He was born into a vaudeville family. He moved into film in 1927, making his name with a series of over forty silent two-reel comedies (1927 to 1933) where he was the 'Toonerville Trolley' cartoon character, Mickey McGuire.
He legally changed his name to Mickey Rooney in 1932. In 1934 he signed to MGM and was educated at the studio's School for Professional Children. His successful role as Andy Hardy in A Family Affair (1937) led to fourteen further films featuring that character from 1938 to 1946.
His fame peaked in WW II with a string of successful musicals with Judy Garland, including the Oscar nominated Babes in Arms (1939) as well as more serious roles in films like The Human Comedy (1943) and National Velvet (1944). But after his return from the Service he found his career had slumped. He appeared in a number of indifferent films with his last top-billed picture Words and Music in 1948. In 1954 he had his own television show. In the 1960s he returned to theatrical entertainment, but he keep on accepting film roles, mixing the dross with better work in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) or The Black Stallion (1979).
He was given an honorary Oscar in 1938 and was given a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1983.
He has been married and divorced seven times (including to actresses Ava Gardner and Martha Vickers) before marrying his current wife, January Chamberlin, in 1978. He has five sons and four daughters.