The Many Wives of Film Star Mickey Rooney
It’s no secret that Mickey Rooney, known for such iconic Hollywood films as It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and one of the last survivors of the silent film era, was girl crazy. (Fittingly, he also starred in a movie called Girl Crazy with Judy Garland.) His inability to stay married was a hot topic for comedians in the 1960s and ’70s. Beginning at 22 with a very short-lived marriage to actress Ava Gardner (pictured above), Rooney jumped from one relationship to the next more than your average Hollywood star.
Mickey Rooney, home from the war, greets wife number two, Betty Jane, with a big kiss today while his mother Mrs. Nell Pankey looks on in 1946
His second marriage to Elvis Presley backup singer Betty Jane Rase in 1944 lasted five years. They had two children, Mickey Rooney Jr. and Tim Rooney, both of whom eventually went into acting as well. Following that, Rooney had another child with his third wife, actress Martha Vickers, before divorcing her in 1951 (this marriage only lasted two years).
A walk down the aisle with third wife Martha Vickers
Elaine Devry, the fourth of Mickey Rooney’s eight wives, died recently at age 93 in Grants Pass, Oregon. Devry was an actress as well, known for her roles in The Atomic Kid, which costarred Mickey Rooney, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, With Six You Get Eggroll and A Guide for the Married Man; she also appeared in three episodes of Perry Mason as well as a Kool cigarette commercial with actor John Clarke, among other various productions.
On the set of The Atomic Kid with Elaine Devry in 1954
Devry and Rooney met in 1952 and got married in 1952. It was Devry’s second marriage, as she had just divorced her high school sweetheart, Dan Ducich, who was convicted of armed robbery, the same year. (He then shot himself in 1954.) Devry and Rooney had two children together before also divorcing, just six years later. She later described their quick nuptials and eventual divorce as being “young and foolish,” and avoided remarrying for a long time. (Eventually, she did, and the third time was the charm for her.)
With Barbara Ann Thompson at the 1961 Golden Globes
Rooney, on the other hand, wasted no time in getting remarried, marrying his fifth wife, Barbara Ann Thompson (screen name Carolyn Mitchell), during the same year of his divorce with Devry in 1958. They had four children and were still together when Barbara was murdered in 1966 by a Serbian stuntman named Milos Milos, who she was having an affair with. Police theorized he killed her because she wanted to end the affair, but no one knows for sure, because Milos shot himself afterward.
With his 7th wife Carolyn Hockett in 1971
The same year, Rooney married Barbara’s best friend, Marge Lane, a marriage that only lasted 100 days. After this, he took a few years off from walking down the aisle. In 1969, he married Carolyn Hackett, with whom he had two more children, before divorcing her as well in 1975. In 1978 he married his eighth and final wife, Jan Chamberlain, who he remained married to until his death in 2014 (although they were separated as of 2012). This marriage lasted longer than all previous unions combined!
Jan Chamberlain and Mickey Rooney at the 50th Academy Awards in 1978
He may have been called “the original Hollywood trainwreck” by Vanity Fair (mostly due to his financial incompetence, which resulted in him having to declare bankruptcy despite being one of the highest earners in Hollywood), but one thing you can say about the guy is he never gave up on love!