Joe Yule Jr., also known as Mickey Rooney, was born September 23rd, 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 travelling 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 there, however, 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 a 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 theatre where he had been watching it. Mickey's work on the film led him to being signed to a long-term contract with MGM. Although he had the reputation 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 Judy Garland.
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.
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 reborn.
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.