Mickey Rooney Net Worth: America’s No. 1 box-office star

How much was Mickey Rooney worth?

Net Worth:$18 Thousand
Profession:Professional Actor
Date of Birth:September 23, 1920
Country:United States of America
Height:
1.57 m

Who Is Mickey Rooney

One of the longest working actors in film history, Mickey Rooney rode an enormous wave of popularity in the 1930s thanks to his performances as Andy Hardy and his onscreen partnership with friend Judy Garland. With undying optimism and an aw-shucks, can-do persona, Rooney was catapulted to superstardom and became Hollywood’s top box office draw in the early 1940s.

Following his service in World War II, however, Rooney returned stateside and saw his career hit a long, slow decline from which he never fully recovered. More often than not he accepted roles for the payday in order to pay child support and growing gambling debts. He was married eight times, including to Ava Gardner before she was a star, slept with more starlets than can be counted, and suffered depression following the murder of fifth wife, Barbara Ann Thomason, and the tragic overdose of Judy Garland soon after.

American actor, vaudevillian, comedian, radio personality, and producer Mickey Rooney had a net worth of $18,000 at the time of his death, in 2014. In 1938, the incredibly talented 18-year-old Mickey Rooney was America’s No. 1 box-office star, earning over $300,000 annually.

Regardless of the many setbacks in his life and career, Rooney stayed busy and held onto his eternal optimism. By 2013, Rooney was one of the longest working actors in Hollywood and showed no signs of slowing down.

Early Life

Born Joseph Yule, Jr. on Sept. 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, NY, Rooney was brought up in a show biz household thanks to his father, Joe, a vaudeville performer and his mother, Nell, a chorus girl. At just barely over a year old, he began performing onstage with his parents and traveling across the country from one show to the next.

But the pressures of being in show business while raising a young child eventually led his parents to split in 1924, leaving Rooney in the custody of his mother. They moved to California, where his mother relentlessly pushed her son’s career, eventually leading to him to star as Mickey McGuire in a series of short films from 1927-1934.

Starting with Mickey’s Circus (1927), Rooney appeared as the mischievous, street-wise kid with coal black hair in 78 films. Rooney’s mother attempted to change both her son’s and her own name to McQuire in a rather devious plot to aid the producers’ fight to avoid paying the writers royalties, but the plan failed. It did, however, lead to him adopting the name Mickey Rooney.

His Career Takes Off

The young actor eventually wrapped the Mickey McGuire series with Mickey’s Medicine Man (1934) and was well on his way to becoming a star. Naturally, he made other films outside the series throughout the 1930s, landing supporting roles in films like Emma (1932), The Big Chance (1933), and Clarence Brown’s romantic melodrama Chained (1934), starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable.

Rooney received good reviews for a notable performance as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s popular comedy co-starring James Cagney, Dick Powell, and Olivia de Havilland. Following roles in Ah, Wilderness! (1935) and Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), Rooney’s career transformed forever when he made his first appearance as Andy Hardy in A Family Affair (1937). Though a secondary character – he played the son of Judge James Hardy (Lionel Barrymore) – Rooney’s presence helped turn the film into a big hit.

Over the next nine years, Rooney played the role 13 more times and became the central character in the fourth go-round, Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), which co-starred Judy Garland. The popular pair first appeared together the previous year in the race horse-themed adventure, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), and quickly became close friends. In fact, their relationship both on- and off-screen was evidently strong enough for people to speculate whether or not they were romantically involved. They weren’t, but they remained friends until Garland’s tragic death in 1969.

While Rooney exuded wholesome, aw-shucks charm on screen, he was a notorious womanizer behind the cameras. At 18 years old, he had an affair with legendary starlet, Norma Shearer, who was 20 years his senior and a recent widow following the death of her husband, famed producer Irving Thalberg.

In 1937, Rooney made successful bid to become a dramatic actor when he starred alongside Spencer Tracy in Captains Courageous, and the following year in Boys Town, and continued his fruitful partnership with Garland when the two starred in a series of popular musicals, including their most famous film together, Babes in Arms (1939). The latter earned Rooney an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Hollywood’s Top Star

By 1939, Rooney had risen to the top of the heap to become Hollywood’s number one box office star, a position he held for three consecutive years. He once again teamed with Garland for a pair of Busby Berkeley-directed musicals, Strike Up the Band (1940) and Babes on Broadway (1941), both of which only amplified their popularity as a bubbly on-screen couple.

