Mickey Rooney dead: Legendary Hollywood star dies aged 93

Rooney started his career in his parents' vaudeville act while still a toddler

The Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, who started out as a child actor and became the biggest box-office star in the world, has died at home aged 93.

Despite his diminutive size, the actor was known for being one of the original larger-than-life personalities of the silver screen, married eight times, and never really retired from the public eye.

Los Angeles Police confirmed that Rooney was with his family when he died, of natural causes in his home in Studio City, North Hollywood on Sunday.

Born in Brooklyn named Joe Yule Junior, his career in showbusiness began as a toddler in his parents' vaudeville act. He was six when he secured his first movie role, and went on to receive hundreds of TV and film credits. 

Rooney received four Academy Award nominations and two special Academy Awards over his lifetime, and said in 2008: "I always say, 'Don't retire - inspire'. There's a lot to be done."

Sir Lawrence Olivier reportedly described him as the greatest film actor the US ever produced, and in a statement last night the actress Margaret O'Brien said: "He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn't do."

Among his recent roles was a part as a security guard in the 2006 comedy "Night at the Museum", and in 2011 he testified publicly before a Congress committee about the abuse of the elderly.

After his first film role as a cigar-smoking midget in the 1927 silent movie Orchids and Ermine,  Rooney's breakthrough part came when he was cast as the title character Mickey McGuire for a series of film shorts that ran from 1927 to 1934. He was just seven, and adopted the name and lifestyle as his own.

After changing his name, at his mother's suggestion, to "Rooney", he was cast as the wise-cracking Andy Hardy in a recurring role that saw him dominate Hollywood in the late 1930s and early 40s.

Rooney went to war in 1942, mainly serving to entertain the troops, and never fully recovered his spectacular pre-war eminence.

"The Bold and the Brave," 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as "Off Limits" with Bob Hope, "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" with William Holden, and "Requiem for a Heavyweight" with Anthony Quinn. In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" as Audrey Hepburn's bucktoothed Japanese neighbor.

Rooney's career refused to fade, and when in 1979 he received another Oscar nomination for a supporting role in "The Black Stallion", he commented: "I've been coming back like a rubber ball for years."

In his personal life, Rooney earned a reputation for drunken escapades, explosive short-lived romances and serial misfortune in both money and love.

The first of his eight marriages came when he was 21, to his glamorous fellow MGM star Ava Gardner, 19.

In 1978 he found his final - and most lasting - marriage with the then-39-year-old country singer Jan Chamberlin. In his late 80s they toured the country with a song-and-dance act.

In his later years Rooney became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He fathered five sons and five daughters.

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