American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2011 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 11

The Dancing Rooneys

A Vaudeville Dynasty

Pat Rooney, Sr. (1848 — 1892)

Pat Rooney, Jr. (1880 — 1962

Pat Rooney III (1909 — 1979)


The Rooney clan—Pat, Sr., Pat, Jr., and Pat Rooney, III—were in vaudeville from beginning to end. In 1867, at the age of 19, Pat came to the United States and began his song-and-dance career in the variety theatres of The Bowery, such as Miner’s and Tony Pastor’s. He rejected the leprechaun look that was common to many Irish impersonations on the stage in favor of a laborer’s attire. He sang comic songs and followed with a clog dance. He toured in a show packaged around himself for much of the rest of his career. He died at 44 leaving four children to follow him on the stage.

Pat Jr. initially worked with his sisters but went solo as they married, then met Marion Bent, his wife and stage partner. They became a headline act, offering patter and dance, but broke up personally and professionally. Pat’s dance style was unique and much imitated: he shoved his hands into his pockets, hoisted up his trouser legs and lightly footed it across the stage in a ‘soft shoe’ clog done to “Rosie O’Grady.” He later appeared in many musicals and some movies, working until the end.

Pat III had begun learning the trademark Rooney dance steps early in life. He appeared with several partners, including his father, and performed in vaudeville, films and the Broadway stage as a dancer. He married Estelle Wright, daughter of C.A. Wright, proprietor of “C. A. Wright’s Varities,” and they retired to New Hampshire where they opened a restaurant and where Estelle lives.