Jackie Cooper


Actor, Director
Jackie Cooper

About

Also Known As
Alan Smithee, John Cooper Jr.
Birth Place
Los Angeles, California, USA
Born
September 15, 1922
Died
May 03, 2011
Cause of Death
Undisclosed Illness

Biography

One of the most popular child actors in Hollywood history, Jackie Cooper won moviegoers' hearts as the adorable lead in such classic melodramas as "The Champ" (1931) and "Treasure Island" (1934). Unlike many of his fellow juvenile players, he enjoyed a bountiful career as an adult in both the acting and directing fields. Cooper was a box office draw as a boy thanks to his All-American lo...

Photos & Videos

Treasure Island - Movie Posters
That Certain Age - Scene Stills
That Certain Age - Publicity Stills

Family & Companions

June Horne
Wife
Married in 1945; divorced in 1949; mother of John Cooper III.
Hildy Parks
Wife
Actor, screenwriter, producer. Married in 1950; divorced in 1951; later married theatrical producer Alexander H. Cohen.
Barbara Kraus
Wife
Advertising executive. Married in 1954; mother of Cooper's three younger children.

Bibliography

"Please Don't Shoot My Dog"
Jackie Cooper and Dick Kleiner, William Morrow (1981)

Biography

One of the most popular child actors in Hollywood history, Jackie Cooper won moviegoers' hearts as the adorable lead in such classic melodramas as "The Champ" (1931) and "Treasure Island" (1934). Unlike many of his fellow juvenile players, he enjoyed a bountiful career as an adult in both the acting and directing fields. Cooper was a box office draw as a boy thanks to his All-American looks and ability to produce gallons of tears upon command. After falling out of favor as a teen, he returned to the business in his thirties as an in-demand player on television. Directing for shortform TV became a second career in the 1960s, as did a stint as an executive for Screen Gems; he divided his time between acting gigs in films like "Superman: The Movie" (1978) with directing and producing assignments until the late 1980s. Cooper's trove of family films from his child days, and his vast body of work as an adult, made him one of the longest-running success stories in Hollywood.

One could say that John Cooper, Jr. was born into the movie business. His father, John Cooper, was a publicist, while his extended family included uncles Norman Taurog, a well-regarded director, and screenwriter Jack Leonard, as well as his aunt, actress Julie Leonard. Cooper's father abandoned the family just two years after his son was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 15, 1922, and his mother, former child actress Mabel Leonard Polito, married studio production manager C.J. Bigelow, which furthered his connection to the industry. His grandmother brought Cooper along with him on auditions for extra work, which led to him working as a background player. Blessed with a generous grin, pinchable cheeks and a shock of blond hair, he was soon playing bit roles in short comedies before graduating to the "Our Gang" series in 1929. Originally slated as a supporting character, his natural screen presence elevated him to lead status, most notably in the shorts that dealt with his overwhelming crush on June Marlowe's schoolteacher, Miss Crabtree.

In 1931, Cooper was loaned to Paramount to star in "Skippy," a tear-jerking melodrama based on a popular comic strip. The film, directed by his Uncle Norman, pulled mercilessly at audiences' heartstrings in its story of a young boy (Cooper) who loses his beloved dog, which produced the ocean of tears that became Cooper's trademark. According to the actor, Taurog was instrumental in generating the emotional outburst by telling his star that he had killed the dog in real life. Audiences were floored by the nine-year-old Cooper's performance, which earned him an Academy Award nomination and the record as the youngest actor to receive such an honor in film history. Now ensconced at MGM, Cooper starred in a series of melodramas which placed him in Dickensian scenarios that would inevitably result in a flood of weeping; "When A Fellow Needs a Friend" (1931) cast him as a handicapped boy struggling to be accepted as "normal," while "Divorce in the Family" saw him as the prize between two competitive and highly insensitive fathers. Moviegoers could not get enough of Cooper's cinematic travails, which made him one of the top stars of the early 1930s. Dubbed "America's Boy" by the MGM press machine, he was featured in countless advertising campaigns, dined with then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and was the idol of millions of adolescent girls and (presumably jealous) boys.

