In the mid 1940s, there was a sudden onslaught of pretty, petite and cute actresses who were often not great beauties, not that great as thespians, but were able singers and charming to booth. Jane Powell, Deanna Durbin, Ann Blyth, just to name a few of the best known… However, a great of such girls didn’t make the grade – Anne Rooney firmly belongs in this category. Nice looking in a girl-next-door kind of way, with a solid voice and colorful vaudeville background, she was seemingly perfect fit for the times, but somehow, she just didn’t work. Let’s learn more about her.
Shirley Anne McCully was born on August 15, 1926, in Santa Clara, California, to Ernest McCully and Hazel Rooney, both professional vaudeville dancers. She had an older sister, Mary Virginia, born in July 14, 1920. She grew up in Santa Clara.
Anne adopted her parents’ profession quiet early, as she was groomed to go on stage much liker her sister. At five she was guest star with Al Pearce and his Radio Gang, and at eight she joined her mother and dad, Hazel and Ed McCully and Virginia in a coast-to-coast vaudeville tour. They were known as “Mac’s Merrymakers.” At thirteen she made her film bow in “Flicker Fever.” She gained some movie acting experience thus as a child actress in the old Educational (as they were called) comedies. I won’t profile these comedies as they are no on her IMDB page.
Anne, at 16, was singing with Muzzy Marcellino‘s band at the Glendale, California, Civic Auditorium when she was resigned for the movies and appeared in “Babes On Broadway,” with her “namesake,” Mickey Rooney. A talent scout spotted Anne when she was singing with Muzzy Marcel-lino’s orchestra in Glendale, invited her to the studio, the next day she had a contract.
And that is how is started!
Anne made her grown up debut in Babes on Broadway, a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland happy-go-lucky, “let’s stage a musical” musical. The story isn’t important (like there is one) – just enjoy the colorful sets, the nice music and good dancing sequences, plus Mickey and Judy!
Anne signed with MGM and appeared in a two of their movies: Calling Dr. Gillespie (of the famous Dr. Gillespie movie serie,s with Lionel Barrymore as the eponymous Gillespie), For Me and My Gal , a charming, breezy and air light Judy Garland/George Murphy musical with a special appearance by Gene Kelly!).
Anne was sacked by MGM afterwards and signed by Universal, and she continued her musical trajectory: her first movie for the new studio was Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour, one of the Henry Aldrich series of movies. Not that well-known today, Henry Aldrich was a popular series back in the 1930s and 1940s, and this was the 7th movie in the series, where Harry becomes extra popular overnight to his date with a movie star, and girls start to flock around him. Anne plays one of the adoring girls, but is overshadowed by more popular actresses like Diana Lynn, Frances Gifford and Gail Russell. That same year Anne also made Follow the Band, a run of the mill light romantic comedy where the actors weren’t even the main attraction, but you have a dance band playing good music and featuring cameo performances of stars as night club acts. So, Eddie Quillian and Mary Beth Hughes fade as the leading couple, and we have Leon Errol and Leo Carrillo among others. Plus a very small, early role by Robert Mitchum!
Anne’s string of musicals continued with Always a Bridesmaid, a complete forgotten Andrews sisters musical. Then came This Is the Life, an overall enjoyable comedy about a love triangle between the sweet soprano Susanna Foster, goofy but endearing tween Donald O’Connor and handsome and suave Patric Knowles (the triangle becomes a square when Peggy Ryan comes in!).
Then finally came Anne’s five minutes of fame and her first leading role. The year was 1944, the movie was Slightly Terrific. However, it ended up a real fiasco for Anne – why? Well, because she was the thinnest part of the movie. The film’s plot is the typical variation of the “Let’s Put on a Show” plot, and the only thing carrying the movie is the veteran comedic actor Leon Errol, delightfully funny as twins of totally opposite personalities. You can’t take his eyes of him – he such a master of his craft and obviously had impeccable timing. Other than him, there is absolutely nothing to recommend this bland mess. Not long after this movie, Anne and Universal went their separate ways.
Anne came back to movies in 1946, with Freddie Steps Out, the second of the “Teen-Agers” musical series at Monogram. Monogram was infamous for being a cheapskate studio, and most of their movies are so low-budget looking that you have to try hard and squint not to see it and try to enjoy the story and the actors. The Teen Agers musical series isn’t the worst thing they churned. Tailor made to showcase young singer Freddie Stewart, who achieved some degree of success on the radio, this particular movie has such afar fetched story (A high school student is mistaken for a famous radio singer who goes missing) that there is too much suspension of disbelief. Ah, at least you can see Frankie Darro and Noel Niell in it.
Anne played the leading lady’s (June Pressier) sister, and repeated the same role in the third movie of the series, High School Hero. This one also has a predictable, half-stupid story (the leading man’s school has a rivalry with another school in town and during a football game, when the chips are down, they know they are gonna lose, but as a joke one of the cheerleaders goes in drag in a football uniform and the girl ends up their secret weapon). All in all, the series went on for five more movies, stopped in 1948, and took down with it the leading man’s movie career.
