Former child actor and Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney has died aged 93 after a career spanning ten decades.
Born in New York in 1920, Rooney began his life in showbiz at the age of two, joining his parents’ vaudeville act before moving to Los Angeles with his mother when they divorced. He soon became a star of the screen, landing the title role in the Mickey McGuire series of film shorts between 1927 to 1934 before starring in another series – the Andy Hardy films – between 1937 and 1946.
Thanks to the popularity of Hardy, Rooney became the top box office attraction from 1939 to 1940, after landing a miniature Academy Award for juveniles along with Deanna Durbin in 1938.
Rooney found success paired with Judy Garland in two of the Hardy movies and again in 1939 in Babes in Arms (which won Rooney an Oscar nomination) and Girl Crazy (1943). “We weren’t just a team, we were magic,” Rooney once said in a stage show about his life.
But off screen a young Rooney caused MGM studios plenty of headaches, indulging in gambling, drugs, womanising and a failed production company which eventually led to his bankruptcy in the early 1960s. He was married eight times, including to screen siren Ava Gardner, before finding a lasting partnership with Jan Chamberlain, from 1978 to the time of his death. When asked if he would enter into every one of his marriages again, Rooney famously replied, “Absolutely. I loved every one of them.”
A career that lasted 92 years suffered a number of dips. American audiences tired of the ageing child actor after the Second World War, but he picked up two more Oscar nominations in adult roles for 1956’s The Bold and the Brave and The Black Stallion in 1979 – the same year he found success on Broadway in Sugar Babies. Rooney won Emmy and Golden Globe awards in 1982 for his portrayal of a mentally handicapped man in TV movie Bill and was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1983.
“He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn’t do,” said actress Margaret O’Brien in a statement.
Rooney continued to work until shortly before his death, appearing in UK pantomimes between 2007 and 2009, the same year he was a guest on a celebrity edition of Come Dine with Me.
Rooney died surrounded by his family in his North Hollywood home, US police have confirmed. He leaves behind five children.