Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jackie Cooper Passes On

Jackie Cooper, who had phenomenal success as a child actor in the Thirties and went onto a successful acting career as an adult, passed on 3 May 2011 at the age of 88.

Jackie Cooper was born in Los Angeles, California on 15 September 1922. He came from an entertainment family. His mother had been a child actress, while his maternal uncle Jack Leonard was a screen writer and his maternal aunt Julie Leonard was an actress. It was perhaps natural, then, that Mr. Cooper would end up in entertainment. Indeed, starting when he was 3 years old, his grandmother would take him to the studio to work as an extra. When he was 6 years old his mother, a rehearsal pianist, got him a singing role in a film. Jackie Cooper appeared in Fox Movietone Follies of 1929. With Boxing Gloves (1929) he received his first credited role. He soon joined the cast of the Our Gang comedy shorts. With the feature film Soooky (1931) Jackie Cooper became a star. Indeed, he became the youngest person to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Over the next several years Jackie Cooper was a major star. Often he was teamed with Wallace Beery, appearing in such films as The Champ (1931), The Bowery (1933), Treasure Island (1934),  and O’Shaughnessy’s Boy (1935). Mr. Cooper also appeared in such films as Peck's Bad Boy (1935), That Certain Age (1938), The Return of Frank James (1940), Life with Henry (1941) and Ziegfield Girl (1941). During World War II he joined the United States Navy, in which he served as a musician.

It was after the war, in 1947, that Jackie Cooper attempted a comeback. He appeared in such films as Stork Bites Man (1947), Kilroy Was Here (1947), and French Leave (1948). From the late Forties into the Fifities, however, most of Mr. Cooper's career would be spent on television. He made his television debut on The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre in 1949, then appeared in such shows as Tales of Tomorrow. Lux Video Theatre, Suspense, Kraft Theatre, Producer's Showcase, G. E. Theatre, The Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Robert Montgomery Presents, Studio One, and The Gertrude Berg Show. He starred as Socrates "Sock" Miller for three years on the series The People's Choice. He also played the title role on the series Hennesey for three years.

In the Sixties Jackie Cooper continued to work in television. He appeared in such shows as Dick Powell Theatre, The U. S. Steel Hour, and The Twilight Zone. He appeared in the film Everything's Ducky (1961). The Seventies into the Nineties saw Jackie Cooper appear on both television and in films. He appeared in such TV shows as Hawaii Five-O, McCloud, Ironside, Hec Ramsey, Columbo, Police Story, Operation Petticoat, The Rockford Files, St. Elsewhere, Murder She Wrote, Sledge Hammer, and Capital News. He was a regular on the show Mobile One. Mr. Cooper appeared in such films as The Love Machine (1971), Chosen Survivors, Journey into Fear (1975), and Surrender (1985). He appeared as Perry White in the Eighties Superman films, starting with Superman in 1978.

Arguably, Jackie Cooper was the first child mega-star. At his height he made $2000 a week. He also associated with such big name celebrities as Joan Crawford and Bing Crosby. The reason for such success was young Mr. Cooper's acting skills. He could convincingly play a average little boy with none of cloying sweetness of other child stars. Indeed, he could even cry on cue. While his adult career was nowhere nearly as successful as his career as a child, he still possessed a considerable talent, playing everything from heavies to Daily Planet editor Perry White. He was quite simply a fine child actor who grew into a fine adult actor.


Bruno said...

I'd like to cite your Scopitone research for an upcoming book. Where can I email you?

Terence Towles Canote said...

There's a mail to link lower on the page. It looks like a little mail slot. :-)