Andy Hardy And The Divine Percentage

It’s odd how often profundity sneaks in where you least expect it, making you wonder sourly whether it was intentional, or why you didn’t think of it yourself. At least that’s how I tend to react, and it does me no credit. I mention this after having perused press reports in different places of interviews with three movie stars. Perhaps I was wrong in anticipating meager intellectual fare, for who are potentially more equipped to recognize reality than those given to make-believe?

Here, first, was Jerry Lewis defending himself against critics who praise the slapstick classics yet ignore his movies. “It’s their loss,” he commented, “that they don’t examine the film carefully enough.… It takes a great deal of intelligence to understand what life is all about, and life does include slapstick.”

The point is irrefutable. Charlie Chaplin, who proved it once for all in City Lights and other moving pieces, underlined it last year when asked for an octogenarian’s advice to the young. One could sense the poised pencils as the maestro pondered. Then came the accumulated wisdom of eight decades: “Don’t go to Harvard University without a steel helmet.” Anti-climax? No, sir!

But what interested me even more than the others was the account of a newspaper interview with Mickey Rooney. The former boy wonder, Hollywood’s most popular star (they said) three decades or so ago, has a story and a philosophy both pathetic and revealing.

Nudging his half century, divorced six times and now married yet again, Rooney is quoted as saying: “Thank heaven I’m a religious man. When things get too bad, even for me, I get my strength from meditating on Sundays.”

The words may fall strangely on the ear, but the man who made ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.