Throughout his ten-decade career, Rooney was nominated for four Academy Awards, but didn't actually go home with a trophy until 1983, when he was given an honorary Oscar "in recognition of his years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances." And that versatility was really what made Rooney such a legendary star.
His career reads like a history of show business, from the silent era in which he made his screen debut at age six through the golden age of the studio and musicals like Busby Berkeley's Babe in Arms. He acted alongside Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, played a gambler and soldier in the World War II movie The Bold and the Brave and, less charmingly, played an ugly Asian stereotype in Breakfast at Tiffany's. He also performed on Broadway and tried his hand at directing with 1951's My True Story and 1960's The Private Lives of Adam and Eve.
When he accepted the Oscar in 1983 for all of that work and more, Rooney told the crowd, "I love every minute that God has given me to be an infinitesimal small part of this great business ... I have a lot of memories, as we all do ... I want to thank you, one and all, for remembering me."