A life in the movies
A star of stage and screen before he could walk, Mickey Rooney is coming to Scotland as part of Glasgow‘s festival of American music and arts. He tells Mark Cousins, director of the Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival. about Hollywood, then and now.
it the phone to Mickey Rooney. it’s morning with him and evening with me. When I comment on this. he says: ‘But we're together now. Mark.‘ II was nice of him to say so. eycn if it‘s not really true.
We‘re talking about showbiz. and how it has changed in Rooney‘s 75 years as an actor. l say that it‘s a long way from the escapism of vaudeville. where he debuted with his Scottish parents at the precocious age of one and a bit. to the diabolical shadows of. say. Seven. this year‘s must-see movie. ‘You would pick Seven.’ he says. ‘I didn't care for it. It wasn‘t a hit here.‘ I don't contradict him. but it took 887 million in North America alone.
Isn't it interesting. I ask. that the US. which invented the culture of escapism and can do a happy ending better than anyone else. also has a darker side‘.’ Seven‘s nihilism has struck a chord. ‘You forget.‘ says Rooney. ‘that I’ve done drama. You forget Boys Town [where he plays a juvenile delinquent]. National Velvet and Bill [which won him an Emmy — he‘s also got two Oscars].‘ I hadn‘t forgotten these performances. and I‘ll never forget him in The Human Comedy. where he plays a telegram boy delivering bad news. but I'm pleased that we’re onto this darker side ofhis career.
Rooney believes America has suffered a great loss: ‘Therc are no great musicians like Jimmy Dorsey or Artie Shaw. Erich Korngold [the (‘xech composer who worked at Warncrs and did the score for the famous A Midsummer Night's Dream in which Mickey played Puck] wrote sortie of the most beautiful things in the world.‘ The movies too have suffered this loss. ‘Jim Carrey. whom I know well. isn't the only person in the world who can be funny. They‘ve forgotten
‘The studios have been rent asunder. They’ve forgotten how to make comedies. Jim Carrey isn’t the only person in the world who can be funny.’
how to make comedies. You see. the studios have been rent asunder. It hurts me that Harry Cohn’s not there. that Zanuck‘s no longer at Fox.‘ Mickey Rooney is talking faster now than I’ve ever heard him talk in the movies. ‘Being an American and a Scotsman. I can say that there isn‘t any truth in our politicians. The political situation is full ofjunk . . . The people of the US have to take their country back. They have lost their role models. They are not proud of whothey are any more.‘ That‘s also what Seven says. Rooney isn’t mentioning specific political parties here. but his tone is more John Wayne
§\\ ' L'kth l» aimed“!
Mickey Rooney (left) and (below) as a young boy to Babes in Arms .1939
than John Galbraith. What I like about the man is
his absolute dedication to the present. He’s lived a life that's full. he‘s travelled each and every byway (stage. movies. acting. directing. comedy, tragedy. eight marriages. top box office in 1939, bankrupt in 1962). He thinks that America is in a mess. that the film world is on a road to ruin. and yet he‘s more up to date with movies than most other studio stars - Scorsese’s Casino (‘three hours of dirty words’). Michael Mann’s Heat (‘the action’s about something. it’s not just action‘). Rob Roy (‘Liam Neeson should get an Oscar'). I might not agree with these opinions. but it‘s refreshing that Mickey is so on the ball.
He says he’sjust a regular guy. He seems to have no ego. and I say that’s rare in movie stars. ‘What is a movie star‘." he counters. ‘Someone you worship.‘ I reply. ‘There’s only one person you worship.‘ says Mickey. ‘Our good Lord God.’
And now Mickey‘s coming back borne. If your name is Yule. you might be his kin. His father. Joe Yule. apparently came from outside Edinburgh and went to America at the beginning of the century. i tell Mickey that I'll look up the family records.
Next month. Joe Yule Jnr(‘l prefer that name to Mickey Rooney.‘ says Mickey Rooney) and his wife Jan will arrive in Scotland to perfomi his one-man show — ‘I can’t tell you what’s in it. it would ruin the surprise’ — and do an actors’ masterclass on Max Reinhard and William Dieterle’s twinkling A Midsummer Night's Dream. His theory of acting. which he expounds in his Mickey Rooney 's Home Study Acting Classes video. is that we’re all little boys and little girls playing roles. His little boy Puck performance is now ()0 years old and ‘the spirit and personification of youth‘. as his special I938 Oscar citation said. If you haven’t seen it. do. Mickey Rooney 3‘ one man show is at the King '3 Theatre, Glasgow on Sunday 18 February at 7.30pm. A Midsummer Night's Dream screens at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Thursday 22 February at 6.30pm. followed by a discussion with the actor.
The List 26 Jan-8 Feb 1996 9