By Don Hohl
7:28 PM EST, December 8, 2010
Dear Mr. Rooney,
I have been a fan of your films for 50 years, from "Andy Hardy" and "Young Tom Edison" to "The Human Comedy" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I believe that I have seen and own most of them, but I have always wanted to interest my grandchildren in your wonderful acting abilities, too.
This Thanksgiving (actually, Nov. 23, to be exact), TCM aired "Boys Town," and our whole family watched it. That's all it took to hook the youngsters. Your portrayal of bad boy turned hero got them hooked. Perhaps the best words that I heard on that day of giving thanks were the buzz when "Boys Town" ended. "Gee, he's a great actor." "He's so alive on film." "I didn't know that a black and white film could be so interesting." "Grandpa, do you have any other Mickey Rooney films in your library? We would like to watch some with you." Hello, we can't tell the next generation anything; they must see it to appreciate it for themselves.
Thank you, Mr. Rooney, for believing in "National Velvet," for saving a trainload of passengers from plunging over a washed-out bridge, for falling in love a thousand times with the pretty faces that Louis B. Mayer provided you for your films, and for teaching a spoiled rich boy the values of hard work through fishing for a living. Oh, you were wonderful in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," but you were unique in the 30s and 40s. True, you had superb writers, gifted directors and eye-popping partners: Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Esther Williams, Cecilia Parker and Donna Reed, among others. Actually, they were enriched by your presence on screen. You brought the best out of C. Aubrey Smith, Guy Kibbee and Wallace Beery. Freddie Bartholomew and you teamed up well in "Little Lord Fauntleroy." Imagine, you and David Copperfield on screen together.
As we all fade into the sunset, I want you to know that your legend will live on with my grandkids. I'm dividing the 15 Mickey Rooney movies that I have among the five kids. Each inherits three, and Laura, the oldest at 18, acts as the librarian when the trading/borrowing happens. "Captains Courageous" paired you with Spencer Tracy early in his career, and then you gave him a lift again in "Boys Town." You're an amazing actor, dancer, singer, leader of bands and wholesome American. Congratulations for making the front cover of December's 2010 TCM movie magazine. TCM has given us 24 hours each Monday in December to see most of your 70-plus films. While I'm certainly no Robert Osborne, I can appreciate your talents and toot my horn about the lifetime of achievements that you have given to the American movie public.
Thank you and Merry Christmas, Mr. Rooney.
DON HOHL is a Huntington Beach resident.