The Long Life of a Short Man

mickey-rooney1Mickey Rooney, who died the other day at age 93, spent nearly all of his life in show business, having begun performing in his parents’ Vaudeville act at the precocious age of 17 months. Mickey Rooney had more lifetime experience in movies, TV and the stage than the immortal Mickey Mouse. In contrast to the on-screen persona of the lovable diminutive boy-next-door character he played often in his early and most memorable part of his career, Rooney was in real life often angry and frustrated. Rooney bemoaned his short stature – and the limits it put on the roles he was offered – noting once that he would happily sacrifice 10 years off his life for another six inches in height. He blew massive sums of money in the gambling establishments of Las Vegas. And he was a serial matrimonialist – tying and untying the knot several times, seemingly unable to find any durability.

Until I read his obituary I did not appreciate the extent of Rooney’s popularity in his youthful prime. “In 1939, America’s theater owners voted Mr. Rooney the No. 1 box-office star, over Tyrone Power. That same year he sang and danced his way to an Oscar nomination for best actor in ‘Babes in Arms.’ He was box-office king again in 1940, over Spencer Tracy, and in 1941, with Clark Gable taking second place.”

That passage reminded me of 2003 Academy Award host Steve Martin’s monologue in which he pointed out Mickey Rooney’s presence in the audience – way in the back of the theater. Martin noted drolly, “Mickey, I’m sorry we couldn’t get you a better seat, but Vin Diesel is here,” pointing to the jar-head action hero sitting in the front row.

A telling example of the fickleness of the public. I wouldn’t be surprised if you asked someone under the age of 25 to say something about “Mickey Rooney,” they’d respond, “goes great with melted cheese.”

Anyway, I’ve conjured up a few tests to challenge your knowledge of the Mick.

What was Mickey Rooney’s real name?

Mickey McGuire – Bernie Schwarz – Marion Morris – Joseph Yule – Ronald McMurphy – Rubin Manischewitz – Michael Rooney – Andy Hardon.

Let’s put on a show!

In the early days of the Hollywood studio system, companies often cloned successful movies to build a franchise of money-making productions. One of the most lucrative and derivative plot lines was the use of the “let’s put on a show” to solve a problem and wrap the movie on a happy note. Match the movie with the problem solved.

1) “Babes in Arms”
2) “Strike up the Band”
3) “Babes on Broadway”
4) “Girl Crazy”

a) Make money to save the college
b) Fund the high school band contest
c) Make money for out of work parents
d) Pay for orphans to go to the country



Mickey was married eight times. Starting with his first marriage in 1942, there was never more than a few months between a divorce and the next wedding – an indicator of his neediness for companionship. Put Mickey’s marriages in order from shortest to longest.

1) Ava Gardner
2) Betty Jane Rase
3) Martha Vickers
4) Elaine Devry
5) Barbara Ann Thomason
6) Marge Lane
7) Carolyn Hockett
8) Jan Chamberlain



Although type-cast as energetic, wholesome Andy Hardy through 15 such movies, Rooney later snagged a variety of roles – some with depth, others quite dopey. Match the movie with the character played by Rooney. Note: one of the movies did not feature Mickey – which one was it?

1) “National Velvet”
2) “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”
3) “Angels with Dirty Faces”
4) “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
5) “The Black Stallion”
6) “Boys Town”
7) “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
8) “Baby Face Nelson”
9) “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini”

a) Whitey Marsh
b) Robin Goodfellow
c) Mr. Yunioshi
d) Henry Dailey
e) Dingy Bell
f) Lester Gillis
g) J. Peachmont Keane
h) Mi Taylor


Mickey Rooney’s real name: Joseph Yule

“Let’s Put on a Show!”: 1c – 2b – 3d – 4a

1) Marge Lane – 1966-1967 (100 days)
2) Ava Gardner – 1942-1943
3) Martha Vickers – 1949-1951
4) Betty Jane Rase – 1944-1949
5) Elaine Devry – 1952-1958
6) Carolyn Hockett – 1969-1975
7) Barbara Ann Thomason – 1958-1966
8) Jan Chamberlain – 1978-2014 (more than all previous marriages combined)

Characters: 1h – 2e- 3 NA – 4c – 5d – 6a – 7b – 8f – 9g


Does anyone really believe . . .

. . . That GM CEO Mary Barra – who led engineering there – had no idea that the ignition switches on the crappy Cobalt were faulty?

. . . That Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius thought an intruder was lurking in his locked bathroom?

. . . That George W. Bush can paint?

. . . That Vladimir Putin has no designs on Ukraine?

. . . That NY Yankee Derek Jeter will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility?

. . . That Don Lemon should be on TV after suggesting Malaysian Airlines flight 370 might have been sucked into a black hole?

. . . That golfer Tiger Woods can win another major?

. . . That a bartender would serve 1800 Tequila just because Ray Liotta glared at him?

. . . That Al Roker looks good thin?

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