RIP Mickey Rooney

Apr 7, 2014

As we remember Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, who died on Sunday at the age of 93, I have my own Mickey Rooney story to tell. And yes, it does have something to do with education, sort of.

Rooney starred in the 1960 movie Platinum High School, one of his many films, though not a particularly famous one. It was a murder mystery set in a private school for wealthy, teenage delinquents.

If you look closely at the movie poster, you will see the the film was directed by Charles Haas, my grandfather. The two had collaborated a year earlier on The Big Operator, also a low-budget crime drama.

My grandfather worked mainly worked in television, directing episodes of many popular, early TV shows including Bonanza, the Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Twilight Zone and the Mickey Mouse Club (also starring Mickey Rooney).

It seems ironic that he would direct a film "exposing the truth about an exclusive private school," since he was at the same time a founding member of Oakwood School, a progressive, independent school in North Hollywood, CA, of which I am a graduate.

Chuck, as everyone knew him, was active almost until his death in 2011 as an emeritus board member at Oakwood, which has now grown from a single class in a backyard to one of the most sought-after K-12 schools in the Los Angeles area.

Much more than a movie and television director, Chuck had a photographic memory, could speak at least five languages and read everything from pulp fiction to poetry and philosophy.  He could, and frequently did, quote everyone from T.S. Elliot to John Dewey and many others.

Of Mickey Rooney, I only remember him saying that he was easy to work with and arrived on set prepared, even though his career and his personal life had its ups and downs. Both men lived well into their 90's, long enough to be sorely missed by friends and family.