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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Mickey Rooney: "And that's the way I've always lived"



Mickey Rooney: "And that's the way I have always lived

Joe Yule Jr., better known as Mickey Rooney, star of all-time hits like wartime satire, The Human Comedy (1943) and National Velvet (1944, with Elizabeth Taylor, about a horse), would have turned 94 on 23 September 2014. But he bid us his last good-bye on 06 April 2014.

In 2003, Rooney began their association with Rainbow Puppet Productions, providing his voices to the 100th Anniversary production of Toyland, an adaptation of Victor Herbert's Babes in Toyland. He dubbed the voice for the Master Toymaker while wife Jan provided the voice for Mother Goose.

In 2008, Rooney starred as Chief, a wise old ranch owner, in the independent family feature film Lost Stallions: The Journey Home, was the only example of a film in which Rooney and Jan portrayed a married couple on screen.

In 2011, Rooney made a brief cameo appearance in The Muppets In 2014. Rooney was to return to reprise his role as Gus (seen in part 1) in Night at the Museum 3. It is currently not clear whether he completed his scenes.  

Born in Brooklyn, New York, he first took the stage as a 15-16 month old toddler in his parents' vaudeville act. He made his first film appearance in 1926 playing a midget in Not to be Trusted (even at full growth, he stood 5’3” or 5’2’), and played the lead character in the first Mickey McGuire (1927) a short based on a comic-strip character, both being silent films. His third silent film foray was Orchids and Ermine, in the same year. Mickey McGuire went on to become a 50 episode two-reeler series. He adopted the name Mickey Rooney in 1932. Major success came with A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935, Rooney, aged 15, played Puck), and in 1937, with A Family Affair (Rooney was a small-town judge’s wise-cracking son). His character in the latter, Andy Hardy, appeared in 15-20 films.  In 1938, when his film Boys Town (with Spencer Tracy) was released, he was awarded a juvenile Academy Award. Towards the end of World War II, 1945-46, he did a 21-month stint with the US army’s Jeep Theatre. The Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland pair captivated audiences in as many as nine films, including Strike up the Band (1940), Babes on Broadway (1941) and Girl Crazy (1943). Another memorable film of that era is The Bold and the Brave (1956, WWII drama).

He also appeared as a Japanese neighbor in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961, Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard). In complete contrast, he played a boxing trainer in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), with Anthony Quinn and Jackie Gleason. Later films include Francis Ford Coppola's The Black Stallion (1979).

Rooney's first wife was Ava Gardner, and the eighth and last was Jan, from whom he separated in 2012. Having run out of all his earnings, mainly lost in alimony paid to his many wives, Rooney filed for bankruptcy in 1962. His fifth marriage, to Barbara Ann Thomason (screen name Carolyn Mitchell), ended in tragedy, in 1966, as Thomason was murdered. Rooney had already filed for divorce, citing mental cruelty and naming Mitchell's alleged lover, Milos Milos, as a co-respondent. Sadly, Milos killed Mitchell in a murder-suicide. She was only 29 years old.

Rooney often spoke out about elder abuse and even testified about the issue in Congress, in 2011, having been at receiving end from members of his own family. He filed a suit against his stepson Chris Aber, claiming that Aber and his wife verbally and financially abused him, and denied him even food and medicine. In 2013, the suit was settled in Rooney's favour, with $2.8m being awarded to him. Aber is the son of Jan Chamberlain, from whom he separated in 2013. She learnt about his death from the Internet.

Mickey Rooney quotes

“What was my appeal?” I was a gnomish prodigy – half-human, half-goblin, man-child, child-man.”  (From his 1991 memoir, Life Is Too Short, the title probably a pun at his height)

“Had I been brighter, the ladies been gentler, the liquor weaker, the gods kinder, the dice hotter -- it might have all ended up in a one-sentence story.” (Life Is Too Short)

“A combination of early Neanderthal and late Freud (On his constantly flirtatious life-style)

"I'm 74 but I feel like I'm 35. And it isn't work. You know what it is?

 It's fun, absolute fun. I don't know many people who are fortunate enough to be in a business like that."

 "Always get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesn't work out, you haven't wasted a whole day."

“We weren't just a team, we were magic" (On his repeated pairings with Judy Garland)

 "Hollywood has unfortunately become a memory. It's nothing but a sign on the side of a hill."

"And that's the way I have always lived, for the laughs -- today. N-O-W. No Other Way."

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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