Monday, November 16, 2015


Legendary actor Mickey Rooney appeared in over 300 films and before his death in 2014 was one of the last remaining stars of the silent film era. However, the last years of Mickey Rooney's life weren't peaceful or quiet, they were tragic and violent. The Hollywood Reporter's Gary Baum and Scott Feinberg report on Rooney's last years and how his family exploited and abused him until the end.

The alleged wrongdoing and how it went on for so long has been a mystery — until now. Five years after that interview, and more than a year after the star's death, an investigation by "The Hollywood Reporter" (uncovering legal documents, witness testimony and financial records that never before have been publicized) indicates Rooney's life was more abusive than he let on while he was alive. What's more, the trouble persisted until he died in April 2014 in a Studio City rental, with only $18,000 to his name. (Rooney's body rests at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where many legendary movie stars are buried.)

Just weeks after Chris was served with a restraining order on Valentine's Day in 2011 accusing him of financially exploiting Rooney as his business manager, the actor flew to Washington, D.C. Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Aging Committee, had read press reports that a conservator for Rooney was pursuing elder-abuse charges, and he invited Rooney to testify about what he'd been through. As a transcript of that hearing reveals, Rooney, without naming names, tearfully explained that he'd himself been a victim of the increasingly common crime, stripped "of the ability to make even the most basic decisions about my life," leading to an "unbearable" and "helpless" daily existence. In a process that began after Rooney confided in a Disney executive during filming of 2011's "The Muppets," Rooney's attorneys filed court papers in their petition for a conservator (to protect him and recover his assets) that revealed the extent of the control — he wasn't even allowed to buy food or carry identification. 

For her part, Jan, 76, who now lives with Chris at his house (and receives $100,000 a year from Rooney's SAG pension and Social Security benefits), insists that she has been falsely accused and characterizes her late husband's Senate testimony as coerced and unreliable. "Mickey was a 90-year-old man who was in and out of it mentally and was easily influenced by other people," she explains. Only now will the public learn that the alleged debasement was not just financial but physical, too. Numerous family members and others close to Rooney say the small-statured actor frequently was abused by Jan, his wife of 36 years, who weighed twice what he did. "THR" also has learned that she was struggling with mental health issues during this time. 

These close acquaintances also say Rooney — who himself was arrested in 1997 by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department on suspicion of hitting Jan during a fight (the case was dropped) — was bloodied and bruised in multiple altercations, in his final years emerging as a feeble man lying to his doctor about why he was being treated for this black eye or that missing tooth. While Rooney always denied spousal abuse, multiple sources tell "THR" that, when confronted, Jan herself acknowledged assaults. In a long interview with "THR" via email, Jan is adamant that "I never physically abused Mickey, but we had some minor pushing scuffles, tempers flared when we were angry. Sometimes it was his fault, sometimes mine. We always made up."


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