In 1997, I was hired to work on a movie called MICHAEL KAEL IN KATANGO. You’ve never heard of it? That’s because it was part of a trilogy of movies that was only released in Belgium -- and, as far as I can tell, was never released in America.
The movies starred Elliot Gould, Victoria Principal, and screen legend Mickey Rooney. (I like to say it was an all-star cast -- for 1977.)
I didn’t get to work with Mr. Gould or Miss Principal, but I was on set one day when Mr. Rooney was there. He seemed to be in a really bad mood. He never cracked a smile once the whole time I was there. He came out of his trailer, did his scenes, and then, with a sour puss on his face, trudged back to his trailer.
Maybe he was mad because in 1939, he was the biggest star in America and now his movies were only getting released in Belgium.
I figured I had caught the Mick on a bad day. This was a guy who had been in show business his whole life. He had entertained millions, ever since he was a kid, and always done it with a smile on his face. I mean, sure, the Michael Kael movies lacked the universal appeal of his popular Andy Hardy movies or his musicals with Judy Garland, but still, at least he was still working. That had to count for something, right?
Surely he hadn’t become some cranky, bitter old man.I had to know for sure. I pulled aside a cameraman who had been working with the Mick since the shoot began, and asked “What’s Mickey Rooney really like?”
Without missing a beat, the crew member announced, “He’s a cranky old man!”
Well, that settled that.
I guess there is a lesson to be learned here but I’m not sure what it is!