Mickey Rooney, who had a 9 decades long career in the Entertainment Industry, passed away April 6th. In honor of him, Turner Classic Movies is going to present on Sunday, April 13th, 13 films that Rooney starred in. Among this list are 3 of Rooney’s films that I have already seen and instead of one post about one movie, I thought I’d write short synopses about 3 of those films that I really enjoyed.
A Family Affair, 1937 from MGM studios. Stars Lionel Barrymore(Great-Uncle of Drew Barrymore) as Judge Hardy, running for re-election to keep his judgeship and encountering opposition from some of the citizens of the small-town where he resides. Spring Byington plays his wife Emily, Cecilia Parker is his daughter, Marion, and Mickey Rooney is his son, Andy. A Family Affair was shot in 15 days! It was considered a “B” movie by the studio and Lionel Barrymore didn’t want to be in it. Another teen actor was set to play the part of Andy, but by the time filming was to begin, he had grown too tall so the part went to Rooney. In his autobiography, Life is too Short, Rooney wrote that he knew the movie was a “B” movie but that fact didn’t keep him from putting his all into the role. Surprising to MGM is that when the film opened at theatres, it became a huge hit and so profitable that MGM ended up making 16 Andy Hardy films. The Hardy Family films usually center around Andy and the amusing difficulties he gets himself into and how he finally handles the difficulties with some advice from his wise father.
Boys Town, 1938, also from MGM. Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and won the Academy Awards for Best Original Story and Best Actor, Spencer Tracy. Tracy plays Father Edward Flanagan who is called to the prison to hear the last confession of a prisoner scheduled to die in the electric chair. The condemned man tells Father Flanagan that if only he had had good friends at the age of 12 instead of the delinquents he ran with, he’d probably not ended up in prison. Father Flanagan takes the man’s words to heart, and with the attitude that their is no such thing as a bad boy, he opens up a home for boys in trouble outside of Omaha, Nebraska and calls the place Boys Town. Mickey Rooney plays Whitey Marsh, a tough young hoodlum who’s older brother, serving time in prison, asks for Father Flanagan to take in his younger brother and try to turn his life around. Tracy is great as the priest who is kind but very firm when he has to be. Rooney is great as the snotty, brash, juvenile delinquint with a heart of gold. Here’s a clip from the film Boys Town. The film proved to be such a great box office success that in 1941 a sequel was made, Men of Boys Town and Tracy and Rooney reprised their roles.
National Velvet, 1945, from MGM. Stars 12 year old Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet Brown, an English girl who loves horses. She enters the town lottery as the prize is a neighboring farmer’s unruly and spirited horse. The winner of the first number called doesn’t appear so another number is called and Velvet wins. With the help of Mi Taylor( Mickey Rooney), a young drifter who has a lot of knowledge about horses and racing them, Velvet decides to train the Pi(her name for her horse) for the Grand National Race. This is a charming movie, espousing hard work, reaching for one’s dreams, and filmed in gorgeous technicolor. Look for Angela Lansbury playing Velvet’s older sister, Edwina. Here’s a training sequence from National Velvet, featuring Taylor and Rooney.
Here is also the schedule that TCM has posted for Rooney’s films on Sunday. TCM has also made a lovely tribute video of Rooney’s career and it can be viewed here. Be sure to tune in and/or set your dvr machine!