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“Everybody was scared of Mannix,” she later told her biographer, Peter Evans.

It didn’t matter that Rooney had cheated and lied; it didn’t matter that he was seeing a 15-year-old girl, using her older sister as the go-between.

” The question wasn’t entirely rhetorical, as he went on to explain: “I was a gnomish prodigy – half-human, half-goblin, man-child, child-man.” Those qualities were as nothing compared to his flirting technique, which he characterised as “a combination of early Neanderthal and late Freud”.

It was this, perhaps, that led his lover and co-star Lana Turner to dub him, in reference to his best-known role as Andy Hardy, “Andy Hard-on”.

IN PICTURES: Hollywood star Mickey Rooney Which is why, when Ava Gardner had had enough of his philandering and kicked him out one night after he’d been showing off to his friends and leafing through his little black book of mistresses in her presence, she received a visit from MGM’s enforcer, Eddie Mannix.She said she thought she might try to make a go of acting.“I think you should,” said Mannix, and when she didn’t land Rooney or any other MGM staffers in trouble, the studio gave her a long-term contract with a pay rise. Rooney was a perfect example of the vast gap between some of the stars’ private lives and their public personas.These women were always pitted against Andy’s ever-the-bridesmaid neighbour Betty, played by Judy Garland.(I’ve always thought that explained quite a bit about Garland’s insecurities: for years she was presented as the childish foil, while others her age rose to sensual stardom.) Of course, behind the scenes, Rooney understood modern girls plenty well enough. (Eventually, he would marry four times more.) But while his steady supply of pretty co-stars gave him ample extra-curricular opportunities, he also wanted to break out of his Andy Hardy prison and grow up. “It’s not your life,” Rooney reported Mayer as saying. Not simply the success of his business but the colour of his world.

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