When the original “Night at the Museum” came to screens in 2006 it brought together several of the finest thespians in the business, Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, Mickey Rooney, and Robin Williams all in supporting roles. This was a delight for many, to see such amazing talent and star power on the same screen. However, back in 2006 no one realized another amazing thing that this budding franchise would give us; the final live action performance of not one, but two Hollywood icons. Mickey Rooney. Robin Williams.
Films are often highly regarded when it is the last performance for an actor, and it often boosts the box office for that film because of so many that want to enjoy the work of their beloved stars, one last time. However, it is only once in a blue moon that a single film is the grand finale for two stars. I speak of course, of “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”.
Let’s take a look at the lives of these two magnificent artists.
Mickey Rooney was born Joe Yule Jr. on September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, and took the stage as a toddler in his parents' vaudeville act at 17 months old. He made his first film appearance in 1926. The following year, he played the lead character in the first Mickey McGuire short film. It was in this popular film series that he took the stage name Mickey Rooney. Rooney reached new heights in 1937 with A Family Affair, the film that introduced the country to Andy Hardy, the popular all-American teenager. This beloved character appeared in nearly 20 films and helped make Rooney the top star at the box office in 1939, 1940, and 1941. Rooney also proved himself an excellent dramatic actor as a delinquent in Boys Town starring Spencer Tracy. In 1938, he was awarded a juvenile Academy Award.
Teaming up with Judy Garland, Rooney also appeared in a string of musicals, including Babes in Arms (1939)--the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar in a leading role--Strike up the Band (1940), Babes on Broadway (1941), and Girl Crazy (1943). He and Garland immediately became best of friends. "We weren't just a team, we were magic," Rooney once said. During that time, he also appeared with Elizabeth Taylor in the now classic National Velvet (1944). Rooney joined the service that same year, where he helped to entertain the troops and worked on the American Armed Forces Network. He returned to Hollywood after 21 months in Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946), did a remake of a Robert Taylor film, The Crowd Roars called Killer McCoy (1947), and portrayed composer Lorenz Hart in Words and Music (1948). He also appeared in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. Rooney played Hepburn's Japanese neighbor, Mr. Yunioshi. A sign of the times, Rooney played the part for comic relief, which he later regretted feeling the role was offensive. He once again showed his incredible range in the dramatic role of a boxing trainer with Anthony Quinn and Jackie Gleason in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). In the late 1960s and 1970s Rooney showed audiences and critics alike why he was one of Hollywood's most enduring stars. He gave an impressive performance in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film The Black Stallion, which brought him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He also turned to the stage in 1979 in Sugar Babies with Ann Miller and was nominated for a Tony Award. During that time, he also portrayed the Wizard in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with Eartha Kitt at New York's Madison Square Garden, which also had a successful run nationally.
Rooney appeared in four television series: The Mickey Rooney Show (1954-1955), a comedy sit-com in 1964 with Sanunee Tong called Mickey, One of the Boys in 1982 with Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane, and the Adventures of the Black Stallion from 1990-1993. In 1981, Rooney won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of a mentally challenged man in Bill. The critical acclaim continued for the veteran performer, with Rooney receiving an honorary Academy Award "in recognition of his 60 years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances." More recently, he appeared in such films as Night at the Museum (2006) with Ben Stiller, and The Muppets (2011) with Amy Adams and Jason Segel.
Rooney's personal life, including his frequent trips to the altar, proved to be just as epic as his on-screen performances. His first wife was one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, actress Ava Gardner. Mickey permanently and legally separated from his eighth wife Jan in June of 2012. In 2011, Rooney filed elder abuse and fraud charges against stepson Christopher Aber and Aber's wife. At Rooney's request, the Superior Court issued a restraining order against the Abers, demanding that they stay 100 yards from Rooney, Mickey's stepson Mark Rooney, and Mark's wife Charlene. Just prior, Rooney had mustered the strength to break his silence and appeared before the Senate in Washington D.C. telling of his own heartbreaking story of abuse in an effort to live a peaceful, full life and help others who may also be suffering in silence.
Rooney requested through the Superior Court to permanently reside with his son Mark (a musician) and Charlene Rooney (an artist) in the Hollywood Hills. Ironically, after eight failed marriages, he never looked or felt better and finally found happiness in the single life. Once again Mickey Rooney has proven that he is a survivor and shows no signs of slowing down or retiring.
Mickey Rooney passed away on April 6, 2014 at the age of 93.
Technically this is not the final movie that will be released that is to star Robin Williams. “Absolutely Anything” is set to release in 2015 in which Robin lent his voice to the character Dennis the Dog. It is, however, the final live action performance by the comic genius. (Side note: he also has a movie scheduled to come out in November called “Merry Friggin’ Christmas”)
Actor and comedian Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois. Eventually becoming one of America's funniest performers, Williams attended Claremont Men's College and College of Marin before enrolling at the Juilliard School in New York City. There he befriended and became roomies with fellow actor Christopher Reeve. Williams later experimented with comedy in San Francisco and Los Angeles, developing a successful stand-up act.
