But Rooney was more than just any star. In the final innocent prewar years of 1939, 1940 and 1941, he was the country’s biggest box-office attraction, period, end of story. And the actor reached that pinnacle not by being a dashing action hero lead or a glamorous romantic lead, but by playing a teenage boy, a character one contemporary critic called “the perfect composite of everybody’s kid brother.” Nothing says more than that about how America’s popular culture movie tastes have changed in the interim.
Rooney wasn’t just any teenager either, he was brash, exuberant, unstoppable, the kind of kid Americans once upon a time liked to feel was representative of this country at its good-hearted, irrepressible best.
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
you read this for your course:
Instead of problems you see potential, instead of obstacles you see opportunities, and instead of challenges you see a change to create breakthrough solutions.
And all you hear is Margaret Sullavan saying to Jimmy Stewart in Shop Around the Corner:
Instead of a heart, a hand-bag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter… which doesn’t work.
You can even hear Jimmy Stewart’s reply:
That’s very nicely put. Yes. Comparing my intellect with a cigarette lighter that doesn’t work. Yeah, that’s a very interesting mixture of poetry and meanness.