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Hollywood star Mickey Rooney has died at the age of 93 after being ill for a year or so. His stage, film (both silent and talkies) and TV career lasted a remarkable 92 years.
Rooney was born Joseph Yule, Jr. in Brooklyn on September 23, 1920. Both of his parents were in vaudeville and Rooney began performing at the age of 17 months as part of his parents’ act, wearing a specially tailored tuxedo.
Producer Hal Roach offered Jo Yule Jr. a part in the Hollwood series Our Gang and from that time on he began to get bit parts in films working with the likes of Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Jean Harlow. In 1935 he appeared as Puck in the Hollywood version of A Midsummer Night's Dream scored by Korngold after Mendelssohn. He graduated from Hollywood High School in 1938 by which time he had changed his name to Mickey Rooney.
In 1937, Rooney appeared in Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry, his first film alongside his friend Judy Garland. They went on to make a string of successful musicals, including 1939’s Oscar-nominated Babes in Arms. Other notable pre-war films included 1938’s Boys Town with Spencer Tracy.
After the war (during which he entertained the US troops) Rooney’s film career declined but he re-invented himself as a TV performer and presenter with The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan and went on to appear in numerous TV specials throughout the 1950s and 60s. In 1961 he appeared controversially as Holly Golightly's Asian neighbour in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
The 1980s to 2000s saw him touring in theatre and musicals with some notable guest appearances on programmes like The Muppets. In 2007 he even made his British pantomime debut, playing Baron Hardup in Cinderella at the Sunderland Empire.
In 2011 Mickey Rooney testified on Capitol Hill in Washington about elder abuse, in the case of one of his stepsons, before the Senate Ageing Committee.
He continued to appear sporadically in films up until the end, featuring in Night at the Museum in 2006 and his last outing being the latest incarnation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, due out in October 2014.
Notoriously married eight times (Ava Gardner was the first, lasting from 1942-1943), Rooney separated from his latest wife, Jan, only last year. He leaves nine children, as well as nineteen grandchildren.