Here are 10 things you should know about the legendary (and justifiably so) Judy Garland, born 96 years ago today. Hers was a complicated life and career, not easily summed up in 100 items, much less 10, so we’ve focused on the positives (it’s her birthday, after all) of her early career.
We were sorry to learn of the passing on Sunday of Mickey Rooney. His performing career spanned 92 years (he first appeared onstage, in his parents’ vaudeville act, at the age of 17 months); that’s a record that will likely never be broken.
And we are not ashamed to admit that we are suckers for Andy Hardy movies. Rest in peace, Mickey.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the ads for the TCM Classic Cruises and thought, “That would be fun.”
But then we can’t help but think, “But it would have been much more fun ten or fifteen years ago.” The sad truth is, there just aren’t that many performers left from the 1930s and ’40s and, of course, there are even fewer that date back as far as the silent movie era.
In that latter category, there’s Mickey Rooney and Carla Laemmle (who was never a big star, but did appear in some big pictures, including Lon Chaney‘s Phantom of the Opera and the 1931 version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi).
And then there’s Diana Serra Cary (née Peggy-Jean Montgomery), who was one of the biggest stars of the silent era, albeit at a very young age.
Cary, then known as Baby Peggy, made her film debut in 1921. She went on to make more than 150 shorts for Century Pictures before signing with Universal Pictures in 1923 for $1.5 million a year. Jackie Coogan, the top child star of the day, was growing up, and Universal was hoping Peggy, who would now be starring in feature-length pictures, pick up the slack left by his declining popularity.
Peggy is to have received more than 1.2 million fan letters during her relatively brief time in the spotlight, but by 1925, the bottom fell out of her career. Her father played it tough in negotiating with independent producer Sol Lesser, for whom she had made a couple of features, and Lesser not only declined to work with her any more, he used his influence in Hollywood to see that no one else would hire her, either. She made only one more silent movie, a small role in the 1926 film April Fool, and then began touring in vaudeville.
With the crash of 1929, Peggy’s family fortunes went in the tank. Her parents had spent most of her earnings, and what investments they had made were now worthless. She eventually stooped to doing extra work in the 1930s, but by 1938, at the age of 19, she was through working in pictures.
In later years, Peggy became a writer and author, publishing a number of books about Hollywood, including her 1996 memoir, Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy?. She’s still active today, making personal appearances at film festivals and revival houses.
Beginning at 8 p.m. on Monday, December 3, Turner Classic Movies will air a new documentary about Peggy’s life and career, Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room (2012), and four of her pictures (most of which are lost films), three shorts—Carmen Jr. (1923), Peg o’ the Mounted (1924), and Such Is Life (1924)—and one feature, Captain January (1924).
Today marks the 92nd birthday of Joe Yule Jr., whom most of us know better as Mickey Rooney. He made his stage debut at the age of 15 months and is still working today, which means his career spans ten decades. That’s an accomplishment that will likely never be matched.
We have a soft spot for the Andy Hardy movies he made for MGM, corny as they are, but we thought we’d mark Rooney’s birthday by sharing two less familiar clips from his career. The first is an appearance on What’s My Line, in which Mickey’s disguised voice is so annoying, we were praying that the blindfolded panel would quickly guess his identity.
The second clip is from the Mickey McGuire series of comedies from the late 1920s and early ’30s in which Rooney played McGuire himself.
The term “yesterday’s news” is usually meant to denigrate, but for fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood, old news can often be welcome news. Following, in retrospect, the career ebbs and flows — and even the day-to-day lives — of our favorite performers, writers, and directors offers a new/old insight on these fascinating figures.
A terrific resource for such digging through the past is the very worthy blog Hollywood Heyday. Each entry revisits the Tinseltown news and gossip of a particular day in a given year, leaving the reader feeling as if she’s traveled back in time.
The sources are wire services and syndicated columnists, among them such still-familiar names as Luella Parsons and Hedda Hopper and other journalists whose names are not as well known today, including Wood Soanes and Chester B. Bahn.
Charles Butterworth, whose movie career terminated largely because his style of humor is so distinctive that he needed a special author to provide him with material, is returning to the stage for a comedy part in the next Max Gordon revue. Before that happens, however, he’ll work with Chevalier in a picture.
Butterworth was hardly through with the movies at that point in time — he went on to make more than thirty more pictures before his premature death in an auto accident in 1946 — but it’s intriguing to learn that at one point in time, it was thought he was finished in Hollywood.
Other stories remind us that now-familiar names were not always so, as in this tidbit from Bahn on the same date, April 22, 1932:
Universal failed to pick up option of Mickey Rooney, formerly known as Mickey McGuire.
It’s intriguing to think of a time when young Mickey was a) newly dubbed “Rooney” and b) getting dropped by movie studios.
“The Sun Also Rises,” to star Constance Bennett, is more than just a mere rumor. The book has been purchased and Rowland Brown is now reading it and discussing treatment, for he will direct her. Some of the considerable angles will have to be removed but it is fundamentally a splendid story and should give Connie an excellent vehicle.
To the best of our knowledge, that’s a project that never got off the ground, but learning that it was once in the works leaves us wondering just how it might have turned out.
Bela Lugosi did a laugh-clown-laugh stunt at the Carthay Circle theater the other night. He tripped back stage, fell and broke three ribs, but went on with his performance of “Murdered Alive.” He probably felt just that way.
Admittedly, few of the reports offered by Hollywood Heyday are major news, even by Tinseltown standards — they merely offer a glimpse of the daily professional and personal ups and downs of fondly remembered (and some not-so-fondly recalled) members of the picture biz of decades past. There are those who would no doubt scratch their heads and wonder at the appeal of these snippets of yesterday’s news; I think most members of the Cladrite Radio clan, though, will, as we do, find the site fascinating — and habit-forming, to boot.