Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney’s relationship started at a very young age when the two attended Hollywood High School together. However, the soon-to-be lifelong friends became much better acquainted in 1937, when they appeared together in the movie, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (Judy played Cricket West, a hopeful young actress with a big voice, to Rooney’s cocky jockey, Timmie Donovan). Later, this dynamic duo would team again in Babes in Arms and co-starred in five films altogether.
Garland and Rooney’s friendship grew over the years as the two became a hugely popular song-and-dance team. Besides three of Rooney’s Andy Hardy films (where she portrayed Betsy Booth, a younger girl with a crush on Andy), they appeared together in a string of successful musicals, including the Oscar-nominated Babes in Arms.
While both were under 20, they were already becoming entertainment veterans By 1939, as Friske and Shirskekan state in their book The Wizard of Oz: An Illustrated Companion to the Timeless Movie Classic, “Both were genuine, legitimate entertainers; Garland, seventeen, and Rooney, one month from nineteen, had already clocked thirty-three years of performing experience.” This powerful combination of youth and unforgettable charm made the pair a teen sensation, drawing overflow crowds virtually every time they performed.
Mickey appeared on Garland’s CBS variety series in 1963, and in the late 90s, long after Garland’s death and clearly still inspired by her, Mickey played The Wizard in a theater production of The Wizard of Oz.
Mickey remained charmed by Judy his entire life until his death on April 6, 2014, at the age of 93. After her passing, he was asked about their special relationship: “Judy and I were so close we could’ve come from the same womb. We weren’t like brothers or sisters but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other. It was so special. It was a forever love. Judy, as we speak, has not passed away. She’s always with me in every heartbeat of my body.”
For millions of fans around the world, when these two film icons performed together, it was and will always be pure magic.