The key films from this period of Cooper's career were his collaborations with character actor Wallace Beery. Their first picture together, the boxing drama "The Champ" (1931), told the story of a broken-down fighter (Beery) attempting to redeem himself in the eyes of his son (Cooper), who loves him unconditionally. The film's final moments, in which the camera was literally thrust into Cooper's face as he wept over Beery's death, remained a high water mark in movie melodrama for years, and firmly established both actors as box office gold. They would go on to star in several more films, including a much-loved adaptation of "Treasure Island" (1934) with Beery as Long John Silver and Cooper as Jim Hawkins. Movie goers believed in the special chemistry between the two actors, but in real life, Beery treated Cooper with disdain and upstaged him whenever possible during production.

Cooper's star began to wane at the tail end of the 1930s. Now entering his teens, he was no longer the baby-faced juvenile of his early films. He had in fact worked hard to escape that label through rigorous exercise, which produced an impressive physique for publicity photos, and promotional scenarios that pictured him on the arm of numerous teen starlets, including Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin. He attempted to segue into tough kid roles, but audiences preferred him as the Nice Young Man in pictures like "What a Life" (1939), as the soppy Henry Aldrich, or teen romances like "That Certain Age" (1938), which featured his first screen kiss courtesy of Durbin. There were occasional opportunities to show his range, such as in the Western "The Return of Frank James" (1940) with Henry Fonda, and the fun jazz musical "Syncopation" (1942), but by the mid-1940s, Cooper's career as the male Shirley Temple was largely over.

He joined the U.S. Navy and served during World War II, eventually reaching the rank of captain. Upon his return to civilian life, he found it difficult to land movie roles, and by 1948, was without a studio contract for the first time in nearly two decades. Faced with the daunting fact that he was untrained to do anything outside of acting, he headed for New York to try his hand at stage work. There, he made his debut in a 1949 production of "Magnolia Alley." The popular comedy-drama "Mister Roberts" kept him busy for the next few years; he played Ensign Pulver in the American touring production and then in the London production in 1951.

Television was also Cooper's steady medium through the 1950s. He appeared in nearly every major anthology drama of the period, including multiple episodes of "Studio One" (CBS, 1948-1958) and "Robert Montgomery Presents" (NBC, 1950-57). The constant exposure helped to dispel the image of Cooper as the lachrymose boy of yesteryear, replacing it with a capable and versatile character actor and occasional lead whose performances were marked by a surprising caginess and energy. In 1955, he developed his first network series, "The People's Choice" (NBC, 1955-58), a quirky drama about a tough city councilor who butts heads with the mayor while dating his daughter (Pat Breslin). The show's gimmick was Cooper's basset hound, which frequently spoke in asides to the audience, but not her cast mates. Popular with viewers, "People's Choice" netted Cooper two Emmy nominations for Best Actor, and launched his second career as a television director. Its premature cancellation sent Cooper back to the drawing board for his second series, "Hennessey" (NBC, 1959-1962), a comedy-drama about life at the U.S. Naval Station in San Diego that netted two more Emmy nods for Cooper.

The oddball comedy "Everything's Ducky" (1961) marked Cooper's first movie appearance in over a decade, but the return would be short-lived. In 1964, he was appointed to Vice President of Program Development for Screen Gems, better known as Columbia Pictures' television division. The position saw Cooper packaging series and TV movies for the networks, including "Bewitched" (ABC, 1964-1972). He was off the big and small screens for nearly the entire run of his executive career, save for one television movie, the futuristic thriller "Shadow on the Land" (ABC, 1968). After leaving Columbia in 1969, Cooper divided his time between directing for episodic television and acting for the small screen, with occasional returns to features. The most successful of the latter was his turn as the irascible Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet in Richard Donner's "Superman: The Movie" (1978) and its sequels, "Superman II" (1980), "Superman III" (1983) and "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (1987). He was a last-minute replacement for actor Keenan Wynn, who suffered a heart attack shortly before filming began. He also tackled the news business in "Mobile One" (ABC, 1975), a short-lived drama from Jack Webb about a TV news crew that marked his final attempt at a network series.

