The Truth About Mickey Rooney And Judy Garland's Relationship

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland proved to be a dynamic duo on screen, appearing together in such films as "Love Finds Andy Hardy" (1938) and "Babes on Broadway" (1941), per IMDb. The pair had an amazing connection, perhaps helped by the fact that they had a lot in common off-screen. They both came from theatrical families. Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm, made her stage debut as a toddler in her older sisters' act, according to the Judy Garland Museum. And Rooney, born Joseph Yule, Jr., had a vaudeville performer for a father and a showgirl for a mother (via Turner Classic Movies). 

They both had parents who pushed them into show business. Rooney moved to California with his mother in the mid-1920s to launch his career, and she even changed his name to give it more Hollywood appeal. Garland grew up performing with her sisters before landing a film contract when she was only 13 years old (via Time magazine). MGM Studios boss Louis B. Meyer reportedly hired Garland without having her do a screen test. She, too, went through a name transformation to make her more marketable. From an early age, Rooney and Garland both knew all too well the ups and downs of the entertainment business.

Garland and Rooney shined on screen

Rooney may have only been a year or so older than Garland, but he had lots more film experience when they started working together. He made his film debut in the 1926 short "Not to Be Trusted," per Turner Movie Classics. From there, Rooney starred in a series of shorts based on the comic strip character Mickey McGuire.

Garland and Rooney first met in 1935, according to Slate, when Rooney was a rising star and Garland was just starting out. Another source stated that they had probably first encountered each other as students at Lawlor's Professional School (via the Judy Garland Museum). But it took a few years for the studio realize that Garland and Rooney would be a winning combination.

Garland made her first feature film appearance in the 1936 sports comedy "Pigskin Parade." Garland and Rooney made their joint appearance in the 1937 film "Thoroughbreds Don't Cry" (via Closer Weekly). Garland later credited Rooney with giving her some of the best acting advice of her career while making this film. He told the talented young performer to perform her lines "like you're singing it."

Garland had a crush on Rooney

Rooney had already made four popular films in the Andy Hardy series before he was joined on screen by Garland. Starting with 1937's "A Family Affair," the series explored the lives of Judge James K. Hardy and his family, per Turner Movie Classics. Rooney played his teenaged son Andy, and this friendly character who seemed to represent an all-American image quickly won over audiences.

Garland first appeared in 1938's "Love Finds Andy Hardy" as Andy's friend Betsy. Early in her career, she was marketed as a girl-next-door type (via Time magazine). The two characters' relationship mirrored the actors' off-screen connection as well. Garland, just like Betsy, had a romantic interest in Rooney at the start, but Rooney, similar to Andy, was too busy pursuing other girls to notice her. He was involved with a number of other actresses, including Norma Shearer, who was 20 years his senior. 

Garland's career soon started to take off. When Rooney and Garland appeared in 1939's "Babes in Arms," the pair shared top billing, according to IMDb. The musical, directed by the legendary Busby Berkeley, proved to be a huge hit. Rooney and Garland seemed to play off each other in a way that made their performances better, and moviegoers found them to be a compelling and magical pair to watch. 

Rooney and Garland had an unusual bond

Garland never saw her affection for Rooney returned, at least romantically. But the two formed a deep connection that lasted a lifetime — far longer than any of their marriages to other people. Rooney's first marriage, to actress Ava Gardner, barely lasted a year because of his infidelity and love of gambling, according to People magazine. Garland was only 19 years old when she tied the knot with bandleader David Rose, but that union fell apart after a few years (via Town & Country magazine). In all, Rooney was married eight times and Garland walked down the aisle five times.

Rooney once described his relationship to Garland as "more than a love affair," per Closer Weekly. "It was a forever love," he explained. The pair co-starred in 1943's "Girl Crazy" and then shared their final big screen production together in 1948's "Words and Music." Those may have been their last movie moments, but the pair remained close. Rooney made an appearance on Garland's TV variety show in 1963. Rooney's daughter later remembered spending time at Garland's house in the 1960s, with her father and Garland singing together at her piano.

Rooney took Garland's death in 1969 hard. In an interview on CNBC, Rooney said that "There was no love greater in my life than my love for Judy Garland" (via the Buffalo News).