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Robert Osborne on Mickey Rooney
Remind Me

Robert Osborne on Mickey Rooney

One question I invariably used to ask in interviews is "Who's the most talented person you've ever known in show business?" I didn't keep doing that very long because I always got the same answer. Lucille Ball, without a moment's hesitation, said "Mickey Rooney." Robert Mitchum said "Mickey Rooney!" as if it was so obvious the question really didn't need to be asked. Anthony Quinn said it, too: "Mickey Rooney, absolutely." I also read that Cary Grant had made the same declaration.

Actually, that's no surprise. Who else can you name who's done so much? Think about it: acting, singing, dancing, playing multiple instruments, performing on screen and stage, on radio, television and records, in barns, vaudeville houses, summer stock tents, dinner theaters, cabaret rooms and Broadway houses--and done it so well, so publicly and so long as Rooney has?

Certainly few can equal the Rooney endurance record. He made his debut on stage at the age of 15 months. Last September 23, the Mick celebrated his 90th birthday, working in films for 85 of those years and blowing out the candles on his cake just after he finished a cabaret engagement with his wife Jan at a Manhattan nightspot. (At the moment, he also has three new films in the post-production phase.) There's one word for Mickey: indefatigable.

There's another word for his talent: priceless. No wonder he's been so well rewarded over the years: constant casting, two Oscars® (honorary ones, in 1939 and 1983), an Emmy,® two Golden Globes,® several years as the number one box-office star in the entire movie industry, plus piles of other prizes and maybe the most heartening honor of them all--the affection of the public for the greater share of those 90 years. (As a side note, the one thing that's always baffled me is why two other prime U.S. awards have never come his way: a Kennedy Center honor and an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award. Who deserves them more?)

At TCM, we have no Kennedy or AFI prize at our disposal, but we do have something we hope you, and Mickey, will enjoy: five 24-hour sessions of his movies this month, during which we'll be showing 70 Rooney films. On the schedule are all 16 Andy Hardy features and all of Rooney's movies with Judy Garland, including their five big Arthur Freed-produced blockbuster musicals, one of which, 1939's Babes in Arms, brought Mickey the first of his four Oscar® nominations. There will also be early Mickey films in which he had little more than glorified bits, as well as the great triumphs of his career, including such Rooney essentials as 1935's A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1939's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1943's The Human Comedy, 1944's National Velvet, 1959's The Last Mile, 1962's Requiem for a Heavyweight and 1979's The Black Stallion.

It begins December 2 at 6 a.m. Eastern and continues every Thursday throughout the month thereafter--very likely the most complete film retrospective that's ever been done on this marvelously talented, 5´3" giant. We hope you'll be able to join us often. It'll make your Christmas a merrier one--guaranteed!

by Robert Osborne