Like most actors at the time, Rooney became involved with the war effort even as his Andy Hardy films remained incredibly successful. Meanwhile, he reached the height of his career starring opposite a young Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet (1944), where he delivered a strong performance as a former jockey-turned-drifter who trains a young woman (Taylor) to be a champion rider.

World War II and A Long Decline

During the war, Rooney did what any other actor of his caliber would do – he entered military service in 1944 and spent 21 months entertaining the troops abroad. Despite a successful stint overseas, he returned to the states and entered into a long, slow career decline from which he never fully recovered. At the time, he was only 26 years old.

Following a return to his signature role in Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946), Rooney’s onscreen affair with Judy Garland ended with Norman Taurog’s Words and Music (1948), a musical loosely based on the partnership between Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

Rooney tried his hand at supporting roles with Force of Evil (1948) and The Sun Comes Up (1949), and even turned to crime with an atypically dynamic performance in the film noir Quicksand (1950). By this point, however, Rooney’s career was seriously fading and failed to show any promise of recovery.

Certainly, there were several moments where it did appear as though he was about to mount a comeback, like when he portrayed an ill-fated helicopter pilot in Mark Robson’s World War II drama The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), starring William Holden and Grace Kelly. But flops like All Ashore (1953), The Atomic Kid (1954), and The Twinkle in God’s Eye (1955) threw a wet blanket on any hopes of a revival.

Turning to the Small Screen

Rooney hit a true low point when he shared the screen with Francis the Talking Mule in Francis in the Haunted House (1956), which fared poorly with audiences and marked the end of the mule’s career and nearly derailed Rooney’s own.

The actor struggled in vain to drop his wholesome image by playing the notorious gangland killer, Baby Face Nelson (1957), Don Siegel’s action-packed gangster movie that unfortunately failed to rescue Rooney’s flagging career. Meanwhile, Rooney made a desperate attempt to revive his past stardom by resurrecting Andy Hardy for Andy Hardy Comes Home (1958), but had the wisdom to make this film his last appearance in the role.

While he made his first forays into television at the beginning of the decade, Rooney plunged into a small screen career with earnest by the end of the 1950s and found success as a guest star on a wide range of popular series.

Hope of a Revival Fades

Finally cast in another big movie, Rooney triggered one of the biggest controversies of his career when he donned a pair of buck teeth and delivered a stereotyped performance as a Japanese man in Blake Edwards’ otherwise iconic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Adapted from Truman Capote’s novel, the film’s considerable merits – not to mention Audrey Hepburn’s revelatory performance – were able to overcome Rooney’s insensitive portrayal.

Because of that performance, and the fact that he had married numerous times and owed money for child support, Rooney took any role that came his way, often resulting in him appearing in one schlock movie after another. He even tried his hand at directing with the comedy, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), while maintaining a demanding schedule on television that barely kept him financially afloat.

But every once and a while, Rooney managed to turn in quality work, as he did with the boxing drama Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), though he more often than not returned to schlepping it in low-grade fare like How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) and 24 Hours to Kill (1966). Even a pairing with acclaimed director Otto Preminger on Skidoo (1968) did nothing to restore hope.

From All-American Boy to Tabloid Fodder

For most of his career, Rooney’s rampant extramarital affairs were something of a well-known secret despite his numerous marriages. But he suddenly found his reputation badly damaged when his fifth wife, Barbara Ann Thomason, who also practiced serial infidelity, was killed in a murder-suicide by a jealous lover in their Brentwood home. Rooney was away in the Philippines to film Ambush Bay (1966), and came back to the states to confront simmering controversy brought about in part to the crime being committed by his own gun.

Making matters worse, Rooney faced one of the most tragic moments in his life when his greatest friend, Judy Garland, died from an accidental drug overdose in 1969. The events plunged Rooney into deep depression, which was no doubt made worse by growing financial problems spurred by a deepening gambling problem.

New Life in His Elder Years

The 1970s were not the best of times for Rooney and the decade would have been a complete wash had it not been for The Black Stallion (1979), a triumphant film that allowed the actor to channel his personal travails into his last truly great performance. Rooney shined playing Henry Dailey, a once-successful horse trainer who sees great potential in a wayward stallion and a young boy (Kelly Reno) training to be its jockey.

That role earned Rooney an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, his first such honor since his nominated performance in The Bold and the Brave (1956). Despite numerous roles over the next four decades, The Black Stallion stood as Rooney’s last true triumph. He spent those years surprisingly married to the same woman, eighth wife Jan Chamberlin, and became an advocate for senior rights which included testimony before the U.S. Senate in 2011 against elder abuse. As of 2013, Rooney was one of the oldest performers who worked in movies during the silent era.

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