbed man in the 1981 TV movie “Bill.” Teaming with his eighth wife, Jan, off-Broadway in 2004 for a musical look back at his career called, fittingly, “Let’s Put On a Show.”

Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three series: “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954), “Mickey” (1964) and “One of the Boys” (1982). All lasted one season and a co-star from “One of the Boys,” Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn’t stop boasting he once was “the number one star … IN THE WOOORLD!”

In 1983, the Motion Picture Academy presented Rooney with an honorary Oscar for his “60 years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances.” That matched the 1938 special award he shared with Deanna Durbin for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth.”

A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: “i.e., an Autobiography” published in 1965; “Life Is Too Short,” 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, “The Search for Sonny Skies,” in 1994.

In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1 1/2 and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience. The theater owner kept him in the show.

The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.

Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.

While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of “Pal o’ My Cradle Days.” During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut as a midget in a 1926 Fox short, “Not to Be Trusted.”

Young Joe Yule played another midget in a Warner Bros. feature, “Orchids and Ermine,” starring Colleen Moore. Then he tried out for the lead in a series of Mickey McGuire comedies, meant to rival Hal Roach’s “Our Gang.”

“I was ready to be Mickey McGuire,” Rooney wrote in his memoirs, “except for one thing: his hair was black, mine was blonde.”

His mother dyed his hair black the night before the audition, and her son won the role. He also acquired a new name: Mickey McGuire. He starred in 21 of the silent comedies, 42 with sound.

The boy was also playing kid parts in features, and his name seemed inappropriate. His mother suggested Rooney, after the vaudeville dancer, Pat Rooney.

After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)

His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.

The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.

A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett – another divorce after five years and one daughter.

In 1978, Rooney, 57, married for the eighth – and apparently last – time. His bride was singer Janice Darlene Chamberlain, 39. Their marriage lasted longer than the first seven combined.

After a lifetime of carrying on, he became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He settled in suburban Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. In 2011, Rooney was in the news again when he testified before Congress about abuse of the elderly, alleging that he was left powerless by a family member who took and misused his money.

“I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated,” Rooney told a special Senate committee considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens. “But above all, when a man feels helpless, it’s terrible.”

Biographical material in this story was written by late AP reporter Bob Thomas. National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.

Police: Legendary star Mickey Rooney dies at 93

KDWN

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mickey Rooney, the pint-size, precocious actor and all-around talent whose more than 80-year career spanned silent comedies, Shakespeare, Judy Garland musicals, Andy Hardy stardom, television and the Broadway theater, died Sunday at age 93.

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

Smith said police took a death report but indicated that there was nothing suspicious and it was not a police case. He said he had no additional details on the circumstances of his passing.

Rooney started his career in his parents’ vaudeville act while still a toddler, and broke into movies before age 10. He was still racking up film and TV credits more than 80 years later – a tenure likely unmatched in the history of show business.

“I always say, `Don’t retire – inspire,’” he told The Associated Press in March 2008. “There’s a lot to be done.”

Among his roles in recent years was a part as a guard in the smash 2006 comedy “A Night at the Museum.”

Rooney won two special Academy Awards for his film achievements, and reigned from 1939 to 1942 as the No. 1 moneymaking star in movies, his run only broken when he joined the Army. At his peak, he was the incarnation of the show biz lifer, a shameless ham and hoofer whom one could imagine singing, dancing and wisecracking in his crib, his blond hair, big grin and constant motion a draw for millions. He later won an Emmy and was nominated for a Tony.

“Mickey Rooney, to me, is the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with,” Clarence Brown, who directed his Oscar-nominated performance in “The Human Comedy,” once said.

Rooney’s personal life matched his film roles for color. His first wife was the glamorous – and taller – Ava Gardner, and he married seven more times, fathering seven sons and four daughters.

Through divorces, money problems and career droughts, he kept returning with customary vigor.

“I’ve been coming back like a rubber ball for years,” he commented in 1979, the year he returned with a character role in “The Black Stallion,” drawing an Oscar nomination as supporting actor, one of four nominations he earned over the years.

That same year he starred with Ann Miller in a revue called “Sugar Babies,” a hokey mixture of vaudeville and burlesque. It opened in New York in October 1979, and immediately became Broadway’s hottest ticket. Rooney received a Tony nomination (as did Miller) and earned millions during his years with the show.

To the end, he was a non-stop talker continually proposing enterprises, some accomplished, some just talk: a chain of barbecue stands; training schools for talented youngsters; a Broadway show he wrote about himself and Judy Garland; screenplays, novels, plays.

Rooney was among the last survivors of Hollywood’s studio era, which his career predated. Rooney signed a contract with MGM in 1934 and landed his first big role as Clark Gable as a boy in “Manhattan Melodrama.” A loanout to Warner Bros. brought him praise as an exuberant Puck in Max Reinhardt’s 1935 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which also featured James Cagney and a young Olivia de Havilland.

