Thursday, December 02, 2010

TCM Star of the Month: Mickey Rooney

Mickey Rooney is the Star of the Month for December at Turner Classic Movies.

I admit Rooney is not someone I especially enjoy, compared to other actors...and yet, he was in countless classic films, many of which are favorites. Indeed, I just ordered a remastered DVD of THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943), which contains perhaps his best performance, from the recent Warner Archive sale; he was nominated for Best Actor for that movie. And I love the ANDY HARDY series...all of which makes me wonder if I don't properly appreciate Mr. Rooney. Rooney's multitalented abilities have been held in high regard by his peers, as described by Robert Osborne.

This month TCM will be showing 70 Mickey Rooney films in five 24-hour marathons. The first day of the series started earlier today, December 2nd. Today's titles focus on Rooney's supporting roles as a young child actor.

Among the movies shown today: HIDE-OUT (1934), a wonderful Robert Montgomery film in which Rooney plays Maureen O'Sullivan's little brother...MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934), in which he plays Clark Gable (!) as a boy...the Warner Bros. production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935), in which he's perfectly cast as Puck...and AH, WILDERNESS! (1935), in which Rooney plays the little brother. When the film was remade as the musical SUMMER HOLIDAY (1948), Rooney moved up to playing the older son. Curiously, SUMMER HOLIDAY is not on this month's schedule, although it was shown on TCM last September.

On December 9th there are interesting titles like A YANK AT ETON (1942) and KILLER MCCOY (1947); the latter, a boxing film, costars Ann Blyth and Brian Donlevy.

Six movies costarring Rooney and Judy Garland are shown on this date, including BABES IN ARMS (1939), which netted Rooney an Oscar nomination as Best Actor.

December 16th 16 ANDY HARDY films will be shown -- in reverse order, starting with ANDY HARDY COMES HOME (1958) and moving backwards in time over two decades to A FAMILY AFFAIR (1937). Aside from Judy Garland and Ann Rutherford, Rooney's leading ladies in the Hardy films included many up-and-coming young MGM actresses such as Esther Williams, Donna Reed, Lana Turner, and Kathryn Grayson.

On December 23rd some of Rooney's best-known films will air, including YOUNG TOM EDISON (1940), NATIONAL VELVET (1944), THE BLACK STALLION (1979), BOYS TOWN (1938), CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (1937), and the previously mentioned THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943).

Rooney's performance in NATIONAL VELVET is neck and neck with THE HUMAN COMEDY as his best screen role, and he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for THE BLACK STALLION. All told, Rooney was nominated as Best Actor or Supporting Actor three times; he never won, but did receive Honorary Awards from the Academy in both 1939 and 1983.

The final date in the Rooney festival is December 30th, showcasing films from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Sadly, the 1954 Paramount film THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI isn't on the list. THE STRIP (1951), which has Louis Armstrong in the cast, looks especially interesting. The evening also includes BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961), which contains Rooney's somewhat infamous performance as an Asian man, and the highly regarded REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT (1962).

An impressive career track record, indeed.

For more information on TCM this month, check out the December Schedule and my post TCM in December: Highlights.


Blogger panavia999 said...

I have to agree about Rooney; sometimes he's best in small doses. Though I once spent an enjoyable day watching non-stop Hardy Family movies. The early ones are so sweet. I am really looking forward to Ah Wilderness and The Human Comedy. But why purchase The Human Comedy? It's often on TCM, including this month. I did not like A Yank at Eton. There is a unrealistic plot device about a horse - and you know how I am about stupid horse things in movies. I do like Killer McCoy because of Brian Donlevy.
Anyway, Rooney is one of the last great performers that they used to call "troopers", that could do it all. They just don't have that kind anymore.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

"Small doses" is a good way to describe Rooney -- he works for me a movie at a time.

