Joe Yule Jr., also known as Mickey Rooney,
was born September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents, chorus
girl Nell Carter and comic Joe Yule Sr., were vaudeville performers. Two
weeks after Mickey's birth, he was on the road with the circuit traveling
throughout North America.
At 17 months old, his talent surfaced by accident.
While hiding underneath a shoeshine stand in a Chicago theatre, fascinated
by his father's act, he let out a sneeze. The noise caused a spotlight
to find him in the crowd. Not knowing what to do he stood up and blew
on his tiny toy mouth organ that was hanging on a string around his neck.
The audience erupted with laughter. The show's manager got him a pint-sized
tuxedo after the incident, and young Mickey began performing small ballads
and speeches on stage.
Mickey's parents divorced when he was three. Mickey's mother took him
to Kansas City, Missouri so they could live with her sister. The normal
way of life they had there was short lived, for in 1924, Mickey's mother
decided he would be perfect for Hal Roach's "Our Gang" series. They
headed west to Hollywood so Mickey could try out for the role. Once
they realized the pay was insufficient. Penniless, they drove back to
Kansas City. They returned to California again in 1926. This time Mickey
landed his first film role in the movie "Not To Be Trusted," in which
he played a midget.
His big break came in 1927 when he was cast for "Mickey 'Himself'
McGuire," a series based on a comic strip. His mother wanted to legally
change his name to Mickey McGuire for publicity reasons, but the comic's
creator did not approve this. Instead she renamed him Mickey Rooney after
getting approval from his manager. In 1934, Mickey was competing in
table tennis tournament in Los Angles and was showing off to the audience.
MGM producer David O. Selznick noticed his antics. He told MGM studio
chief Louis Mayer that he had found a kid that was a "goldmine"
and begged him to sign Mickey to MGM. Mayer was reluctant to do so. Selznick
made a role for Mickey in the film "Manhattan Melodrama," which
was later made famous when notorious gangster John Dillinger was shot
and killed while leaving the theater where he had been watching it. Mickey's
work on the film led him to being signed to a long-term contract with
of being a troublemaker, he put his all into acting and began to receive
rave reviews. Short in stature, but never short in confidence, Mickey
was the number one box office actor in the United States from 1939-41.
He became known for his work on films such as: "A Midsummer Nights
Dream," "Boys Town," "Babes In Arms" and
the hit "Andy Hardy" series. He also starred with many
Hollywood leading ladies including Lana Turner, Anne Rutherford and
During the 1950s, he worked on a television series called "Hey Mulligan."
It was short-lived and could not compete with the likes of "The Jackie
Gleason Show " which was scheduled in the same time slot.
Mickey never was one to settle down, which explains his eight marriages.
In 1942, he married Hollywood star Ava Gardner, but they soon divorced.
After entering the service for 21 months in 1944 to entertain the troops
in WWII, he married Betty Jane Rase. This marriage was followed by similar
experiences with Martha Vickers in 1949 and Elaine Mahnken in 1952. In
1958 Rooney married Barbara Ann Thompson, but tragedy struck when she
was murdered in 1966. Stumbling into deep depression, he married Barbara's
friend, Marge Lane, who helped him take care of his young children. The
marriage lasted only 100 days. He married Carolyn Hockett from 1969-1974,
but financial instability ended the relationship. Finally, in 1978 Rooney
married Jan Chamberlin, his current wife, with whom he lives in Los Angeles,
In the early 1970s, Mickey undertook several short-lived financial ventures
and acted in various dinner theatres. He reluctantly went back to the
stage in the burlesque production of "Sugar Babies" in 1979.
The production ended up being a phenomenal success, and his career was
All in all, Mickey is a man with over 200 films under his belt. He earned
an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, a special Juvenile Oscar he
shared with Deana Durbin in 1939, five Oscar nominations, one Emmy Award,
five Emmy Nominations and two Golden Globes. Mickey's career has extended
through many generations and in many different directions. Mickey Rooney:
actor, survivor, inventor and Hollywood living legend.