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Mickey’s amorous crimes had to be swept under the carpet at all costs.Eddie Mannix was the man who – along with MGM’s publicity director Howard Strickling – kept the stars’ private lives out of the press.” The question wasn’t entirely rhetorical, as he went on to explain: “I was a gnomish prodigy – half-human, half-goblin, man-child, child-man.” Those qualities were as nothing compared to his flirting technique, which he characterised as “a combination of early Neanderthal and late Freud”.It was this, perhaps, that led his lover and co-star Lana Turner to dub him, in reference to his best-known role as Andy Hardy, “Andy Hard-on”.Indeed, he’s a star himself, with his own table at the Wolseley restaurant, a cocktail named after him at the Ivy and the motto “Why stay in when you can go out? And on her behalf he embarked on a labour of love that will finally be published next week after nearly a quarter of a century, despite the deaths of both subject and author, and Victor having to finish writing the memoirs himself.
He knew he could play the field as long as he played the Hollywood game too: he’d always be protected. The title of his autobiography, Life Is Too Short, is curious.
These women were always pitted against Andy’s ever-the-bridesmaid neighbour Betty, played by Judy Garland.
(I’ve always thought that explained quite a bit about Garland’s insecurities: for years she was presented as the childish foil, while others her age rose to sensual stardom.) Of course, behind the scenes, Rooney understood modern girls plenty well enough. (Eventually, he would marry four times more.) But while his steady supply of pretty co-stars gave him ample extra-curricular opportunities, he also wanted to break out of his Andy Hardy prison and grow up. “It’s not your life,” Rooney reported Mayer as saying. Not simply the success of his business but the colour of his world.
And yet, in 1939, he was the number-one box office attraction in the world.
Even Rooney himself wondered, in his 1991 memoir, Life Is Too Short: “What was my appeal?"He went through the ladies like a hot knife through fudge,” said Ava Gardner of Mickey Rooney, whom she’d married when she was 19.