I actually have recorded THE HUMAN COMEDY on tape from a past TCM showing, but felt this title has enough "rewatch value" for my family that it would be worthwhile to have it on DVD, most particularly because the Archive is releasing it remastered. (That was the tipping point for me on the sale.) I've loved the book and the film since I was introduced to the book in 9th grade. Sadly, it's no longer part of the CA jr. high or HS curriculum, jettisoned in favor of much less life-affirming fare. (The number of stories about suicide and death in the HS curriculum is a bit disturbing.) But at least my own kids will be familiar with it. :) The cast is so deep! So many favorites including Marsha Hunt, Donna Reed, Fay Bainter, Katharine Alexander, Dorothy Morris (a lesser-known MGM actress of the '40s), and even Robert Mitchum way down in the credits.

I've become a Donlevy admirer this year -- glad to know you like KILLER McCOY.

Have never seen A YANK AT ETON -- your comment on the horse makes me laugh. I'm sure I could learn a great deal from you if we were to watch films featuring horses together!

Best wishes,

4:57 PM  
Blogger panavia999 said...

I imagine literature in school is pretty bad in these revisionist PC times. It wasn't so good in my day. When I was in high school in the 70's, the English Lit teacher told the class they would find "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre" boring. I told her I'd read and loved both, so what 19th century novels did she enjoy? She had no recommendation. I went straight to my guidance counselor and complained that on the very first day the teacher was not encouraging students to read the classics. I demanded to transfer to another elective where the teacher actually liked the literature she was supposed to teach.
The next day, that teacher was angry - the counselor told her all about my gripe, and she was glad to get rid of me. The new class was not much better. I gave up with the expectations and continued to read on my own. It was not school, but my parents who assisted my literary growth from the beginning.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Boy, does your tale sound oldest daughter was a public school student all the way and had a teacher who was *angry* when she learned my daughter had already read THE HOBBIT before the class read it. Instead of enthusiastically engaging her in discussion about it and Tolkien and encouraging more reading, the teacher was annoyed someone had read something on her own ahead of the class. How dare my daughter have read a good book for pleasure before entering that class? It was bizarre. With that child I say we did "afterschooling," which sounds like your story.

In my own case my English teachers, especially in H.S., were very good, but I could go on at great length with similar stories about my kids' experiences, sad to say. The depressing accumulation of such experiences is a large part of what led me to homeschool the three younger children for elementary and jr. high school.

Best wishes,

2:40 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I wonder if Mr. Rooney gets requests to record DVD commentaries. What a neat special feature it would make for some of these films, which are often released on DVD without any extras. I'm sure Mr. Rooney has many memories of these films.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, Tom. Given Mr. Rooney's age and that he's still in good health, it's a bit surprising to me that someone hasn't made the effort to put more of his memories on film or audio -- perhaps an Andy Hardy documentary or some commentaries of films like THE HUMAN COMEDY and NATIONAL VELVET.

Best wishes,

6:05 PM  
Blogger panavia999 said...

I like the idea of Rooney doing some DVD commentaries. It's interesting to hear about the processes of creating the old movies. Maybe TCM will make a documentary!
Laura, you have really hit a chord about the highshool lit. After I transferred to that second lit class, I annoyed that teacher because not only had I already read "The Scarlett Letter", I also read far ahead in every assignment. I could tell so many anecdotes about my literary ventures throughout the school years and the legion of teachers who were annoyed when I read beyond the assignment. Only four teachers in my entire school career actively helped me. Three of these were not even my regular teachers, they just liked the fact that I independently and enthusiastically read so much "serious stuff", including history. I was the only music student who had ever gotten excited about the annual fieldtrip to the opera. (The teacher thought I was lying when I said liked opera and quizzed me on composers - I certainly can't blame him for being skeptical!)
Then there was the time a teacher asked, "What was the color of Napoleon's white horse?" and I answered "Phooey. It wasn't white, it was a grey arab stallion." Yup, I was a smarty pants. I got lots of "afterschooling" too - what a lifesaver!
One valuable lesson we all learn in school is when to give the answer they expect to hear and when to offer up independent thought.

4:58 PM  

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