As a director, Cooper won two Emmys for his work on "M*A*S*H" (CBS, 1972-1983) and the pilot episode of "The White Shadow" (CBS, 1978-1981). He also helmed multiple episodes of some of the most popular shows of the 1970s and 1980s, including "The Rockford Files" (NBC, 1973-1980), "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88) and "Cagney and Lacey" (CBS, 1982-88). He began directing features for television with 1972's "Keep the Faith" (CBS), with Bert Convy and Howard Da Silva as squabbling rabbis, but graduated to more substantive work in the 1980s like the Emmy-nominated "White Mama" (CBS, 1980) with Bette Davis, and "Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story" (CBS, 1982) with Sondra Locke in the title role. He directed just one theatrical feature, "Stand Up and Be Counted" (1972), a comedy about the women's equality movement with Jacqueline Bisset that failed at the box office.

In 1982, Cooper released Please Don't Shoot My Dog, a no-holds barred autobiography which revealed the truth about his working relationship with Beery, a wild romance with Joan Crawford while still in his teens, and escapades on the seedier side of Tinseltown. Cooper continued to act and direct until 1989, when he announced his retirement to train and race horses. As late as 2006, he was a frequent interview subject on documentaries and television specials about his days as a child actor, as well as the Golden Age of Hollywood and the many projects with which he was associated. The beloved actor passed away at age 88 in Beverly Hills on May 3, 2011, only a month after good friend and fellow MGM contract player Elizabeth Taylor also passed.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

The Ladies (1987)
Director
Izzy and Moe (1985)
Director
The Night They Saved Christmas (1984)
Director
Moonlight (1982)
Director
Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story (1982)
Director
Leave 'Em Laughing (1981)
Director
White Mama (1980)
Director
Marathon (1980)
Director
Rodeo Girl (1980)
Director
Sex and the Single Parent (1979)
Director
Having Babies III (1978)
Director
Rainbow (1978)
Director
Perfect Gentlemen (1978)
Director
Stand Up and Be Counted (1972)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

MGM: When the Lion Roars (1992)
Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Himself
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Perry White
Surrender (1987)
Superman III (1983)
Perry White
Superman II (1981)
Perry White
Superman:The Movie (1978)
Operation Petticoat (1977)
Admiral
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
Mobile Two (1975)
Peter Campbell
The Invisible Man (1975)
Walter Carison
The Day the Earth Moved (1974)
Steve Barker
Chosen Survivors (1974)
Raymond Couzins
Stand Up and Be Counted (1972)
Doctor
The Astronaut (1972)
Kurt Anderson
The Love Machine (1971)
Danton Miller
Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring (1971)
Editor Miller
Everything's Ducky (1961)
Lieutenant Parmell
French Leave (1948)
Skitch
Stork Bites Man (1947)
Ernest "Ernie" C. Brown
Kilroy Was Here (1947)
Johnny J. Kilroy
Where Are Your Children? (1944)
Danny Cheston
Syncopation (1942)
Johnny [Schumacher]
Men of Texas (1942)
Robert Houston Scott
The Navy Comes Through (1942)
Joe "Babe" Dudson
Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
Jerry Regan
Her First Beau (1941)
Chuck Harris
Glamour Boy (1941)
Tiny Barlow
Life with Henry (1941)
Henry Aldrich
Seventeen (1940)
William Sylvanus Baxter
Gallant Sons (1940)
Byron "By" Newbold
The Return of Frank James (1940)
Clem
The Big Guy (1939)
Jimmy Hutchins
Streets of New York (1939)
Jimmy Keenan
What a Life (1939)
Henry Aldrich
Two Bright Boys (1939)
Rory O'Donnell
Spirit of Culver (1939)
Tom Allen
Gangster's Boy (1938)
Larry Kelly
Newsboys' Home (1938)
"Rifle" [Edwards]
That Certain Age (1938)
Ken [Warren]
White Banners (1938)
Peter Trimble
Boy of the Streets (1937)
Chuck Brennan
The Devil Is a Sissy (1936)
"Buck" Murphy
Tough Guy (1936)
Freddie [Frederick Martindale Vincent III]
O'Shaughnessy's Boy (1935)
"Stubby" [O'Shaughnessy]
Dinky (1935)
Dinky [Daniels]
Treasure Island (1934)
Jim Hawkins
Peck's Bad Boy (1934)
Bill Peck
Lone Cowboy (1933)
Scooter O'Neal
The Bowery (1933)
Swipes McGurk
Broadway to Hollywood (1933)
Ted Hackett, Jr., as a child
When a Fellow Needs a Friend (1932)
Eddie [Edward Haverford] Randall
Divorce in the Family (1932)
Terry Parker
When a Feller Needs a Friend (1932)
The Champ (1931)
Dink [Purcell]
Sooky (1931)
Skippy [Skinner]
Skippy (1931)
Skippy [Skinner]
Young Donovan's Kid (1931)
Midge Murray