Rooney was soon earning $300 a week with featured roles in such films as “Riff Raff,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” “Captains Courageous,” “The Devil Is a Sissy,” and most notably, as a brat humbled by Spencer Tracy’s Father Flanagan in “Boys Town.”

The big break came with the wildly popular Andy Hardy series, beginning with “A Family Affair.”

“I knew `A Family Affair’ was a B picture, but that didn’t stop me from putting my all in it,” Rooney wrote. “A funny thing happened to this little programmer: released in April 1937, it ended up grossing more than half a million dollars nationwide.”

The critics grimaced at the depiction of a kindly small-town judge (Lionel Barrymore) with his character-building homilies to his obstreperous son. But MGM saw the film as a good template for a series and studio head Louis B. Mayer saw the series as a template for a model American home. With Barrymore replaced by Lewis Stone in subsequent films and Rooney’s part built up, Andy Hardy became a national hero and the 15 Hardy movies became a gold mine.

Rooney’s peppy, all-American charm was never better matched than when he appeared opposite his friend and fellow child star Garland in such films as “Babes on Broadway” and “Strike up the Band,” musicals built around a plot of “Let’s put on a show!” One of them, the 1939 “Babes in Arms,” brought him his first Oscar nomination. He was also in such dramas as “The Human Comedy,” 1943, which gained Rooney his second Oscar nomination as best actor, and “National Velvet,” 1944, with Elizabeth Taylor.

But Rooney became a cautionary tale for early fame. He earned a reputation for drunken escapades and quickie romances and was unlucky in both money and love. In 1942 he married for the first time, to Gardner, the statuesque MGM beauty. He was 21, she was 19.

“I’m 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava,” he said in later years. The marriage ended in a year, and Rooney joined the Army in 1943, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.

Rooney returned to Hollywood and disillusionment. His savings had been stolen by a manager and his career was in a nose dive. He made two films at MGM, then his contract was dropped.

“I began to realize how few friends everyone has,” he wrote in his second autobiography. “All those Hollywood friends I had in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941, when I was the toast of the world, weren’t friends at all.”

His movie career never regained its prewar eminence. “The Bold and the Brave,” 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as “Off Limits” with Bob Hope, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” with William Holden, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” with Anthony Quinn. In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as Audrey Hepburn’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor and was among the fortune seekers in the all-star comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

Rooney’s starring roles came in low-budget films such as “Drive a Crooked Road,” “The Atomic Kid,” “Platinum High School,” “The Twinkle in God’s Eye” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”

But his later career proved his resilience: The Oscar nomination for “Black Stallion.” The “Sugar Babies” hit that captivated New York, London, Las Vegas and major U.S. cities. Voicing animated features like “The Fox and the Hound,” “The Care Bears Movie” and “Little Nemo.” An Emmy for his portrayal of a disturbed man in the 1981 TV movie “Bill.” Teaming with his eighth wife, Jan, off-Broadway in 2004 for a musical look back at his career called, fittingly, “Let’s Put On a Show.”

Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three series: “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954), “Mickey” (1964) and “One of the Boys” (1982). All lasted one season and a co-star from “One of the Boys,” Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn’t stop boasting he once was “the number one star … IN THE WOOORLD!”

In 1983, the Motion Picture Academy presented Rooney with an honorary Oscar for his “60 years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances.” That matched the 1938 special award he shared with Deanna Durbin for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth.”

A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: “i.e., an Autobiography” published in 1965; “Life Is Too Short,” 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, “The Search for Sonny Skies,” in 1994.

In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1 1/2 and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience. The theater owner kept him in the show.

The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.

Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.

While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of “Pal o’ My Cradle Days.” During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut as a midget in a 1926 Fox short, “Not to Be Trusted.”

Young Joe Yule played another midget in a Warner Bros. feature, “Orchids and Ermine,” starring Colleen Moore. Then he tried out for the lead in a series of Mickey McGuire comedies, meant to rival Hal Roach’s “Our Gang.”

“I was ready to be Mickey McGuire,” Rooney wrote in his memoirs, “except for one thing: his hair was black, mine was blonde.”

His mother dyed his hair black the night before the audition, and her son won the role. He also acquired a new name: Mickey McGuire. He starred in 21 of the silent comedies, 42 with sound.

The boy was also playing kid parts in features, and his name seemed inappropriate. His mother suggested Rooney, after the vaudeville dancer, Pat Rooney.

After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)

His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.

The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.

A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett – another divorce after five years and one daughter.

In 1978, Rooney, 57, married for the eighth – and apparently last – time. His bride was singer Janice Darlene Chamberlain, 39. Their marriage lasted longer than the first seven combined.

After a lifetime of carrying on, he became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He settled in suburban Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. In 2011, Rooney was in the news again when he testified before Congress about abuse of the elderly, alleging that he was left powerless by a family member who took and misused his money.

“I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated,” Rooney told a special Senate committee considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens. “But above all, when a man feels helpless, it’s terrible.”

Biographical material in this story was written by late AP reporter Bob Thomas. National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.