Born 26 October 1914 in Los Angeles, California, USA, as John Leslie Coogan Jr.
Died 1 March 1984 in Santa Monica, California, USA, of a heart attack.
Brother of Robert Coogan. Married to actress Betty Grable 20 November 1937; divorced 11 October 1939. Married to Flower Parry 10 August 1941; one son; divorced 29 June 1943. Married to Ann McCormack 26 December 1946; one daughter; divorced 20 September 1951. Married Dorothea Lamphere April 1952; two children. Grandfather of actor Keith Coogan.
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 film.
Coogan was born in Woburn, Massachusetts, 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 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. His scene in The Kid where he is taken away from the tramp character played by Chaplin and thrown into the back of a truck by the social service agents is one of the most famous scenes in cinema. 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 just 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.
Main article: California Child Actor's Bill
As a child star, Coogan earned as much as $4 million, but the money was taken by his mother Lilian and step-father Arthur Bernstein for cocaine and heroin. He sued them in 1935, but only received $126,000. 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 step-father attempted to soften the situation by pointing out that the child was having fun and thought he was playing. Virtually every child star, however, from Baby Peggy on has stated that they were keenly aware that what they were doing was work.
Tragedy struck in 1935 when Coogan's father was killed in a car crash that also claimed the life of best friend Junior Durkin, a child actor best known as "Huckleberry Finn" in two films of the early 1930s. Just short of his twenty-first birthday, Jackie was the sole survivor of the accident.
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.
Nazi Propaganda portrayed him as a Jew named Jacob Cohen.
After the war, Coogan returned to acting, taking mostly character roles and appearing on television in a series McKeever and the Colonel (1962). He finally found his most famous TV role as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family (1964) television series, for which he is fondly remembered by a whole new generation of fans to this day. He had a role in the 1969 movie Marlowe.
Besides 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 continued to guest star on television until his retirement in the mid 1970's.
Marriage and Children
1. Ruth Elizabeth Grable, aka. Betty Grable, married on 20 November 1937, divorced on 11 October 1939
2. Flower Parry, married on 10 August 1941, divorced on 29 June 1943
1. 1 son, John Anthony Coogan (film & video writer/producer), born 4 March 1942 in Los Angeles, California.
3. Ann McCormack, married on 26 December 1946, divorced on 20 September 1951
1. 1 daughter, Joann Dolliver Coogan born 2 April 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 24 November 1953 in Los Angeles, California. Her son is the actor Keith Coogan who was born 13 January 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 is well remembered for his portrayal of the oldest son in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
2. 1 son, Christopher Fenton Coogan, born 9 July 1967 in Riverside County, California, and was killed in a motorcycle accident in Palm Springs, California on 29 June 1990.
Death and burial
Coogan died of a heart attack in 1984 at the age of 69. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City.