Her roles were largely stereotypical, yet her charm and goofiness made her memorable. Here’s a look at her work beyond Gone With the Wind.

DESIGN IN FILM: THE MODERN HOUSEAn eight-minute video montage of modern homes—real and fake—as seen on the silver screen.

An examination of the lengthy career of the Chinese-American character actor, from Charlie Chan to Woody Allen.

70MMThirty visually stunning films that illustrate the grandeur of large-format filmmaking.

Our look at the Texas actor’s 43-year film career, including an ill-advised Oscar campaign. 

A look at the professional life of an actress who proved to be much more than just the Wicked Witch of the West.

NEBRASKANSA look at some of the memorable talentsfrom Astaire to Zanuck—to come from the Cornhusker State.

Twenty-five cool photos reveal what goes on outside of movie camera range.

Our list of at least a dozen silent film performers that are happily still with us.

12 GREAT MOVIE SONGSElvis, The Beatles and The Supremes join our list of favorite movie themes of the 1960s.

WILHELM SCREAMWe trace the history of one of the most famous and beloved sound effects in movies.

LOST HORIZONA dud receives its due as we explore the elements that made this 1973 musical so preposterously memorable.

One hundred films whose final words of dialogue make indelible lasting impressions.

25 GREAT SILENT MOVIE POSTERSOur selection of artwork from the early days of motion pictures that expertly illustrate the tone and tale of the films they represent.

RAVES AND RASPBERRIES We select some choice bits from reviews by the late Roger Ebert.

ERROL FLYNN GETS WHACKEDThe actor recalls an unforgettable moment with Bette Davis on the set of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

CINEMATIC RIDESTen films where carnival attractions add to the plot and give their protagonists a cheap thrill.

Three overwrought cautionary tales from the 1930s examine the perils of smoking marijuana in polite society.

20 DIRECTORS / 20 FILMSSome of the world’s best moviemakers from Hollywood’s Golden Era provide a behind-the-scenes look at their creations.

LOS ANGELES IN THE 1920SVintage clips offer a look at famous boulevards, studios, theaters, eateries and more.

BILLY WILDEROur favorite lines of dialogue from the Oscar-winning writer/director.

WOODY ALLENChoice lines of dialogue, from Take the Money and Run to Midnight in Paris.

KATHARINE HEPBURNTen authoritative moments when Kate's movie character speaks her mind.

UFA MOVIE POSTERSA look at the early one sheets from the longest standing film studio in Germany.

THE LANGUAGE OF NOIRWe celebrate tough talk from the best of Hollywood’s gritty crime dramas.


Aerial shots of Hollywood in 1958 includes Griffith Observatory, Grauman’s Chinese Theater and major studios.

AMERICAWe celebrate one of the most exuberant dance numbers committed to film, a thrilling showcase for freakishly talented folks with music in their bones.

HOLLYWOOD POSTCARDSTen vintage postcards revealing the glories of Southern California's movie mecca.

MAJOR FILMS, MINOR GAFFESTwenty-five mistakes in some of the greatest movies ever made.

GEORGE GERSHWINTen classic songs as seen on the silver screen.

GREAT ENDINGSA memorable tussle in Death Valley caps Erich von Stroheim’s broken classic.

10 GREAT POSTERSOur look at striking works of art that just happen to sell movie tickets.

MUST READMGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot provides a fascinating look at a lost treasure.

IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENINGJane Wyman and Bing Crosby charm with the Oscar-winning song from Here Comes the Groom (1951).

PLUNDER ROADFilm noir at its best—and most economical. No backstory, a lean look and just 72 minutes long.

W.C. FIELDSTen of his most memorable character names.

Aliens and mutants take center stage in twenty-five spectacular movie posters from the 1950s.

Our list of ten must-see films—ten artful depictions of the human condition—by one of the world’s most influential directors.

Accomplished directors from the past 50 years talk about their triumphs and challenges in bringing a story to the big screen.

We single out five films that display the talent and range of the Warner Bros. character actor.

AL HIRSCHFELDWe select our ten favorite movie posters by the famed caricaturist.

Five films that best represent the fluttery voiced character actress’s charms.

DIAMOND SETTINGSWe take a look at five of our favorite baseball movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s.


A dozen books that became publishing phenomena and, at times, well-made and popular films.

SCREEN TESTSAudition footage from Monroe, Dean, Brando and others.

