Legendary actor Micky Rooney has died at the age of 93, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing confirmation by the L.A. coroner’s office. The news was first reported by TMZ.
Longevity has a price: At the end of an eight-decade career that included hundreds of films, Rooney was known more as a mascot for Hollywood’s Golden Age than as a star in his own right. But long before his latter-day career as a lovable geezer (most recently in 2006’s Night at the Museum) and chipper red-carpet interviewee, Rooney was one of the world’s most famous actors, a teen icon whose box-office muscle in the 1930s has yet to be matched by the Baios and Efrons who came after him.
Born in Brooklyn in 1920, Rooney (ne Joseph Yule Jr.) never knew a life outside of show business. His parents were vaudevillians who began working their son into their act when he was just 18 months old. At age 6, he landed his first film role as a cigar-smoking midget in Not to Be Trusted (1926). A successful string of silent shorts followed, and by age 14, Rooney was signed to MGM, where he would stay for more than a decade, making up to nine films a year. The most famous of those were the Andy Hardy pictures, a Depression-era comedy series that made Rooney the most bankable star in the world by pairing him with era’s brightest starlets, including Judy Garland, his costar in 14 films.
But Rooney struggled to find a place in Hollywood as an adult, gaining only sporadic success on stage — he found a hit in the 1979 Broadway play Sugar Babies — and in character parts like his Oscar-nominated turn in The Black Stallion (1979). A vocal conservative and Christian, Rooney also had a colorful personal life that included eight marriages: the first was to Ava Gardner in 1942, the last to Jan Chamberlin in 1978. Rooney and Chamberlin “permanently and legally separated” in June 2012, according to the actor’s official biography on his website.