Young or old, we all saw Mickey Rooney in some film or other, right? But did you know that among the more than 200 movies Rooney made was one called Hoosier Schoolboy? He plays a troubled teen living in the fictional Ainsley, Ind., who’s helped by a wise and beautiful schoolteacher who’s just moved to town. You can watch the 1937 film on YouTube, or at archive.org/details/hoosier_schoolboy.
Rooney, who died Sunday at 93, once was as big as they got in Hollywood. His movies, television and stage performances entertained audiences born in three centuries. He was one of the last veterans of the silent movie era, the only one who also appeared in the 2011 movie The Muppets.
On screen or on stage, he was always up – ready to put on a show. His private life wasn’t always as sunny. Rooney married eight times, dealt with bankruptcy and alcoholism, and saw his career wax and wane.
One of his most dramatic public moments came at a 2011 Senate hearing where he testified at age 90. Rooney said a stepson and the stepson’s wife held him a virtual prisoner in his own home, withholding food and medicine, confiscating his identification, even taking his Oscars and Emmy. (The couple denied the allegations, though last year they settled with Rooney’s guardian for more than $2 million.)
Rooney understood that telling such a story of humiliation and helplessness would make the problem of elder abuse tangible for millions of Americans. It couldn’t have been easy, even for someone who had lived his life in the spotlight for so many years.
Maybe Mickey Rooney summoned a little bit of the spirit of Andy Hardy that day.