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Jackie Coogan 1914-1984

Country : Los Angeles, California
Profession : Actor
Date of birth : 1914-10-26
Date of death : 1984-03-01
Cause of Death : Heart Failure

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John Leslie "Jackie" Coogan (October 26, 1914 – March 1, 1984) was an American actor who began his movie career as a child actor in silent films.


Jackie Coogan was born in Los Angeles, California, to John Henry Coogan, Jr., and Lilian Rita Dolliver Coogan. He began his acting career as an infant in both vaudeville and film, with an uncredited role in the 1917 film Skinner's Baby. Charlie Chaplin discovered him in a Los Angeles vaudeville house, doing the shimmy, a popular dance at the time, on the stage. His father, Jack Coogan, Sr. was also an actor. The boy was a natural mimic, and delighted Chaplin with his abilities in this area. As a child actor, he is best remembered for his role as Charlie Chaplin's irascible sidekick in the film classic The Kid (1921) and for the title role in Oliver Twist, directed by Frank Lloyd, the following year. He was also the first star to get heavily merchandised, with peanut butter, stationery, whistles, dolls, records, and figurines just being a sample of the Coogan merchandise. He also travelled internationally to huge crowds. Many of his early films are lost or unavailable, but Turner Classic Movies recently presented The Rag Man with a new score. Coogan was famous for his pageboy haircut and his The Kid outfit of oversized overalls and cap, which was widely imitated, including by the young Scotty Beckett in the Our Gang films.

He was tutored until the age of ten, after which he attended Urban Military Academy and other prep schools, and then several colleges, including the University of Southern California. In 1932 he left Santa Clara University because of poor grades.

Tragedy struck in 1935 when Coogan's father was killed in a car crash that also claimed the life of Coogan's best friend Junior Durkin, a child actor best known as Huckleberry Finn in two films of the early 1930s. The accident took place just short of Coogan's twenty-first birthday. He was the sole survivor of the accident.

Coogan Bill

As a child star, Coogan earned as much as $4 million, but the money was taken by his mother, Lilian, and stepfather, Arthur Bernstein, for extravagances such as fur coats, diamonds, and cars. He sued them in 1935, but after legal expenses, he only received $126,000. When Coogan fell on hard times, Chaplin gave him some financial support.

The legal battle did, however, bring attention to child actors and resulted in the state of California enacting the California Child Actor's Bill, sometimes known as the Coogan Bill or the Coogan Act. This requires that the child's employer set aside 15% of the child's earnings in a trust, and codifies such issues as schooling, work hours and time-off. Jackie's mother and stepfather attempted to soften the situation by pointing out that the child was having fun and thought he was playing. However, virtually every child star from Baby Peggy on has stated that they were keenly aware that what they were doing was work.

World War II

Coogan enlisted in the US Army in March 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he requested a transfer to US Army Air Forces as a glider pilot because of his civilian flying experience. After graduating from glider school, he was made a Flight Officer and he volunteered for hazardous duty with the 1st Air Commando Group. In December 1943, the unit was sent to India. He flew British troops, the Chindits, under General Orde Wingate on 5 March 1944, landing them at night in a small jungle clearing 100 miles behind Japanese lines in the Burma campaign.

After the war, Coogan returned to acting, taking mostly character roles and appearing on television. He guest starred as Corbett in two episodes of NBC's The Outlaws with Barton MacLane, which aired from 1960-1962. In the 1960-1961 season, he guest starred in the episode "The Damaged Dolls" of the syndicated crime drama The Brothers Brannagan.

Coogan had a regular role in a 1962-1963 NBC series, McKeever And The Colonel. He finally found his most famous television role as Uncle Fester in ABC's The Addams Family (1964) television series, for which he is fondly remembered by a whole new generation of fans. He had a role in the 1969 movie Marlowe.

In addition to The Addams Family, he appeared a number of times on the Perry Mason series, and once on Emergency! as a junkyard owner who tries to bribe the paramedics, who have come to inspect his property for fire safety. He also was featured in an episode of The Brady Bunch ("Fender Bender"), Here's Lucy and The Brian Keith Show, and he continued to guest star on television (including multiple appearances on The Partridge Family, Wild Wild West and Hawaii Five-O) until his retirement in the middle 1970s.

Marriages and children

  1. Betty Grable, married on November 20, 1937, divorced on October 11, 1939
  2. Flower Parry, married on August 10, 1941, divorced on June 29, 1943
    1. 1 son, John Anthony Coogan (film & video writer/producer), born March 4, 1942 in Los Angeles, California.
  3. Ann McCormack, married on December 26, 1946, divorced on September 20, 1951
    1. 1 daughter, Joann Dolliver Coogan born April 2, 1948 in Los Angeles, California.
  4. Dorothea Odetta Hanson, aka. Dorothea Lamphere, best known as Dodie, married on April 1952, they were together until his death
    1. 1 daughter, Leslie Diane Coogan, born November 24, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. Her son is the actor Keith Coogan who was born January 13, 1970. He began acting in 1975. Two years after his grandfather's death in 1986 he changed his name to Keith Coogan from Keith Eric Mitchell. He played the oldest son in Adventures in Babysitting.
    2. 1 son, Christopher Fenton Coogan, born July 9, 1967 in Riverside County, California, and was killed in a motorcycle accident in Palm Springs, California on June 29, 1990.

Death and burial

Coogan died of cardiac arrest in 1984 at the age of 69. He was buried in Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery.


  • Skinner's Baby (Uncredited, 1917)
  • A Day's Pleasure (1919)
  • The Kid (1921)
  • Peck's Bad Boy (1921)
  • My Boy (1921)
  • Nice and Friendly (1922)
  • Trouble (1922)
  • Oliver Twist (1922)
  • Daddy (1923)
  • Circus Days (1923)
  • Long Live the King (1923)
  • A Boy of Flanders (1924)
  • Little Robinson Crusoe (1924)
  • Hello, 'Frisco (1924)
  • The Rag Man (1925)
  • Old Clothes (1925)
  • Johnny Get Your Hair Cut (1927)
  • The Bugle Call (1927)
  • Buttons (1927)
  • Tom Sawyer (1930)
  • Huckleberry Finn (1931)


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