Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mickey Rooney; Only the Bad Die Old?


Mickey Rooney died a few days ago.  He just barely missed living till age 94.  And, with his longevity, he pretty well shot down the theory that our creator bestows long life to those blessed with some measure of merit.

Mickey Rooney was as close in personality to Richard Nixon than any public figure I know.  He was always "on", lived for superficialities, had such a dark soul that it could just not be kept submerged....just as Nixon could not be content with overwhelming voting majorities and political victories, Rooney could just not handle success.  

I read several biographies of both Nixon and Rooney, probably because they were such fascinating characters, flawed to the much so that you studied them to try and figure out what made them click.

Old MGM fans, now long dead, claim Mickey was an absolute monster when he was the most popular at the box office in the late 30's.  Even the old protective studio system could not cover up Rooney's destructive wanderings through Hollywood humanity.  He was conceited, prideful, cruel and, apparently suffering from a "little man" complex, had an insatiable appetite for stomping on anyone he felt was beneath him and therefore vulnerable.

I dare you to watch Richard Nixon making a speech; he would smile at the most inopportune moments, a smile not coming naturally to him, and you look at those beady eyes and you could see the storms brewing underneath.  Rooney was the same way; he would start off talking about something positive, and then begin recitals of the long train of folks who wronged him.  He could be wearing a smile on stage, then savage some curtain puller as soon as he got behind the curtains.

I could forgive Rooney a bit if I didn't detest those Andy Hardy movies, and those "let's build a barn and put on a show" flicks with Judy Garland.  Watch any Rooney scene for five minutes and you'll see the over-acting, the phony baloney overdone smile or look of woe.  And when Rooney was no longer "cute", and when he went bald and rotund, there was nothing left of the artifice that Rooney so desperately depended on.

And so he became a tragic figure.  Desperate for more fame, desperate for the love of an audience, like Milton Berle, he would hog the stage, wring out every worthwhile word and gesture until there was nothing left and you became embarrassed for him..for he seemed incapable of it himself.

His personal life was no better.  He plowed through eight wives and, in his later years, claimed every single blood relative had forsaken him, abused him, failed to worship him...and in his last will made sure they were left nothing except one last drop of hate and anger spewed hours after his death.

Maybe the good do die young.  But it's sure as hell not true that all the good ones die old.  Mickey Rooney had nearly 94 years to sit and chew on his own poison.



Anonymous said...

Sad indeed, acting is but a facade. Eight marriages always proclaim the rest of the story. Mickey was an empty soul blessed with longevity genes, he actually lived in his own personal hell, had no real friends, discarded people on a whim. Much of Hollywood took lessons from him, do you wonder why our culture is moraly bankrupt?

Anonymous said...

Your assessment of mister Rooney, although poorly timed,is pretty much spot-on except for your evaluation of his acting abilities. You apparently have never seen "The Black Stallion". You should. It is an unforgettable performance by an actor who truly knows his craft.

Anonymous said...

He was a craftsman no doubt, I never doubted his acting, the proof is in the pudding. All acting is a facade is the point I was making.

A Modest Scribler said...

Anon 1, 2, & 3; thanks for your comments. As to the reference to The Black Stallion, yes, I have seen it; the only prop I would offer is he didn't overact as much in that movie as others. But, hey, I have no argument with anyone who enjoyed the guy's movies. Good for them...I just couldn't get past the nearly slobbering enthusiasm in those "let's put on a show" flicks with Judy, et al.