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MICKEY’S GONE; ANDY HARDY LIVES

        

For Hicksflicks.com, April 11, 2014

Sunday night a local 10 o'clock news anchor announced the death of Mickey Rooney by saying he was famous as one of the Hardy Boys. She was, of course, referring to Rooney's 16-film run in the 1930s and '40s as spunky teenager Andy Hardy.

The Hardy Boys? That was something else.

But this anchorwoman is in her 30s and probably didn't have a clue about Mickey Rooney, unless she saw "The Black Stallion" (1980) as a kid. And even then she probably didn't remember the name of the old guy that played the horse's trainer in the second half of the film. (Although the film earned Rooney his fourth Oscar nomination.)

                      

       Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, Rooney, "A Night at the Museum."

Rooney was much more than Andy Hardy, though, and the fact that he was 92 when he died — and still working (he is listed as a cast member of "A Night at the Museum 3," which opens in December) — speaks to his longevity.

                           

                          Rooney as "Mickey McGuire."

Rooney's earliest performances were in shorts that spanned the end of the silent era through the first half of the 1930s as sound was taking over Hollywood. During that time, he played "Mickey McGuire" in 78 short comedies adapted from a newspaper comic strip.

It was after signing a contract with MGM that he was on his way to the A-list. Following a series of supporting roles in major and minor movies, he began to be recognized for supporting roles in such all-star prestige pictures as "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1935, as Puck), "Captains Courageous" (1936) and "Ah, Wilderness!" (1935).

                    

 Rooney and Judy Garland in poster for "Andy Hardy" sequel.

Rooney was not one to settle for typecasting in light comedy, however, and he demonstrated his range in such MGM hits as "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1938), "Boys Town" (1938), "Babes in Arms" (1939), "Young Tom Edison" (1939), "The Human Comedy" (1943), "National Velvet" (1944), "Quicksand" (1949), "The Bold and the Brave" (1955), "Baby Face nelson" (1957) and many more.

                     

                Elizabeth Taylor, Rooney in "National Velvet."

Rooney was famously short, and much was made of that fact (often self-effacing jokes he himself made), but in Hollywood he stood tall.

In addition to his four Oscar nominations, Rooney's career was sort of bookended with two special Oscars — one a "Juvenile Award," which he shared with Deanna Durbin in 1938, and the other a lifetime-achievement Honorary Award, which he received in 1983.

The latter was given to him for "50 years of versatility," and then he continued to make movies for another 30 years.

Rooney was the living embodiment of that old adage, "The show must go on."

But it was his comic-relief supporting role in a little B-movie titled "A Family Affair" (1937), in which he played the teenage son of a judge, that shot him to star player. The film was never intended to begin a franchise, but it was so popular, and Andy was such a breakout character, that it led to more movies about the Hardy family, with Rooney eventually taking center stage.