Williams had done work on TV programs like The Richard Pryor Show, Laugh-In and Eight Is Enough before becoming more widely known to American audiences as the alien Mork. The character debuted on the series Happy Days before being given his own show, Mork & Mindy . Williams co-starred with Pam Dawber in the zany, endearing sitcom, which debuted in 1978 and ran for four seasons.
Having been part of the cast of the 1977 romp Can I Do It 'Till I Need Glasses?, Williams made his big-screen debut in a lead role playing that famous spinach-eating sailor in Popeye (1981), directed by Robert Altman and co-starring Shelley Duvall.
A string of successful film roles for Williams followed over the years, showcasing his stellar comedic talents as well as his ability to take on serious work. He played the title character in 1982's The World According to Garp as well as a Russian musician who defects to America in Moscow on the Hudson (1984). Later, in Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Williams portrayed irreverent radio DJ Adrian Cronauer, while in Dead Poets Society (1989) he played free-thinking teacher John Keating. Both projects earned the actor Academy Award nods for lead actor.
While his career was taking off, Williams faced many personal challenges. He developed a drug and alcohol problem while working on the sitcom Mork and Mindy, and would struggle with addiction for more than two decades. He also became involved in several tumultuous romantic relationships; while married to actress Valerie Velardi, he was involved with other women. Williams and Velardi ultimately divorced in 1988. The following year, he married his son's nanny, Marsha Garces.
Despite personal setbacks, Williams continued acting. He appeared in the hit Penny Marshall drama Awakenings (1990) with Robert De Niro and Julie Kavner, and received his third Oscar nomination for his role as homeless man Parry in the 1991 redemptive drama The Fisher King. Tackling family friendly fare as well, he starred as a grown-up Peter Pan in Hook (1991) and provided the voice of the genie in Disney's animated film Aladdin (1992). Williams starred in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumangi (1995) and Flubber (1997) as well.
His more adult-oriented films also made waves, including The Birdcage (1996) and Good Will Hunting (1997). His performance as the psychiatrist in the latter project won him an Academy Award as best supporting actor.
For the next few years, Williams took on a range of roles. He starred as the doctor who treated his patients with humor in Patch Adams (1998) and then portrayed a Jewish man in Germany during World War II in Jakob the Liar (1999). Based on a work by Isaac Asimov, Bicentennial Man (1999) gave Williams the opportunity to play an android who develops human emotions. And he returned to voice acting as Dr. Know in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence in 2001.
While best known for his thrilling humor, Robin Williams also explored darker characters and situations on screen. He played a creepy photo developer in One Hour Photo (2002); a writer of pulp novels in Insomnia (2002); and a radio host who gets caught up in the mystery surrounding a troubled fan in The Night Listener (2006). Williams returned to his comedic talents as well with Man of the Year (2006), a send-up of U.S. presidential politics. Ironically, that same year, he portrayed Teddy Roosevelt in the popular family film Night at the Museum, co-starring Ben Stiller.
In the summer of 2006, Williams suffered a drug relapse. He admitted himself to a rehabilitation facility for alcoholism treatment that August. The actor quickly rebounded and, in 2007, he starred as a reverend in the comedy License to Wed with Mandy Moore and John Krasinski.
In September 2008, Robin Williams started touring for his one-man stand-up comedy show, Weapons of Self Destruction, focusing on "social and political absurdities." That same year, he and Garces divorced, citing irreconcilable differences.
Williams poured his energy into his sold-out shows. But health problems would derail the comedian in March of 2009. Several months into his fast-paced tour, Williams began experiencing shortness of breath. The complications led him to cancel performances and he ended up undergoing heart surgery.
While Williams was recovering, the actor was once again seen playing Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. In November 2009, he starred alongside John Travolta in the Disney film Old Dogs.
Williams once again continued working on a number of different projects. He made guest appearances on TV shows like Louie and Wilfred. In March 2011 he appeared on Broadway as part of the original cast of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, with the show running until July. On the big screen, reprising his roles of Ramon and Lovelace from the 2006 original, he lent his voice to the 2011 animated sequel Happy Feet Two. He and graphic designer Susan Schneider also tied the knot that October.
Williams had supporting roles in two 2013 projects: the romantic comedy The Big Wedding with Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton, and the Lee Daniels' drama The Butler, where Williams portrayed Dwight D. Eisenhower. That year, Williams also announced his return to series TV. He co-starred with Sarah Michelle Gellar on the sitcom The Crazy Ones, which debuted in the fall. Set in an advertising firm, the show featured Williams and Gellar as father and daughter. The show was canceled after only one season. Then in 2014, Williams starred as disgruntled Henry Altmann in the film Angriest Man in Brooklyn.
Williams has three children: Zachary (his son with Velardi), Zelda and Cody (his two children with Garces).
On August 11, 2014, the 63-year-old comedian was found dead in his California home. Although the cause of his death was not immediately confirmed, the coroner suspects it was a suicide caused by asphyxiation.
His publicist released this statement: “Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”
What an amazing thing it is to have millions of people all mourning together. This is a testament to the greatness and grandeur of these two Hollywood titans. You will both be missed.
Will you miss these two?
Mickey Rooney biography from www.mickeyrooney.com
Robin Wiliams biography from www.biography.com