Producer (Feature Film)

The Ladies (1987)
Producer
Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story (1982)
Producer
Perfect Gentlemen (1978)
Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Other

Director (Special)

The Deacon Street Deer (1986)
Director
Family in Blue (1982)
Director
Snafu (1976)
Director
Doctor Dan (1974)
Director
Keep the Faith (1972)
Director

Cast (Special)

Without Lying Down (2000)
Child Stars: Their Story (2000)
Sports on the Silver Screen (1997)
Judy Garland: Beyond the Rainbow (1997)
Inside The Dream Factory (1995)
Lucy & Desi: TV's First Couple (1994)
Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie (1993)
When We Were Young... Growing Up on the Silver Screen (1989)
The 38th Annual Emmy Awards (1986)
Performer
Doctor Dan (1974)
Keeping an Eye on Denise (1973)
Father
Hollywood: The Dream Factory (1972)
Of Men of Women (1972)
Widower (Story 1)
What's Up? (1971)
Host
What's Up, America? (1971)
Host

Producer (Special)

Doctor Dan (1974)
Producer

Cast (Short)

Soaring Stars (1942)
Himself
Rodeo Dough (1940)
Himself
THE CHRISTMAS PARTY (1931)
Himself
The First Seven Years (1930)
Love Business (1930)
Bear Shooters (1930)
Helping Grandma (1930)
Bouncing Babies (1929)
Boxing Gloves (1929)

Life Events

1925

Made film debut in Lloyd Hamilton comedy short

1929

Made first "Our Gang" short

1931

Starred in films "Skippy" and "The Champ"; earned Best Actor Oscar nomination for the former

1934

Played Jim Hawkins in "Treasure Island"

1949

Made New York stage debut, "Magnolia Alley"

1949

Toured U.S.A. as Ensign Pulver in "Mr. Roberts"

1951

Appeared as Ensign Pulver in London production of "Mr. Roberts"

1952

Early TV work included "Lux Video Theatre"

1968

Made TV-movie acting debut, "Shadow on the Land"

1971

Played Sally Field's father in TV-movie "Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring"

1971

Played TV programming executive in feature film "The Love Machine"

1972

Film directing debut, "Stand Up and Be Counted"

1974

Hosted "The Dean Martin Comedy World" (NBC)

1975

Was regular on "Mobile One"

1978

Directed pilot of "The White Shadow"; won second Emmy

1978

Played editor Perry White in first of four "Superman" feature films

1980

Directed Bette Davis in TV-movie "White Mama"

