Rooney landed a part in Captains Courageous (1937) before starring as Andy Hardy in a string of 15 films that put him on the A-list. After appearing in Boys Town (1938) and Babes in Arms (1939), he was the No. 1 box-office attraction. He showed off his dramatic skills opposite a prepubescent Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet (1944), but Rooney's star power ebbed after World War II. Becoming a character actor, he turned up in such movies as Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).
Rooney's poignant supporting role in The Black Stallion (1979) brought an Oscar nod, and he copped an Emmy and a Golden Globe in 1981 for the TV movie Bill. Rooney later lent his voice to several animated features, including The Care Bears Movie (1985).