Actually it is how Mickey Rooney Got Red Skelton his MGM Contract
Mickey had known Red Skelton from his days in burlesque. In 1940, at President Roosevelt’s birthday party, Mickey rediscovered his friend with the unique great comedic talent.
In 1937, while he was entertaining at the Capitol Theater in Washington, D.C., President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited Skelton to perform at a White House luncheon. During one of the official toasts, Skelton grabbed Roosevelt’s glass, saying, “Careful what you drink, Mr. President. I got rolled in a place like this once.” His humor appealed to FDR and Skelton became the master of ceremonies for Roosevelt’s official birthday celebration for years to come.
Red had an unsuccessful film career prior to 1940. He had a failed RKO film test in 1932 and later did some RKO films in the late 1930s.
Mickey Rooney, one of the biggest stars at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contacted Skelton, urging him to try for work in films after seeing him perform his “Doughnut Dunkers” act at President Roosevelt’s 1940 birthday party. Mick went to Louis B. Mayer and went to bat for Red. Through Mickey’s plea to Mayer, Red secured a screen test for MGM.
For his MGM screen test, Skelton performed many of his more popular skits, such as “Guzzler’s Gin”, but added some impromptu pantomimes as the cameras were rolling. “Imitation of Movie Heroes Dying” were Skelton’s impressions of the cinema deaths of stars like George Raft, Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. Mayer was sold and signed Red to a contract.
Mickey and Red appeared in only one film together (Thousands Cheer) but Rooney appeared many times on both Red’s radio and television show for nearly 30 years.
This story and more are featured in The Life and Times of Mickey Rooney from Simon & Schuster .
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