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The outlines of the Mick's career and private life, limned with reasonably painstaking care by Groucho's son Arthur. Back in the mid-30's, author Marx used to play tennis with Mickey before Mickey hit it big with MGM. Later, Marx's wife-to-be was courted by Mickey, and still later Marx and Mickey became associated in a TV series starring Mickey and cowritten by Marx. And during Mickey's smash comeback in Sugar Babies, Marx offered to write Mickey's autobiography for him, but Mickey turned him down to write it himself. He'd already written his earlier autobiography, I.E. (1965). So, Marx is drawn to Rooney both as a man for whom he has warm feeling and also as a creature who's had an abnormally large number of resurrections. Rooney has been a performing fireball since joining his parents' vaudeville act at two. At six, he became famous as Mickey McGuire, a character adapted from the old Toonerville Trolley comic strip, mugging his way through dozens of McGuire films, and others, but then faded from the movies and returned to vaudeville until he came back at 12. Joining the MGM stable, he gave his classic performance as Puck when loaned out to Warner Brothers for Max Reinhardt's A Midsummer Night's Dream, became America's number-one box office king (edging out Gable) by his late teens for his Andy Hardy series. At that point he married unfledged actress and virgin Ava Gardner; it lasted eight months. He's had seven more marriages, with one wife dying of a murder-suicide horror. His career has fizzled, skyrocketed, failed, skyrocketed, gone fiat, found him in beach-blanket movies, soared, flopped, and is currently on a high that should carry him to the end of his days--he's made that much money from Sugar Babies. Along the way, his drinking and gambling addictions have done him in repeatedly, driven him into bankruptcy. Today he's a born-again Christian, still an unflappable egomaniac, insane for attention and with a need to prove his skills. Mickey deserves a biography by a Balzac of crackups, someone stylistically equal to the spasmodic grand dementia of his many deaths and rebirths. That book is not likely ever to be written, so we must be content with Marx's version.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1986
Publisher: Stein & Day