April 7, 2014 at 8:00 AM ET
Mickey Rooney, a Hollywood legend with one of the longest careers of any actor in American film, has died. He was 93.
Born Joe Yule Jr. in Brooklyn to two vaudeville veterans, Rooney debuted on the silver screen aged six and appeared in more than 300 films. The irrepressible showman's prolific career on stage and screen spanned eight decades and earned him four Academy Award nominations and two special Oscars.
"He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn't do," actress Margaret O'Brien said in a statement. O'Brien recently worked with Rooney on "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
"I always say, 'Don't retire — inspire,'" Rooney said in an interview with The Associated Press in March 2008. "There's a lot to be done."
At the peak of his fame in the early 1940s, Rooney was Hollywood's biggest box-office draw. The cherubic, diminutive young performer skyrocketed to national fame after starring as all-American teenager Andy Hardy in "A Family Affair," which spawned nearly 20 sequels over three decades.
Widely beloved for a string of high-energy musicals with longtime friend Judy Garland, Rooney was the first teen nominated for an Oscar for his performance in their classic song-and-dance picture "Babes in Arms."
Rooney also scored plaudits for an early dramatic turn as a delinquent youth in the Spencer Tracy film "Boys Town." The role earned him a special Juvenile Academy Award in 1939.
Reuters described the young Rooney as "the Justin Bieber of his time. His fame, money, gambling, lust and mercurial nature were problems for the MGM studio, which did not like seeing its young star sully his reputation and box-office potential. The studio assigned a full-time staffer to keep Rooney out of trouble but his antics still frequently ended up in gossip columns."
As the pint-sized Rooney grew older, he remained a ubiquitous presence on numerous television shows and as a character player in scores of Hollywood titles, from Francis Ford Coppola's "The Black Stallion" to 2011's "The Muppets."
Rooney also won an Emmy for his TV movie "Bill" and had a Tony nomination for his Broadway smash "Sugar Babies."
Rooney was married eight times — including a year of matrimony with the 19-year-old Ava Gardner. He had 11 children.
"The American public is my family," Rooney once said. "I've had fun with them all my life."
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.