Cinema: Success Story

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Afternoons off, Mom and her son, like two characters out of a Theodore Dreiser novel, would go for long bus rides through booming Beverly Hills. Joe promised his Mom a big house some day and a great big car "where you sit inside and the chauffeur sits outside and gets rained on." Mickey McGuire. Through thick and thin Mom has always been a great newspaper reader. Combing the classified ads one day, she found one asking for a young actor to play black-polled Mickey McGuire in a series of shorts based on Cartoonist Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Trolley strip. Mom blackened little Joe's tow head with burnt cork, and for the next seven years Joe Yule Jr. made 78 Mickey McGuire pictures at $200 a picture. He also had his name legally changed to Mickey McGuire. But in 1932 Producer Larry Darmour shelved the series.

Without a job himself Mickey McGuire decided to put his name to work. He planned to take Mickey McGuire on a ten-week vaudeville tour. McGuire never went. For this time Mickey was not only jobless but nameless. Irate Cartoonist Fox had haled him into court, forced Mickey to relinquish the name McGuire. But Fox could not make him give up Mickey. In a moment of inspiration Mom suggested that Mickey take the surname Looney. Mickey changed it to Rooney.

Mickey Rooney. In 1937 MGM bought a play by Aurania Rouverol, called Skidding. It was a mild little piece about a small town U. S. family, named Hardy, whose ups and downs were intended to rouse no deeper emotion in theatre-goers than a tender smile through a film of happy tears. MGM proposed to turn Skidding, with title changed to A Family Affair, into a picture on a rock-bottom budget of less than $200,000.

Mickey had been an MGM contract player ($250 a week top) for a year, and his pert ways and brassy cackle had lent themselves to shows like A h Wilderness, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Devil Is a Sissy. It did not look to anybody as if the part of Andy Hardy in A Family Affair would buy Mom's big car. It was a B picture and got a normal B response. But serials were being done. So MGM made another Hardy picture, and another. The fourth one, Love Finds Andy Hardy, was made by the kind of reflex that keeps studios grinding them out.

Nobody was more surprised than MGM officials to wake up one night to find that Love Finds Andy Hardy was being enthusiastically received in all the best movie houses. Here was MGM with a serial gold mine on its hands and a surprising new star, an appealing Irish roughneck who had twined his boyish fingers around the heart strings of U. S. movie goers.

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