The Life and Times of Mickey Rooney
Authored by Richard A. Lertzman and William J. Birnes. Released by Gallery Books.
Having finally put down this recent release encompassing much of Mickey’s private and professional life I’m tempted to throw a few subtitles out there for it’s eventual release in soft cover.
How about…….. “The proper way to repeatedly lose untold millions over 90 plus years.”
“The Mick” is one of those actors that up until his recent death is a personality that has always “been there” in my life. I’d see him on afternoon television when I was a kid in black and white features from the thirties that Mom might be watching like the Andy Hardy flicks or Boys Town. She’d try to get me watching the color extravaganzas with Judy Garland as the two moved to the music, singing and dancing. “No thanks, Mom. How about a western.”
I know for a fact the family went off to see Pete’s Dragon at the theater and sure enough there he was again in the late 70’s. Late night TV brought me into contact with arguably the best of comedies, It’s a Mad World. Mick along with Buddy Hackett is just hilarious.
“Ah, this is hopeless. We’re gonna get no place if we’re gonna continue listening to this old bag. ”
I’m also thinking I saw his return to form in The Black Stallion during it’s initial theatrical run. Though I haven’t seen anything other then his appearance in those Museum flicks of late, he’s just always been around. He’s been a constant in the world of movies and entertainment as a whole.
This bio begins where it should, in the world of vaudeville when Mickey was a two year old and being raised under the bright lights and quickly becoming a child performer. With the advent of the Little Rascals, Mickey became known as Mickey McGuire. Star of his own series of shorts to compete with Spanky and the gang.
I had no idea that at one point Mickey was under contract to Universal Studios before signing with Mr. Mayer and becoming the world’s number one box office draw for MGM. The Andy Hardy years proved extremely successful for Mickey though it was Mayer who reaped the financial rewards.
Then along came Ava Gardner and Mickey’s world seemed to spiral out of control as he got caught up in the marriage go round for the first of eight walks to the altar. Of his eight marriages, I had no idea that one of his wives was the victim of a murder – suicide nightmare in the sixties.
As many “ups” as there are in Mickey’s story, there seems to be a whole lot more downs. The fall from grace after leaving MGM is well documented and the on going struggle for money and to a certain degree, irresponsibly losing it through bad business decisions, ex-wives and sadly an addiction to drugs and gambling that seemed to go unchecked most of his life.
As a film fan, I have to admit I much prefer the trivia surrounding Mickey’s many films both during the golden era and his character parts in the many films of the fifties and sixties (The Bridges at Toko Ri) as opposed to his personal demons and run ins with bill collectors and bookies. Not to mention the many folks it seemed that rode Mickey for all he was worth for their own gain.
I also think I much prefer the on screen Mickey personality as opposed to the private one described within the pages of this detailed examination of Mick’s life. It seems that if Mickey wasn’t performing he could be a bit of a jerk. Irresponsible, a runaway Dad and rather rude to many of his fans. Publicly I like the Mickey I see on the screen, privately I don’t think I’d have gotten along with the pint sized fireball.
Not sorry I read this bio that does it’s best to unveil the Mickey behind the scenes but somehow wish it was more in line with a “films of” book that focused squarely on his cinematic career covering the many roles that Mick undertook in an astounding 90 year career.