Brian Williams Remembers Mickey Rooney

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

He outlasted pretty much everyone from what people affectionately call Old Hollywood and right up to the end, millions still picture Mickey Rooney from his early pictures as a young, enthusiastic guy with a twinkle in his eye.

Back in the day, he was known as the most famous teenager in America. Back when it meant a lot to spend a quarter to go to the movies, he meant a lot to depression-era audiences.

To call him a child star was an understatement: he was on the vaudeville stage as a toddler and shot his first movie at age six.

When full-grown he barely cracked 5-foot-3, which was always fine when he was playing young guys with hopeful faces, but later in life he said he would have given anything to be 6-inches taller.

Mickey Rooney's life was often a rambling wreck, interrupted by moments of great success. He made and lost a fortune several times over. And he famously spent a lot of his life looking for love, the real kind. He married eight times, Ava Gardner among them. On screen his material ranged from Shakespeare to the modern-day Muppets. He famously played alongside Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland, his co-star in three of his Andy Hardy films.

In so many interviews he wore his heart on his sleeve and spoke the truth about Hollywood and aging. Late in life he enjoyed wearing his World War II medals on his chest, including a Bronze Star for entertaining the troops in combat zones.

He was nominated for an Oscar four times, but the role that brought him an Emmy and a Golden Globe late in life was when he played a man named Bill who'd spent 46 years in a mental hospital.

Mickey Rooney was remembered today as impish and irrepressible. A man who always found work because it all went back to putting on a show.