I'll go ahead and state the ooobvioous here - the kid was a brilliant, mindful, sharp, witty, & an awesomely unique ball of talent!! From the time he hit theater screens at age 5, he wowed em!! A kid that became the worlds first child celebrity, discovered by the greatest entertainer of all time, Sir Charlie Chaplin. Sir Chaplin had great favor upon the kid, as do I!! The favor was mutual in the kid .. in fact - when Charlie Chaplin came back to the U.S. to accept his honorary acadamy award, the kid (then a man) met him at the airport. This kid was Jackie Coogan, and he was a FIRST CLASS ACT, ALL THE WAY, FO SHOO!!! The original first child celebrity, the original Tom Sawyer, the original Huckleberry Finn, the original Oliver Twist, the original Uncle Fester, the original right hand to Charlie Chaplin ... Jackie was the original ... ORIGINAL! To top off all that originality - one needs some organization, RIGGHHT?? Howz about HIS OWN PRODUCTION COMPANY for the CHERRY ON TOP? Naw .. it's reality son! And Jackie Coogan was as real as real gets!!
Jackie Coogan was born October 26, 1914, in Los Angeles, Cali, to Vaudeville parents. It was only natural, and a matter of time before lil Jackie would take the world by storm. In fact - it happened before he left the 'crib!' He would often perform as a baby with his father, 'Big Jack' Coogan, Sr. By the time he was 5, he was touring with his mother & father appearing on the stages of vaudeville, living here (on this piece of land..the home has been razed and today apartments occupy the premises, in true Los Angeles fashion.) Here is what it looked like in it's heyday, via L.A. postcard frenzy!! Anyhoo - It was at just such a vaudeville show, the world's greatest entertainer Charles Chaplin, was in attendance and spotted the lil Coogan doing the 'shimmy....,' (a popular dance act in vaudeville at the time.)
Chaplin had written a script for a film, but had been holding off making it because the supporting role called for a child who could do what Chaplin thought at the time to be the impossible. Cry when cued, hit targets with perfection when cued, and mimic unflawed when cued. When he spotted young Jackie .. it seemed the perfect child for his script. He scheduled the young one a screen-test .. and vuwalla - the impossible, became possible in moments. Young Coogan was all Chaplin was looking for and more!! They started production on, 'The Kid,' at the end of production in 1920 .. it was rumored that Coogan was about to be shot full power into superstardom. When it premiered in 1921 - the rumor, became reality!!
BAM! Along came the merch, & the touring.. Check this vid out of Jackie visiting/touring Detroit, Michigan!! The welcome was MUCH deserved!!
Upon that reality, the family moved into this home, in this neighborhood. Today, a different home sits on the soil .. but it's still the same soil. At least Hollywood can't raze that! Ughh! Jackie went on to a very impressive career. Practically grew up on the screen becoming the first child star to do such! America loved him and the films he was in. He had gone from First National to MGM. For the most part, he was schooled on the set, and sometimes, the hours of filming could run looong - as proof by this photo of Jackie on the set of 1927s Buttons. Whenever he had a question, he could call upon, IMO, the worlds TRUEST & greatest entertainer - Charlie Chaplin! Life folks, did/does NOT get much better than that!! Throughout the 1920's Coogan was soaring. Every film Jackie was in was GOLD! He fastly developed a cult following garnering the title of the world's first child celebrity!! Ain't it just like life to be soaring along great - then all-of-a-sudden .. KABLAM - you face a whammy!
The 1930's rolled in & so did Jackie's troubles. His first two films, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, while a success with his fan followers, were a flop with regular movie goers. It has been rumored that Jackie's role as Tom Sawyer was scripted right down to 'the way in which he was to walk.' (This would have hurt his performance due to Jackie being, like Chaplin, a method fly actor.. REMEMBER - he was trained by Chaplin!). Another rumor is that problems were happening with his parents marriage. Whatever the case - it was clear is that his performance was definitely marred with problems. On May 4, 1935, Jackie, (his best friend) Junior Durkin (pic of them together in Tom Sawyer..Durkin on left), & Jackie's father were cruising down the coast highway in San Diego when tragedy struck. Jackie's dad swerved to avoid a passing car, lost control, and crashed. Jackie was the sole survivor of the crash. The accident happened just shy of his 21st birthday. What a horrible break! Following any setback earlier in life .. Coogan, sometimes mentored by Chaplin, could just shake off his problem & move on to the next project. However - this blow .. understandably, would prove to be a much tougher one than the rest. So he walked away to take stock of where he was going, and wanted to go in his young life!
During his hiatus.. He married longtime sweetheart, Betty Grable, & he ran into another actor with whom he'd worked with years previous.. Raymond Lee ..who had played alongside him as the bully kid, in the Chaplin film, 'The Kid'. The two became fast-friends after being re-acquainted again. Thanks to the power of YouTube - we can re-acquaint ourselves with that great scene from 'The Kid' ..
