Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Memoriam: Jackie Coogan

Jackie Coogan - born on this day in 1914 - was practically born onstage; he made his first film appearance in 1917, by which time he was already a seasoned veteran of vaudeville like his father. A natural mimic, Coogan was discovered by Charlie Chaplin; in 1921, at the ripe old age of 7, he appeared in his most highly acclaimed movie role, playing the title character in Chaplin's The Kid.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAppearing in numerous other silent films (many of which are now considered lost) including the title role in Frank Lloyd's Oliver Twist, by 1935 Coogan had earned as much as $4 million in the course of his movie career; all but $135,000 of it his parents squandered on drugs and alcohol. Because of their malfeasance, California passed the California Child Actor's Bill, which is sometimes called the Coogan Act in his honour.

That same year Coogan was the only survivor of a car crash in San Diego which claimed the lives of four people, including his father and his friend, fellow child star Trent 'Junior' Durkin. During a respite from acting (1939-47) Coogan served as a glider pilot in the Burma campaign of World War II; returning to Hollywood, he acted both in films and on television, where his role as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family (1964-6) earned him a new generation of fans.

Jackie Coogan died in March 1984, at the age of 69.
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