1981

Directed fellow former child star Mickey Rooney in a TV movie, "Leave 'em Laughing"

1989

Announced retirement to raise horses

Photo Collections

Treasure Island - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release American movie posters from MGM's Treasure Island (1934), starring Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper.
That Certain Age - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from Universal Pictures' That Certain Age (1938), starring Deanna Durbin, Jackie Cooper, and Melvyn Douglas.
That Certain Age - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize Universal Pictures' That Certain Age (1938), starring Deanna Durbin, Jackie Cooper, and Melvyn Douglas. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
That Certain Age - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Universal Pictures' That Certain Age (1938), starring Deanna Durbin, Jackie Cooper, and Melvyn Douglas.
That Certain Age - Movie Posters
Here are a few movie posters from Universal Pictures' That Certain Age (1938), starring Deanna Durbin, Jackie Cooper, and Melvyn Douglas.
Superman: The Movie - Program
Here is the official Movie Program from Warner Bros' Superman: The Movie (1978), starring Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder, and Gene Hackman.
The Champ (1931) - Movie Poster
Here is an American movie poster from the original release of The Champ (1931), starring Wallace Berry and Jackie Cooper. This is a half sheet measuring 22" x 28".
When a Feller Needs a Friend - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for When a Feller Needs a Friend (1932), starring Jackie Cooper. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Skippy (1931) - Almost Nearly Dressed First scene introducing Jackie Cooper in his star-making title role, with parents (Willard Robertson, Enid Bennett), from Skippy, 1931, based on the Percy Lee Crosby comic strip.
Skippy (1931) - Don't Lick So Loud! Well-to-do Jackie Cooper (title character) with new friend Sooky (Robert Coogan) and his cherished pooch, hiding from the dog-catcher in "Shanty Town," early in the Paramount hit Skippy, 1931.
Treasure Island (1934) - Billy Bones At the party for his innkeeper mother (Dorothy Peterson), Jack (Jackie Cooper) observes the arrival of cranky Billy Bones (Lionel Barrymore), early in MGM's hit 1934 production of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, directed by Victor Fleming.
Treasure Island (1934) - Flint's Fist Jack (Jackie Cooper) and his mum (Dorothy Peterson) search the belongings of lodger Billy Bones (Lionel Barrymore), who has just died after being confronted by Blind Pew (William V. Mong), who returns with cohorts, but flees when Livesey (Otto Kruger) arrives, in MGM's Treasure Island, 1934.
Treasure Island (1934) - Long John Silver Jack (Jackie Cooper), having been warned about a "seafaring man with one leg," arrives at Bristol with sponsor Squire Trelawney (Nigel Bruce), whereupon they meet Long John Silver (Wallace Beery) in director Victor Fleming's 1934 production of Treasure Island.
Champ, The (1931) - Ya Big Palooka LA boxing promoters visiting Tijuana rightly conclude that former champ Wallace Beery (title character) is not up to a fight, his posse (Roscoe Ates, Edward Brophy) splitting, leaving son Dink (Jackie Cooper) in an early, intimate scene from director King Vidor, in The Champ, 1931.
Champ, The (1931) - I Wouldn't Take A Drink Straight from the titles, pointing out that they are on location in Tijuana, Mexico, Wallace Beery the title character, Jackie Cooper the son "Dink," in the hit that made them both box office stars, Jesse Scott the young friend, from King Vidor and MGM, in The Champ, 1931.
Champ, The (1931) - Keep Your Chin Up Compressed melodrama, Wallace Beery (title character) and Jackie Cooper (his son "Dink") watch "Little Champ" run his first race, as Linda (Irene Rich), with husband Tony (Hale Hamilton) realizes she's just met the son she gave up, then a crash, King Vidor directing MGM's The Champ, 1931.
Champ, The (1931) - Give The Kid A Chance At first amicable Tony (Carleton Young) and Linda (Irene Rich) see off her long-lost son Dink (Jackie Cooper) after a visit, his father (Wallace Beery, title character, with sidekick Roscoe Ates) paid for his trouble, then later in a Tijuana casino, pressed to compromise, in The Champ, 1931.
Ziegfeld Girl (1941) - Cucaracha, Look At That One! New hires Susie (Judy Garland) and Sheila (Lana Turner) dazzled by singer Frank (Tony Martin), and kid brother Jerry (Jackie Cooper) with a not so silly comment upon seeing Sandra (Hedy Lamarr), with violinist husband (Philip Dorn) and friend (Felix Bressart), in MGM's Ziegfeld Girl, 1941.
Skippy (1931) - You're New Around Here In the junkyard, Jackie Cooper (title character) with new kid Sooky (Robert Coogan), and bullying rival Harley (Donald Haines), early in Skippy, 1931, from the Percy Lee Crosby comic strip.
Navy Comes Through, The - Admiral Babe Youthful "Babe" (Jackie Cooper) with parents (Mary Young, Joe Cunningham) reports to Mallory (Pat O'Brien) who also receives Dutch (Carl Esmond) and Sampler (Frank Jenks) in The Navy Comes Through, 1942.

