From May 1939:
Clark Gable…played a very important part in Mickey Rooney’s career. No wonder Mickey wants to be just like him. It was about five years ago when Mickey was twelve, and on the verge of starvation. Vaudeville was a thing of the past, and Mickey couldn’t even get a job as an extra in Hollywood. He’d only worked about three days in three months. Then he had an idea. He called Clark Gable.
“Mr. Gable,” he said, “there’s a good part for a boy in ‘Manhattan Melodrama,’ and I’d give my shirt to play it. I’ve been acting since I was a baby–and I know I can do it swell.”
Gable liked Mickey and his straightforward approach. Sensing that there might be a lack of funds in the Rooney household, he delicately asked if a little loan might help. “Oh no, sir, Mr. Gable.” said Mickey with pride. “Mom and I are okay. You know–jobs have just been slipping out of my hands lately–you know how it is.”
Gable knew “how it is” perfectly. There had been a time when jobs slipped right out of his hands too. “Sure, kid,” said Clark Gable. He arranged for Mickey to get the part, and Mickey was swell, and it resulted in a long-term contract.
“[Mickey] likes Spencer Tracy best on the screen but in real life he patterns himself after Clark Gable,” says [a friend].
I don’t think that story is true, but makes a nice magazine fluff piece anyway!