MOVIE MOMENTS THAT MAKE LIFE WORTH LIVINGOur collection of ten little moments of breathtaking beauty, expert craftsmanship and happy accidents that rank as our favorites.

A tribute to a character actress who’s made aunts and spinsters her specialty.

STARS ON STARS: 30 CANDID OPINIONSA collection of favorite quotes from movie folk discussing their peers.

We take a good look at the work of MGM’s legendary art director.

JOHN QUALENFive of our favorite performances from the character actor’s lengthy career.

We select three movie musicals we deeply wish the sunny singer/actress would have made.

Twelve examples of what made the late actor such an enduring movie star.

Ten artful, playful and downright silly shots from some of the most famous movies in existence.

JEFFREY HUNTERWe tip our hat to the underrated (and very pretty) actor best known for going toe-to-toe with John Wayne in The Searchers and hanging on the cross in Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings.

ELVIS PRESLEYFive essential films for the Elvis movie fan.

We take a closer look and listen at Johnny Mercer’s witty ditty about the coming of the season.

BILL GOLD’S MOVIE POSTERSOur salute to the legendary graphic artist, including 25 of his posters for some of the most famous movies ever made.

BEAUTIFUL MENFilm giants Cary Grant and his ilk will have to wait. Here we look at ten not-so-obvious choices—actors blessed with incredible good looks, if not legendary status.

BEAUTIFUL WOMENTen of the most physically stunning females to grace the silver screen.

FOOTBALLFive classic films where gridiron shenanigans drive the plot. 

THE 43 FACES OF JOHNNY DEPPWe review the wide variety of characters the actor has played, from early teenager roles to larger-than-life eccentrics.

FRED ASTAIREFive lively numbers from the peerless hoofer.

THE ROAD TO HELEN LAWSONJudy Garland, Susan Hayward and the bumpy road Valley of the Dolls producers experienced in casting an important role in a truly lousy film.

 AMERICAN LANDMARKS ON FILM From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, we take a look at ten famous sights that added drama to the movies.

THE GIRL HUNT BALLETWe revisit the stylish Fred Astaire dream ballet from The Band Wagon (1953).

IOWA FILMS & STARSTen contributions the Hawkeye State has made to motion picture history.

FOX THEATEROur fond look back at one of San Francisco’s grandest movie palaces.

AUTOBIOGRAPHIESTen great titles penned by industry legends.

THE BAND WAGONNanette Fabray recalls a glaring mistake in the 1953 classic musical.

TRIGGERWe celebrate the life and somewhat creepy afterlife of Roy Rogers's favorite mount.

CHARACTERS: AGNES GOOCHPeggy Cass's memorable turn as a plain Jane coaxed into living a little in Auntie Mame (1958).

DESIGNS ON FILMA handsome volume by author and designer Cathy Whitlock chronicles the history of Hollywood set design.

REBECCAFive screen tests for Hitchock’s 1940 classic, with comments by David O. Selznick.

CHARACTERS: BABY ROSALIEIn a daffy send-up of Shirley Temple, June Preisser plays an aging child star in MGM's let's-put-on-a-show musical, Babes in Arms (1939).

PRESTON STURGESSnippets of dialogue from six of the writer/director’s best films.

ANSELMO BALLESTEROur gallery of ten striking one sheets from the Italian poster artist.

GREAT MOVIESCelebrating the cool jazz short, Jammin’ the Blues (1944).

BETTY HUTTONTwelve films that exemplify the charms of this freakishly energetic performer.

JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZSmart dialogue from the Oscar-winning screenwriter.

DESERT NOIROur report from this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

RED DREAM FACTORYWe profile eight films from a unique Russian-German film studio of the twenties and thirties.

« Alive and Kicking: Twelve Silent Film Actors Still With Us | Main | TCM's Swell Film Festival Ad »

Mickey Rooney (1920-2014)

Can you name another actor who appeared in silent films and who was (or is) still alive in 2014? Mickey Rooney, who began his movie career in 1926, might have been the last of the breed. His first film was the silent one-reeler Not to Be Trusted, quickly followed by a series of Mickey Maguire shorts—78 of them starring Rooney—that dominated his early years as a performer. By the late 1930s, he was the affable, can-do juvenile who breezed through MGM musicals that usually centered around a bunch of kids ignoring naysayers to put on a show and save the world. In later years, he appeared to never turn down a job, with an ever-expanding IMDB.com filmography that contained entries as recent as this year. He was full of energy, but never manic like, say, a Betty Hutton or a Jerry Lewis. He could sing, dance and do comedy. In dramas, he was heartfelt and sincere. In short, Mickey Rooney was a good actor.

