Tuesday 4 December 2018

A Hollywood Mystery

There are many mysteries in the annals of the biz we call show, and among the most baffling of them is surely the extraordinary success with the ladies of that endlessly tiresome half-man, half-goblin, Mickey Rooney. The first of Rooney's many wives was Ava Gardner, for heaven's sake – Ava Gardner, one of the most beautiful and sexually alluring women ever to grace the silver screen. The marriage didn't last long, but how, in the name of all that's sacred, did it come about at all?
  In my tireless quest for truth, I've been looking into the matter, and have come up with a few sort-of answers. The key factor was that Ava was an innocent young country girl who had never set foot on the MGM lot before the fatal day when she caught the ever vigilant eye of Mickey Rooney. As he fondly recalled when Ava asked him what his first impressions had been: 'I figured you were a new piece of pussy for one of the executives. The prettiest ones were usually spoken for before they even stepped off the train. I didn't give a damn. I wanted to [expletive deleted] you the moment I saw you.' Charming.
  Little Mickey laid siege to the new would-be starlet in town, who somehow managed to retain her virginity until he had married her. The marriage was not popular with the studio, who didn't want their unaccountably popular 'Andy Hardy' denting his teen appeal by getting married, so Eddie Manix (remember him from Hail, Caesar!?) arranged for a quiet out-of-town ceremony. According to Ava, little Mickey turned out to be quite the sexual athlete, but it soon became apparent that he was also constitutionally incapable of fidelity.
 'The little sod,' Ava recalled, 'wasn't above admiring himself in the mirror. All five feet two of him! ... He went through the ladies like a hot knife through fudge. He was incorrigible.' Most of his Andy Hardy co-stars seem to have been unable to resist – among them Lana Turner, who called him 'Andy Hard-On'.
 Dear me, this is sordid stuff. Suffice to say that Ava had soon had enough and booted the 'little sod' out – at which point, Eddie Manix intervened again to prevent a scandal, getting Ava her first (minor) film role on condition she'd take Mickey back. Rooney, for his part, gave her a huge diamond ring – but unfortunately had to reclaim it the following week to pay off his bookies. The inevitable divorce was staved off for some while longer, but in the end it had to happen. Thanks to Eddie Manix's backstage machinations and Ava's basic good nature, it went through smoothly, with no damage to either of the parties' careers or reputations.
 In later years, Ava would describe Mickey as 'the smallest husband I ever had, and the biggest mistake'. Sounds like a fair summing up.