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Mickey Rooney, irrepressible performer who spent his life on stage and screen, dead at 93

April 7, 2014 at 6:43 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: remembering the work of two men in the world of arts and literature who died this weekend, one a Hollywood star known to millions, the other, one of the most noted writers of his generation.

Jeffrey Brown has our remembrance.

Mickey Rooney’s life as an entertainer would last for nine decades. He was born Joe Yule Jr. in 1920 to Vaudeville-performing parents and began his own career while still a toddler.

By his teens, he was the top box office star in the world, playing the all-American boy Andy Hardy in a series of films, including “A Family Affair” and a troublemaker reformed by Spencer Tracy in the 1938 film “Boys Town.”

MICKEY ROONEY: If you think you’re going to make a plow jockey out of me, you got another coming.

JEFFREY BROWN: He sang and danced alongside Judy Garland in their “Let’s Put on a Show” musicals, including the 1941 “Babes on Broadway.”

(SINGING)

JEFFREY BROWN: And appeared with Elizabeth Taylor in “National Velvet.”

MICKEY ROONEY: You will be disqualified at the end when they find out you’re a girl.

JEFFREY BROWN: After serving in the Army during World War II, his life became one of professional and personal ups and downs. He married eight times and lost his fortune to gambling, lavish spending and bad business decisions.

But the irrepressible performer kept popping up in one comeback after another.

ACTOR: Where are you or who are you? Over.

MICKEY ROONEY: I know how to work it. I know how to work it. Watch it.

JEFFREY BROWN: He showed his comedic talents in the 1963 hit “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

MICKEY ROONEY: Hello. Hello. Down on the ground, this is us up in the air. And, listen, we’re in this fellow’s plane, see. And he knocked himself out because he drank a whole case of bourbon, and he fell down and he hit his head. And what do we do?

ACTOR: The switch. Let go of the switch.

ACTOR: If you can, give us your position. Who’s flying the plane? Over.

MICKEY ROONEY: What do you mean who’s flying the plane? Nobody’s flying the plane.

JEFFREY BROWN: For his supporting role as a retired horse jockey in 1979′s “The Black Stallion,” Rooney received his fourth Oscar nomination.

MICKEY ROONEY: When a horse starts out of that gate, too, you have got to remember this. And remember it. You don’t want him to outbreak you. You know what that means?

That horse starts to settle. They open that gate, wham, like that, and someone just, scat, whap. Well, you can’t do that, so you grab a handful of mane, just before he says go, so that he don’t outbreak you. You know what I mean? Because you open that gate and you will just be sitting in the midair. You understand?

JEFFREY BROWN: That same year, he received a Tony nod for “Sugar Babies.”  In 1983, he won an Emmy for his role as a mentally challenged man in the TV movie “Bill.” And continued to find work in television and movies, like the 2006 hit “A Night at the Museum.”

ACTOR: Gus.

MICKEY ROONEY: Where is he? I will beat him with my fists.

ACTOR: Gus, this is Larry Daley, the kid who wants to be the new night guard.

BEN STILLER, Actor: Night guard? No, no, the lady at the agency said this was a museum position.

ACTOR: Most important position in the museum, Larry.

MICKEY ROONEY: He looks like a weirdy.

JEFFREY BROWN: Through it all, Rooney maintained a sense of humor, and of wonderment, for his trade.

MICKEY ROONEY: People in our business are the luckiest people in the world. We’re grown-up children playing making believe, still being children, saying, hey, you be the bad guy; I will be the good guy.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mickey Rooney died Sunday in California. He was 93 years old.

Note: Due to web restrictions, we were unable to publish this video.