Here are twelve films that prove our point.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
A 14-year-old Rooney shows he can easily handle the Bard of Avon’s stylized dialogue in this star-laden version of the Shakespeare comedy. The main challenge for the actor—and the rest of the cast and crew—was working around Rooney’s broken leg, sustained during filming. A double was brought in, and, in certain scenes, bushes concealed the fact that Rooney was being wheeled around on a bicycle.

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
Mickey Rooney made 19 Andy Hardy movies, and if you haven’t seen any of them, this is as good a start as any. Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford and Judy Garland (appearing with Rooney in the first of their many outings) join our leading man for a series of romantic entanglements and dead-end infatuations. Garland provides the musical element by crooning “In Between,” “It Never Rains But What It Pours” and “Meet the Beat of My Heart.”

Boys Town (1938)
Juvenile delinquent Whitey Marsh (Rooney) butts heads with Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) in MGM’s story of the famed home for trouble youth near Omaha, Nebraska. Marsh became one of the meatier roles in Rooney’s early career while costar Tracy picked up the second of his back-to-back Best Actor Oscars for this film.

Babes in Arms (1939)
Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland made ten movies together. Babes in Arms was one of their best, an early entry in their “let’s-put-on-a-show” extravaganzas. An extra treat occurs early on, as we see a very tiny Rooney in a clip from Broadway to Hollywood (1933), used in Babes in Arms as a flashback to show the vaudeville past of Rooney’s character.

The Human Comedy (1943)
Rooney received his second Best Actor Oscar nomination for this acclaimed home-front drama set during World War II. He played Homer Macauley, a teenager who becomes the man of the house after his father dies and his older brother goes off to fight. Macauley helps provide for his family by taking a job as a night messenger for the local telegraph office, often having to deliver news about loved ones killed in battle. Of Rooney’s performance, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther said, “There is a tenderness and restraint in his characterization, along with a genuine youthfulness, such as he has not shown for a long time.”

Girl Crazy (1943)
George and Ira Gershwin tunes elevate Busby Berkeley’s western-themed musical about a spoiled rich kid named Danny Churchill (Rooney) sent to an all-male college to learn some responsibility. The Dean’s granddaughter (Judy Garland, wearing mostly ugly costumes) adds some prickly romance to the proceedings. Berkeley was fired shortly after filming his first sequence—the rodeo finale—and replaced with Norman Taurog.

National Velvet (1944)
Elizabeth Taylor is determined to see her prize horse compete in the Grand National and enlists horse trainer Mickey Rooney to help her. The Clarence Brown-directed film, which received five Oscar nominations and won for editor Robert Kern and supporting actress Anne Revere, was one of the most acclaimed pictures in Rooney’s lengthy career.

Words and Music (1948)
Rooney costars with Tom Drake in this highly fictionalized chronicle of the songwriting duo Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Rooney plays an audience-safe version of Hart, his psychological complexities simplified and sexual orientation made Hays Office-friendly. The best Rooney moments include his solo number “Manhattan” and his reunion with Judy Garland for “I Wish I Were in Love Again.”

The Strip (1951) 
Though not a great film, its pleasures include seeing the Sunset Strip in the early 1950s and a neat performance by Rooney as a drummer who wants to open his own nightclub. MGM’s refreshingly truthful ad campaign called it a “Musical Melodrama of the Dancer and the Drummer.” That pretty much sums it up.

The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)  
James Michener’s 1953 Korean War novel came to the big screen with an A-list cast that included William Holden, Grace Kelly, Fredric March and, as a maverick helicopter pilot, Mickey Rooney. Reviews were solid and the film earned an Oscar nod for editing and an actual Oscar for special effects.

The Bold and the Brave (1956)
Three American soldiers are stationed in Italy during World War II, and Rooney is easily the most interesting. The Academy thought so, too, and awarded him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dooley, a relentless gambler seizing every opportunity to shoot craps.

The Black Stallion (1979) 
Rooney plays aging horse trainer Henry Dailey, who works with a young boy to prepare his Arabian steed for some serious horse racing. Dailey’s office includes a photo of his younger self on horseback, which is actually a still of Rooney in National Velvet.

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Reader Comments (1)

Left out but outstanding performance is in the cult favorite Quicksand.
Surely this gem should be on the list for Rooney fans.

May 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJim Reilly

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