A Tribute to Jackie Cooper
Though he was known mostly to younger movie audiences as Perry White in theSuperman series, Roddy McDowall called him the most gifted child star in movie history. In fact, he was the only actor ever to have been nominated for a Best Actor or Actress Academy Award before his 18th birthday.
Jackie Cooper was born John Cooperman, Jr. on September 15, 1921 (although the year has also been reported as 1922). He definitely came from a movie family, as his father was a studio production manager and his mother a stage pianist. His grandmother took him with her to auditions for bit parts. He got his first part in a movie directed by his uncle, Norman Taurog (Oscar-nominated director of Boys Town). He later appeared as Jackie in 15 Our Gang features. His first big role was in Skippy, also directed by his uncle. Taurog won the Best Director Oscar for the film, and Jackie won that famous Oscar nomination for his acting, making him one of MGM’s top stars.
Jackie appeared opposite Wallace Beery in The Champ (1931), The Bowery(1933), Treasure Island (1934), and O’Shaughnessy’s Boy (1935). Other films included Sooky (1931), When a Feller Needs a Friend (1932), Peck’s Bad Boy(1934), The Devil Is a Sissy (1936), Boy of the Streets (1937), Gangster’s Boy(1938), Streets of New York (1939), The Return of Frank James (1940), andZiegfeld Girl (1941). He was the first to play Henry Aldrich, in What a Life!(1939).
Like many child stars, his popularity ebbed when he reached adolescence, and in 1943, Jackie joined the war effort, rising to the rank of captain in the Navy. After the war, he found it tough going in Hollywood, and moved to TV, where he found success as not only an actor, but also a producer and director. He directed episodes of M*A*S*H and The White Shadow and at one time was Screen Gems’ executive in charge of production. Before he retired, he appeared as Perry White in the Superman films.
Jackie had four children, including three by his wife, Barbara. He passed away on May 3, 2011.
Jackie Cooper Tributes/Pages
- Internet Movie Database – Biography, filmography, and more.
Other Jackie Cooper Pages
Selected Reviews of Jackie Cooper’s Best Films
- The Champ (1931) – Movie Mirrors.
- The Christmas Party (1931) – Review by Ali Barclay from BBC Online.
- Superman (1978) – Review by Harold Gervais from DVD Verdict.
- Treasure Island (1934) – From Movie Mirrors.
Where To Find Or See Jackie Cooper Films
Books by or about Jackie Cooper
- Please Don’t Shoot My Dog: The Autobiography of Jackie Cooper – by Jackie Cooper
- The Little Rascals: The Life and Times of Our Gang – by Leonard Maltin, Richard W. Bann.