Anne was a scant five feet and weighs less than a hundred pounds. Since she was underage when she got her first contract, she has to obtain court approval of the said contract calling for initial salaries of $75 a week. The other girl who also got the same contract was Donna Reed. Donna ended up more successful than Anne in the acting stakes.
When she came to Hollywood, Anne’s was publicized in large part via her instantly recognizable moniker – namely, Annie Rooney was a famous character played by Mary Pickford back in the 1920s. Here is a typical article of the day:
Anne was born the same year Mary Pickford played the title role in the film production, “Little Annie Rooney.” – Anne’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. E. McCully, proved prophetic when they named their daughter Anne Rooney McCully on her birth at San Jose, California. Now 17, Anne has almost precisely the same measurements as Miss Pickford. She’s exactly five feet tall and weighs an even 90 pounds. And she is a likely choice for today’s “America’s Sweetheart” title.
Like many starlets, Ann did her share of war effort, touring camps extensively. Despite being a vaudevillian, Anne hadn’t been out of the state of California until she left on a camp tour through the middle west and deep south. Here is an article:
As we have often said there are very few motion picture actresses, especially the starlets, who can contribute much in the way of entertainment when they make a personal appearance. Anne ‘Rooney, working here and there for Universal and now appearing as headliner on the National Base Tour. ‘
Winsome Anne, a rising young starlet, comes to Camp Livingston Sunday for a five day visit and a series of formal and informal visits about the camp. Although not related to Mickey Rooney, she was signed for a term contract after being seen in a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland film young singers of popular songs. Miss Rooney is scheduled to arrive at Livingston Sunday morning and following dinner.
As for Anne’s love life, John Hopkins, of a wealthy Cleveland family, once engaged to June Preisser, was her first serious beau and first fiancee. She and her mother had gone to the place where Jack was stationed and all seems very serious and very close to the altar. For unknown reasons, the relationship was terminated not long afterwards and no wedding took place. Anne than dated Captain Paul Penrose, a Western Airlines pilot.
Anne left Hollywood in 1944, and worked as a showgirl in the Copacabana. There she met and married Jerry Brooks, Los Angeles and Miami cafe owner, also called the zipper king by the press. He once owned part of the famous Slapsy Maxie’s night club. They settled in Los Angeles and their son Steven Jerome was born there on July 24, 1948.
Sadly in 1949, before their son was a year old, they were dogged by persistent rift rumors, which were later confirmed by Ann’s mother, Mrs. Hazel McCully. Pretty soon Anne consulted attorney Buron Fitts and sued for divorce. Their marriage was finished by early 1950.
Anne became Donald O’Connor’s personal assistant, or his Girl Friday, and stayed in Hollywood, albeit not as an actress. In the early 1950s she met Vincent Nuccio and started dating him. Nuccio was born in 1914 to Joseph Nuccio and Josephine Garogalo in Ohio. Nuccio married 16 January 1936 Yolanda Palmieri in Ohio, and moved with her to California, where he started an insurance business that boomed over the ages, making him a rich man. Sadly, Yolanda died sometime in the late 1940s, making him a widower.
Vincent and Anne were first married on February 2, 1957, settling and living the high life in Beverly Hills. Since, Nuccio was very wealthy and fond of the social life, they became the golden party-giving couple of the West Coast. However, their domestic life was far from tranquil and stable.
The Nuccios divorced in 1963 and remarried within a year, On may 15, 1963 (that was fast). But there was one, itsy-bitsy problem: a prenuptial agreement Anne signed before tying the knot the second time around. The document allegedly entitled her to zippo. Then, in 1970ys, she decided to divorce Nuccio again. She wanted half the estimated $10 million in community property. And that’s why Annie went to renown lawyer Marvin Mitcheslon, who was famous for his palimony cases.
Here is an article about their messy divorce:
After setting aside part of a prenuptial agreement that said the wife would receive a flat sum of $5,000 in event of divorce, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Monday awarded former movie singer and dancer Annie Rooney $12,000 a month support from wealthy insurance executive Vincent Nuccio. Under terms of the judgment, the 54-year-old Miss Rooney could receive as much as $3.5 million from Nuccio if she lives out the 28 years of her acturial life expectancy, her lawyer, Marvin Mitchelson, said. According to Mitchelson, Nuccio. 65, also agreed that in event of his death, payments to Miss Rooney from his estate would continue until she died or remarried. The ruling was not viewed as a victory for Miss Rooney by Nuccio’s lawyer, Marshall Zollo, who said her attempt was to “overturn the entire prenuptial agreement and get half the estate.” “The court record showed that . . . for the purpose of this hearing, the husband’s net worth was $5 million,” Zollo said. “She was trying to get half of that and she got zero. She got support but none of the property.” As a matter of law, Judge Frances Rothschild ruled invalid the section of the agreement entered into prior to the couple’s second marriage in 1963 that limited the amount of spousal payment to $5,000. The judge, however, upheld all remaining portions of the prenup.
Anne and Vince divorced, and she lived the rest of her days in California, out of the newspaper radar.
Anne Rooney Nuccio died on August 16, 2006, in Toluca Lake, California.