Annnnyway .. According to Jackie's Aunt Anna .. Raymond had went on to have a semi-successful career and was living pretty off what income he'd earned. Naturally, it got Jackie to thinking that, If Raymond was sitting pretty on the income he'd made as a bit semi-successful child actor .. Jackie knew he could be living GORGEOUS off his income he had accrued. Jackie had known that he was earning money from the films he appeared in, & now he was old enough to cash in on it. Jackie went to collect from his mom (who .. as his supposed TRUSTING guardian, was his stakeholder), and cash in! Turns out Jackie "would have" been living gorgeously! Just in his earnings from 'The Kid' alone, he was set to earn $326,000. In a total of all his films to that date, he would've had the privy of calling himself $3.8 million dollars richer. That is of course .. if his supposed trusting, mother hadn't have squandered it all!! ALL of IT!! $3.8 mil is a lot of cash today.. remember... this was the 1936. Gas was less than a quarter a gallon! ...Yes - I know!! I was thinking DAYYYYMNN-immediately-followed-by-his-mom-was-a-no-good-huzzy-bitch,too! Jackie's initial reaction, was not speaking to his mother anymore, & I like to think he gave her a good verbal piece of his mind including a few choice words such as huzzy, skank, mooch, & leech.. Then a little sign langy such as a bold firm MIDDLE finger, yah know!! 😤
After finding out he had a weasel mom, & no money - Jackie, understandably, hit "almost" rock bottom. Pretty much outta site..outta mind for 2 years. He, and his wife, Betty. Rumors have put him going in and out of Chaplin's driveway ALOT in those 2 years. I don't doubt those rumors .. they were great friends! Jackie made an unannounced visit to see Charlie- during Charlie's filming of 'Modern Times." Jackie was 21 at the time and according to him, "When I mentioned I'd never seen ‘The Kid' (in full) - he shut down the picture he was shooting, took me to lunch, and then to a projection room where he played the organ to accompany the picture. I never had seen the picture. I'd gone to the premiere, but I fell asleep.. It was an experience that I'll never forget!!"
According to a census report at that time, he lived modestly in a house where this lovely garage now sits!) ..He had fallen on hard times & was being financially helped by Chaplin! In fact - checks have surfaced through the years that suggest he might have been on Chaplin's payroll. Whatever the situation though, it was understandably private, but, just another mute-small-portion of reason why Chaplin was, not JUST the greatest amongst entertainers, but among the GREATEST human beings to ever walk planet earth, IMO!!
In 1938, 2 years after finding out his mother had blown all of his earnings .. on the encouragement of his family & friends .. he sued his mother. In court it was learned his mother had looted almost ALL of Jackie's money on luxuries for herself. Blown it ALL on BIG toy extravagances such as fur coats, diamonds, and cars...not car...carS, not to mention the plush pad in Bev Hills! By now, Jackie lived with the wife, Betty Grable, modestly on Montana Ave in an apartment! Apparently you can live on that street now too .. there's one for rent next to the damn-lost-key-lady .. I should state that, in all, Jackie was married four times. There isn't much info in that area that I have ever seen. As such - I am guessing he wanted that privy .. so I am choosing to leave it out here except the rare mention now & then. According to court transcripts, the most mind boggling wrench thrown in court was when his mother testified that .. "Jackie always thought he was just playing on those sets. He really never knew he was working!" YAAWWWNN!! There ya go .. atta girl hun .. break your sons heart a bit more! It was so RIDICULOUS the courtroom was speechless, actually described as hearing a pin drop for minutes afterward .. probably because of shock?? I guess it was the child psychologist, Shirley Brown, that took the stand who needed to make clear in the head of Jackie's mom that .. "indeed, EVERY SINGLE CHILD she had EVER counseled on the set of ANY film, knew FULL WELL that it was work and not noon playtime they were doing!" Clearly everyone else in that courtroom knew.
Anyhoo - for all of his efforts .. Jackie - in the end, & after legal expenses, he only received $126,000 of the approximately $250,000 remaining of his original earnings of 3.8 million. I am SURE that most of all .. Jackie was pleased that his case prompted California lawmakers to enact what became known as "The Coogan Act." It states that "any company that employs a child, set aside 15% of said child's earnings in a trust, and codifies such issues as schooling, work hours and time-off." To read more on the law .. click here.
With the case against his mother & step-father over.. Jackie took a few years off to travel overseas. He had taken a break from film & by 1941, had decided to join the United States Army. Only months after enlisting, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Jackie, in his own words, always loving the action, respectfully requested to be transferred to the United States Air Force. The request was granted and he was first to volunteer for hazardous border 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 March 5, 1944, landing them at night in a small jungle clearing 100 miles behind Japanese lines in the Burma campaign. Jackie spent two years in the military. A childhood dream, realized. When released .. he decided to return to his first love of acting .. it was after all -- in his blood! Here is Jackie talking about 'The Kid,' later in life..
