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The Rag Man

The Rag Man(1925)

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teaser The Rag Man (1925)

TCM's screening of the silent comedy The Rag Man (1925) marks the movie's premiere with its new score by Linda Martinez, winner of our 2003 Young Film Composers Competition. Chosen from a field of over 600 entrants, Martinez became the first female winner in the competition's history. Her prize included the opportunity to create a score for the film with mentoring from renowned composer Elmer Bernstein, plus a cash prize of $10,000.

Four years after Charles Chaplin's The Kid (1921) launched his career as a major child star, 11-year-old Jackie Coogan starred in The Rag Man as Tim, an orphan who goes on the lam after a fire destroys the orphanage where he had been living on New York's Lower East Side. Taken in by a kindly old "rag man" (Max Davidson), Tim proves himself an astute young businessman and helps the old man recover the patent to a sewing machine he invented years before. Finding success in the antiques trade, the two settle down to enjoy their riches.

For a few brief years, Coogan (1914-1984) had an extraordinary career as a child actor, earning a salary that was among Hollywood's highest and receiving a million and a half dollars just for switching from First National to Metro. After losing his childish charm, however, he found his career going quickly downhill, and by the mid-1930s he was all but forgotten.

Coogan's legal wrangling with his family over the fortune he earned as a child led to California's Child Actor Bill, popularly known as the Coogan Act, which protected juvenile performers by creating court-administered trust funds for them. Later in life, Coogan enjoyed a prolific career in television, where his roles included that of "Uncle Fester" in The Addams Family. The first of his four showgirl wives was future star Betty Grable.

Director: Edward F. Cline
Screenplay: Willard Mack, with titles by Robert Hopkins
Cinematography: Frank B. Good, Robert Martin
Original Music: Linda Martinez
Editing: Irene Morra
Principal Cast: Jackie Coogan (Tim Kelly), Max Davidson (Max Ginsberg), Lydia Yeamans Titus (Mrs. Mallory), Robert Edeson (Mr. Bernard), Dynamite the Horse (Himself).

by Roger Fristoe

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