Does the late Mickey Rooney hold the record for the longest active Hollywood career ever?
We believe so, but are open to suggestions to the contrary.
His career began in the silent era (his first movie dates from 1926; he was just six at the time), and ended this year with an appearance in Fox’s Night At The Museum 3 sequel, due in theaters in December. For the mathematically challenged, that comes to a grand total of 88 years covering a staggering 338 movie and TV credits.
We believe that Rooney, who died on April 6 at age 93, certainly holds the career longevity record for a major star — one who not only drove many pictures but early on supported an entire studio. But among all performers, both star caliber and otherwise, does he hold the record?
Here’s what regular reader Mike Sheridan asks:
Fellas, didn’t Mickey Rooney break Charles Lane’s record for appearing in nine (?) different decades? Lane has to be the most recognize-able guy whom no one knows his name in film history. Everyone says “Oh yea! That guy.”
What do you all know about CL?
Interesting question. Here’s what we do know about Charles Lane (not to be confused with the editorial writer of the same name for The Washington Post).
Lane, (nee Charles Levison in San Francisco in 1905), was born 15 years before Rooney, and significantly, did not begin his movie career until his mid-twenties.
Bespectacled with a weathered face, he emerged as one of Hollywood’s most reliable character actors, playing a range of parts — usually lawyers, coroners, government bureaucrats and other representatives of officialdom– in countless movies. He had a loud, bumptious presence, perfect for these parts.
Lane’s most recognizable films include two Frank Capra classics, 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life. He appeared in a host of TV programs late in his career, working up until a year before his death in 2007 at age 102.
His first big-screen appearance came in Warner Bros.’ 1931 crime drama Smart Money (costarring James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson) in which Lane played a hotel desk clerk. Thus, his debut came five years after Rooney’s.
He bested Rooney in sheer physical longevity, living nearly a decade longer than the Mick. He also has Rooney beat in the total career credits department — 363 to the Mick’s 338.
But Mick is triumphant in the career longevity category. Because he began so young, Rooney worked for nearly 90 years while Lane toiled for a mere 75.