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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