Here is Jackie with son, Anthony (who would go on to make 3d films popular!!;)
His first endeavor into work was a film with his younger brother .. Robert. The film was called 'Kilroy Was Here.' In a life imitating art kinda true scenario.. Jackie plays the lead character, Kilroy, who's main ambition is to get a college education, & finds himself one-half credit short for college entrance. The leading lady, writes feature stories about him as "Kilroy,", the most talked about G. I. of the war, and is able to get him registered. Fraternity members grow VERY jealous and attempt to make him withdraw from college. It's a WONDERFUL film, but highly underrated. Even when it was released. Besides marking 'the awesome' Jackie's return to cinema, it's a landmark film in that it proved Jackie still had it & kinda served as a big FUCK YOU to those who had snubbed, or wrote him off as a has been!. The film would have done much, MUCH better if the studio had realized who they had and promoted it a bit more! Some people will NEVER cease to amaze me!! Especially studio heads! Jackie's next film, 'French Leave,' which was basically a part 2 for 'Kilroy Was Here,' did MUCH better at the box office, but it would mark the end of Jackie's big screen roles for decades. He would take up a VERY successful stint as a regular on television both in starring roles & reoccurring cameos on shows such as 'The Brady Bunch,' 'Perry Mason,' 'Lucy,' 'Andy Griffith,' & 'I Dream of Jeannie' ... just to name a FEW .. and took on the lead role as the original LOVEABLE, HUGGABLE, Uncle Fester, in 'The Addams Family!' Now thanks to Minisode Network on YouTube .. it's watchable!
In 1972 .. Jackie was working on the set of, "The Brady Bunch," doing a cameo when he got word that his childhood mentor, Charlie Chaplin, (who had been gone from Hollywood since 1952, due to USA re-entry denial thanks to a narrow-minded, scum-of-the-earth, piece-of-shit running the FBI in the 50's .. Jerk-off Ed-gut Hoover!) SOOOO.. Jackie heard that Charlie would be coming to accept an Honorary Academy Award. Jackie decided to show up with wife Dorothea Lamphere, at the airport to surprise Charlie, AND he did! When Charlie entered the airport .. he immediately saw and recognized Jackie. As the two hugged, they both broke down in tears and Charlie told Jackie .. 'There is noone on earth I'd rather see than you!.' The two were almost inseparable during Charlie's brief stay to accept his Honorary Academy Award. What I would have given to be there!! Sweet doesn't even begin to describe what that would've been like!
As Jackie revealed on "This Is Your Life," in 1972, television proved to be more enjoyable to him in later years. He said he 'probably wouldn't have liked it as a kid but as an adult it was the perfect show.' The hours weren't as long .. and he was able to more act the way he wanted to. (It could almost be said Jackie invented method acting .. if Chaplin hadn't of." ;) In 1980, Jackie made a brief return to film. He played an unforgettable Mr. Fleacollar, in a "Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde" parody called "Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype." I remember when I was a kid .. renting this film, because Jackie was in it .. I COULDN'T WAIT to see it! I was NOT impressed with it. I remember my take being that, Jackie did a great job, but why was he in such a stupid ass film?? I wonder if he 'knew', before getting involved!? Well - I realize now.. I didn't get the comedy in it. I'd never seen ANYTHING like it, with stupid comedy, if you will. I LOVED the film 'Airplane!', & 'The Naked Gun.' Yeah - it's one of those comedies!! All that said - Jackie did a great job as always and it's worth a watch just to see him!! ;) If you can bare to sit thru the "others" in the film, I'm juss sayin' lol... you can see it for free by clicking here! Ahhh... YouTube is GREAT ayyyint it??..
By the 1980's, Jackie was enjoying a semi-retired life in the confines of his Palm Springs home. On the morning of March 1, 1984 - he was in Malibu visiting his daughter, Leslie, when chest pains struck. Jackie had been suffering from heart disease & hypertension for some time. He was rushed to Santa Monica Hospital, where the pains turned into an attack. He passed away at the hospital at 1:47pm. Hollywood had lost another of it's finest, & the very first, (and best, IMO), child celebrity the world had ever seen! At his funeral, John Astin gave the eulogy and spoke of how Jackie was like true family to all in, 'The Addams Family' cast. In attendance were Andy Griffith, Lucille 'Lucy' Ball, & I saw some other supposed celebs that had signed the funeral book.. but the names, I didn't recognise. My buddro Scott Michaels has a GREAT page on the deaths of the Addams Family cast .. minus John Astin (coz he is still living & at 3,667 yrs old .. I am wholeheartedly convinced that the man has attained immortality!) It is complete with Jackie's death certificate, tidbits, & casket photo of him! Check it out by clicking here!
<**WARNING**his site is addictive .. i'm just sayin'! >
R.I.P., Jackie! Do you know that bar you set? .. noone has ever come close to it!! The projects you lent your talent to .. you turned into PURE GOLD!! Like your mentor, Charlie Chaplin ... the heart of Hollywood has, AND FOREVER WILL HAVE, your & his name embedded into it! The sun will never set, and the candle will never burn out on your awesome legacy! Much love my friend! See you when I get there!
You can visit his grave & leave your non-wilting virtual flowers here!