"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader." ~ Paulo Coelho

Sunday, November 22, 2020

What's My Line?: Mickey Rooney

What's up, my fine friends!?

I hope that all of you are doing well. We have snow here, and I haven't gotten the chance to be in it too much, but I will soon. I love it!

Today, I am participating in KN Winiarski Writes's Mickey Rooney: A Belated Centenary Blogathon!

I was really excited when I saw this! I wrote a post on what would've been Mickey Rooney's 100th birthday, September 23rd, but was shocked when I didn't see anyone else do one. 

"Could the world have already forgotten Mickey Rooney?" I wondered.

Thankfully, the answer is no! So many people have signed up to write about him in these next few days that I'm extremely happy. Check out all of those posts HERE.

Since I reviewed a movie starring him, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), then, I thought that I'd do something different. (Though, I would love if any of you went and read that post in addition to this!)

Back in August I started a series that I had been wanting to begin for awhile, talking about one of my favorite game shows, What's My Line?! I started with talking about Esther Williams, and now it's Mickey Rooney's turn!

The rundown:
First of all, what is this game show? What's My Line? was a 30 minute game show that ran from 1950-1975.
This is how it worked:
A panel of four judges try to guess contestants' "lines" (jobs) by asking yes or no questions. The host/panel moderator, John Charles Daly, guided them and helped rework questions to fit the correct format. Each member of the panel would guess until they received a solid "no", a card is flipped, the contestant earns five dollars, and the next person on the panel begins to guess. When all ten cards are flipped the contestant wins! If the panel guess what their line is, then they still get however much money that they won in "nos".

L to R: The three regular panelists, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf, and Dorothy Kilgallen, & the panel moderator, John Daly.

Now, this might sound boring, but I assure you that it isn't! The occupations are so unique, the panel has a hard time. Sometimes their guesses are so off, that it's a hoot! Plus, the highlight is that after two contestants there is the mystery guest! This guest is a celebrity and would be recognizable, so the judges wear blindfolds and get to ask one yes or no question before moving onto the next panel member and they have to guess who it is.

Blindfolds ready, panel?

For ages I would always just skip to the mystery person, but once I started watching full episodes I realized how much I was missing. The celebrity is how I'm connecting it back to my blog. The plan for this series is to talk about all of certain celebrity's appearances. To me, I think that you can tell a lot about a person based on the way they acted here. Some where shy, some were funny, some were bold, you get the idea!

If I were to review it like I do movies, I would say:
Length: 30 minutes.
Script: 10, Iʼve never heard a bad word.
Content: 9, sometimes there are one or two suggestive comments, but itʼs rare.
Age Range: Iʼve been watching this for a long time, but as I said, I didnʼt used to be interested in the first 2/3. I would say that little kids would like to just watch the mystery guest if they knew who it was, just because they wouldnʼt get how funny the rest of it was (especially if they canʼt read).

It is time to start! Will you come in mystery challenger, and sign in please...


Mickey Rooney appeared on Whatʼs My Line? on four occasions. Sadly, his first time is a lost episode! I canʼt find a way to watch it anywhere. From him talking about it on the other episodes I know that the panel guessed who it was. Iʼll talk about his other three appearances, though.

April 27th, 1952: PANEL: Dorothy Kilgallen, Hal Block, Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerf. (LOST EPISODE)

May 5th, 1957: PANEL: Dorothy Kilgallen, Martin Gabel (Arleneʼs husband), Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerf.

December 31st, 1961: PANEL: Dorothy Kilgallen, Martin Gabel (Arleneʼs husband), Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerf.

January 16th, 1966: PANEL: Steve Allen, Arlene Francis, Jayne Meadows, and Bennett Cerf.

Mickey Rooney is famous for his comedy, and these short episodes are no exception. For some reason before watching it I thought that he was going to be quiet, but I was wrong. When he entered he would throw kisses to the audience and one time, on May 5th, he signed a different name for fun. He fully participated and was hilarious! His reactions to the panelʼs questions is so memorable, as he was usually incredulous because they kept thinking that he was a woman.

Sometimes the celebrity guests answered in disguised voices, and his were hilarious. One time he was this kind of old guy jowly voice (my best way to describe it! Dorothy described it as, “Is he talking through a comb with tissue paper on it?”), which of course means that the panel had trouble understanding him (they are so deaf sometimes) and John had to repeat stuff. Mickey Rooney threw it back at them, asking, “What did you  say?”, which looked like great fun to make fun of the panel. Another time he used a high, squeaky voice (thatʼs when they thought he was a woman!), and lastly he sounded, to me, like an old cat (if cats could talk).

From his appearance on this show I can tell that he was extremely friendly, funny (I already knew that, because who doesnʼt?), and just in general had a great humor.

Some esoterica: there were mentions of the movie Breakfast at Tiffanyʼs (1961) and The Lucy Show. In one episode there were two mystery guests, the other being Henry Barnes, who was a traffic commissioner when there was something to do with Mike Quill. Iʼve never heard of what they were talking about so I had to look it up. See, this is educational!

Now Iʼm going to say some of my favorite moments, but I have to limit myself and there are many that I didnʼt put, so you should watch the episodes for yourself to see what your favorite parts are. (Mickey Rooney will be abbreviated as MR):

Arlene: “Are you younger than Gabby Hayes?” 
MR: “There have been doubts.”

When they all thought that he was female and were asking weird questions (they later admitted that they were going for Kim Novak!):
Finally, Bennett: “Iʼm afraid that weʼve been barking up the wrong tree.”
Dorothy: “Iʼm terribly sorry.”

Bennett: “Do you sometimes play a musical instrument while youʼre singing before a television or nightclub audience?”
John: “Like play a tuba and sing at the same time, Bennett?”

Steve Allen: “Do you sing?” 
MR: “If you want to call it that.”

How many times did the panel guess who it was, and how many times did Mickey Rooney win? Youʼll have to watch for yourself! Three of these episodes are available on YouTube and I like to watch them while doing the dishes. You can just skip to the mystery guest, but the whole episode is a ton of fun.

Thanks to Kristen for hosting this event and giving me a chance to continue this series! Make sure to read the other entries HERE.

As I said in my post on his actual birthday, my favorite role that he played is Mi Taylor in National Velvet (1944), what is yours? Have any of you seen Whatʼs My Line?? Thanks for reading!



  1. Thank you so much for participating! These episodes sound super fun. I know of the show, but haven't ever really watched it. Sounds like I need to! :)

    Also- snow? Awesome! Have fun! My kids are looking forward to getting some snow, but we don't have any yet. We're in WI.

    1. Sure thing, Kristen! Thank you for hosting! They are short, easy to watch, and provide some fun. I hope that you enjoy! :)

      Thanks! My sister and I were able to get out and she just stood watching me go crazy, haha! I hope that you get enough for your kids to enjoy, soon!

  2. Oooh, you have snow? How cool. It's supposed to snow later today where I live, so hopefully my sisters and I will get to go sledding.
    I've never seen What's My Line? but it sounds fun. I don't know that much about Mickey Rooney, but my friend says that he's a fantastic actor, and I trust her judgement.

    1. Oh, did you get some? Sledding is one of my favorite things, but very exhausting!
      My favorite Mickey Rooney movie is National Velvet (1944)! He was famous for old movies, but he was in some newer ones, too, like Night at the Museum. That's a good place to start if you want to!

  3. I need to check some of these episodes out!


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