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Multiple Oscar winner and all-around Hollywood institution Mickey Rooney died Sunday at the age of 93.
Shortly before his death, Rooney was reportedly at work on the next comeback in a nine-decade career filled with near-constant ups and downs. He was working on a film called The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Night at the Museum 3 director Shawn Levy reported via Twitter Sunday that he had shot scenes with Rooney for the movie just last month.
Over the course of his career, Rooney earned two honorary Academy Awards, four Oscar nominations and one Emmy; and he was Hollywood’s highest-paid star from 1939 to 1942. Here, THR looks back at some of the pint-sized acting legend’s landmark roles.
A Family Affair (1937)
A film about a small-town judge’s domestic and political struggles, A Family Affair was one of Rooney’s first major box-office hits. The movie’s success — and Rooney’s popularity in the secondary role of Andy Hardy — encouraged MGM to make it into a franchise, and 15 Hardy movies followed.
“I knew A Family Affair was a B-picture, but that didn’t stop me from putting my all in it,” Rooney later wrote. “A funny thing happened to this little programmer: released in April 1937, it ended up grossing more than half a million dollars nationwide.”
Boys Town (1938)
At age 18, Rooney was already an established name in Hollywood, having appeared in several notable MGM pictures. But his role as a delinquent brat turned good by Spencer Tracy‘s Father Flanagan in Boys Town proved another breakthrough. Tracy won the best actor Oscar and Rooney received a special Juvenile Academy Award for his performance as lovably irascible Whitey Marsh.
Babes in Arms (1939)
A 1939 movie version of the popular 1937 Broadway musical of the same name, Babes in Arms was an early demonstration of the magnetic chemistry and showmanship that existed between Rooney and fellow child star and frequent collaborator Judy Garland. Rooney earned an Oscar nomination for his role as a child songwriter in the Busby Berkeley musical.
The Human Comedy (1943)
Rooney earned his second trip to the Academy Awards for his performance in Clarence Brown’s The Human Comedy as Homer Macauley, a high school kid working as a part-time telegram delivery boy. He’s touched by the impact of the war as he delivers death notices to the families of soldiers in his town.
The Bold and the Brave (1956)
Having spent time in the service himself during WWII (where he mostly worked entertaining his fellow troops), Rooney returned to the war years in The Bold and the Brave, playing a characteristically energetic soldier who runs a memorable crap game across Italy. He was again nominated for an Oscar, this time in the best supporting category.
Black Stallion (1978)
After several years of mostly undistinguished film roles and TV work, Rooney was again on the comeback path in The Black Stallion, directed by Carroll Ballard and executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola. His memorable performance in the heartwarming family drama as Henry Dailey, a retired jockey, earned him yet another Oscar nomination.
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