Last night Variety‘s Scott Foundas more or less agreed with my opinion that Mickey Rooney‘s most interesting performances might have happened after his slap-happy, top-of-the-world, movie-star peak of the 1930s and early ’40s. His noir films weren’t as “entertaining” as the fluff stuff but they have a dimensionality lacking in the Andy Hardy films (it was Lana Turner who gave Rooney the nickname “Andy Hard-on“) and Judy Garland musicals. Foundas focused on three crime noirs — Quicksand, Drive A Crooked Road and Baby Face Nelson — in which Rooney starred, but what about his ferocious turn as Killer Mears in The Last Mile (’59)? Not an especially good film, but the finale — Rooney coolly sauntering into a prison courtyard to face a hailstorm of bullets — is classic. Honest reaction: Very little of Rooney’s “What I’ve Learned” Esquire interview (2006) “sings” or sticks to the ribs.
(l.) Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) in 1944 or thereabouts; (r.) Rooney in ’06, age 86.
drive a crooked road