He knew how to put on a show — and then some.
Though perhaps best remembered as the chipper teenager devoted to performing, Mickey Rooney developed into a more layered and versatile character actor over the course of his 93 years, and his enthusiasm for his craft never waned.
The role of the irrepressible Andy Hardy made him a teenage superstar, and won him a Juvenile Academy Award. But his ensuing career was long and multidimensional. He was regarded by his fellow actors as effortless and exuberant.
OBITUARY: Hollywood legend dies at 93
MOVIES: Rooney's top 5 performances
"There was nothing he couldn't do," said fellow child star Margaret O'Brien.
The diminutive Rooney began his film career as a 6-year-old, after a vaudevillian stint as a toddler. That down-to-earth boyish persona established early could be glimpsed in many of his 200-plus films. The impish gleam in his eye served him well as he became a versatile character actor, sometimes playing against type. His role as a gambling GI in the WWII drama The Bold and the Brave (1956) underscored his ability to reinvent himself and resulted in one of his four Oscar nominations.
Though he'd won a slew of awards and was a marquee name, he was not above taking small, key roles in a variety of films. He was in The Muppets in 2011 and had been shooting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before he died.
Though he could sing, dance, crack wise and ham it up, he could also play a credible, conniving villain, as he did in 1998 in Babe: Pig in the City.
He approached all his roles with the same zeal, whether playing a bratty punk in 1938's Boys Town, a high-spirited Puck in 1935's A Midsummer Night's Dream or his famous pairings with Judy Garland in the massively popular Andy Hardy movie series that forged his high-spirited reputation.
He was revered in Hollywood as an actor who would give it his all — no matter the size of the role or the quality of the movie.
There was no one more full of pep, no one so indefatigable, no one more willing to throw himself into putting on a show. His World War II service was largely spent entertaining troops, no doubt raising morale.
Despite an up-and-down career that encompassed bankruptcy and other personal setbacks, Rooney was ever the trooper, admired for his tenacity and resilience.
His acting style was ever-energetic, even when it was ill-conceived, as in his notorious 1961 role in Breakfast at Tiffany's, where he played Audrey Hepburn's upstairs neighbor, a Japanese man named Mr. Yunioshi. (Rooney later said he was "downright ashamed" of that performance, widely denounced as racist.)
He adopted a particularly poignant approach for his memorable performance as a retired jockey turned horse trainer in 1979's The Black Stallion, for which he received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
Rooney was the quintessential Hollywood survivor who approached things with all-or-nothing verve.
This year will be remembered as the time when two of the most iconic child actors, Shirley Temple (who died Feb. 10) and Mickey Rooney, left behind a legacy of spunky, tireless performances, embodying a uniquely American can-do spirit.