Trailer

Dinky - (Original Trailer) Jackie Cooper is a military school cadet who isn't told his mother has been framed and sent to prison in Dinky (1935).
White Banners - (Original Trailer graphics) A mysterious woman tries to help her son's foster family without revealing her true identity in White Banners (1938) starring Fay Bainter.
Superman II - (Original Trailer) Superman gives up his powers just as visitors arrive, three super-powered villains from Krypton, in Superman II (1980).
Superman: The Movie - (Original Trailer) The man of steel (Christopher Reeve) fights to save the world and his true love in the all-star spectacular Superman: The Movie (1978).
Champ, The (1931) - (Re-issue trailer) Wallace Beery got the Oscar but Jackie Cooper stole the show in the 1931 version of The Champ, directed by King Vidor.
O'Shaughnessy's Boy - (Original Trailer) Circus performer Wallace Beery searches for the son his wife stole from him in O'Shaughnessy's Boy (1935).
Tough Guy - (Original Trailer) To save his beloved dog, a boy runs away from home, only to get mixed up with gangsters in Tough Guy (1936) starring Jackie Cooper.
Gallant Sons - (Original Trailer) When a man is charged with murder, his son's schoolboy friends set out to solve the case in Gallant Sons (1940) starring Jackie Cooper.
Broadway To Hollywood - (Original Trailer) Three generations of vaudevillians fight for stardom on stage and screen in Broadway to Hollywood (1933) starring Frank Morgan.
Devil is a Sissy, The - (Original Trailer) A British boy in New York tries to join a tenement gang in The Devil is a Sissy (1936) starring Freddie Bartholomew & Mickey Rooney.
Ziegfeld Girl - (Original Trailer) Three showgirls in the Ziegfeld Follies face romantic trials on their way to the top in Ziegfeld Girl (1941) starring Lana Turner.

Family

John Cooper Sr
Father
Publicist. Left family when Cooper was two years old.
Norman Taurog
Uncle
Director. Married to Cooper's mother's sister Susan.
John Cooper III
Son
Mother, June Horne.
Russell Cooper
Son
Mother, Barbara Kraus.
Julie Cooper
Daughter
Mother, Barbara Kraus; died of a massive stroke at age 39 in September 1997.
Christina Cooper
Daughter
Mother, Barbara Kraus.

Companions

June Horne
Wife
Married in 1945; divorced in 1949; mother of John Cooper III.
Hildy Parks
Wife
Actor, screenwriter, producer. Married in 1950; divorced in 1951; later married theatrical producer Alexander H. Cohen.
Barbara Kraus
Wife
Advertising executive. Married in 1954; mother of Cooper's three younger children.

Bibliography

"Please Don't Shoot My Dog"
Jackie Cooper and Dick Kleiner, William Morrow (1981)