In remembrance of Mickey Rooney, we take a moment to celebrate Rooney’s long film career, which began at the early age of six in 1926 in the short film Not to Be Trusted and concluded 88 years later at age of 93. Not one to be slowed down and ever full of energy, he most recently appeared in Night at the Museum (2006) and The Muppets (2011). Mr. Rooney was apparently in the process of making a film when he died on Sunday, April 6, in his home in North Hollywood, California.
Below are a few clips (and a bit of history) that we pulled together from Rooney’s remarkably long career.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935). When admirers of the late Mickey Rooney recall the many movies he appeared in, their thoughts often turn to Andy Hardy, the teenager he played in the sixteen productions of this MGM series. What most fans of this prolific actor do not know is that Rooney appeared on stage in 1934 at the Hollywood Bowl in Max Reinhardt’s production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Warner Bros. Studios, then, made a film version in 1935 with Reinhardt also directing. If this Austrian’s name is unfamiliar, it should be noted that Reinhardt was probably the most famous theater man of his time in the German-speaking countries of Europe. His technique for teaching acting, known as the Reinhardt system, was diametrically opposed to the “Method” of his contemporary, Constantin Stanislavski. Reinhardt, driven out of Germany during the Nazi period (he was Jewish), emigrated to the United States, where he was already well-known. The Warner Bros. Studios wished to benefit from Reinhardt’s fame by producing a film of quality: namely, a work by William Shakespeare. It was a given that Rooney should reprise his role as Puck from the stage show. Reinhardt said of the fifteen-year-old that, without a doubt, Rooney was the best Puck he had ever created. Viewers of the film may not agree with Reinhardt’s judgment, but it must be realized that the director had fashioned a viable character out of an actor who was inexperienced in performing an Elizabethan play. No one who views the film today can forget the energy which Mickey Rooney brought to his performance, and the pleasure he partook in uttering one of the comedy’s most famous lines: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
—A U.S. Army Veteran