Birthday: September 15, 1922
Died At Age: 88
Sun Sign: Virgo
Born in: Los Angeles, California
Famous as: Actor
Spouse/Ex-: Barbara Rae Kraus (m. 1954–2009; her death), Hildy Parks (m. 1950–1951; divorced), June Horne (m. 1944–1949; divorced)
father: John Cooper
mother: Mabel Leonard
Died on: May 3, 2011
place of death: Santa Monica, California, U.S.
U.S. State: California
City: Los Angeles
Who was Jackie Cooper?
The first ever child actor to receive an Academy Award nomination, American John “Jackie” Cooper, Jr. was among the rare breed of child actors who were able to build for themselves an equally successful career as an adult. Even as a small child of nine he was exceptionally talented and became a super star when he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in the movie ‘Skippy’. Raised by a single mother, he grew up witnessing his mother’s siblings who were into show business. His grandmother who worked as an extra introduced young Jackie to filmdom. He made his first film appearance at the age of three. Growing up being surrounded by actors and screenwriters did the boy a lot of good—he became a natural at acting and was confident and poised for his young age. Initially he was given supporting roles because of his age but his acting skills prompted his uncle Norman Taurog, a director, to cast him in a leading role in the film ‘Skippy’. The boy won much critical acclaim and several accolades for this role. With his dedication and perseverance Cooper was able to recreate the success of his childhood as an adult actor as well.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born to John Cooper and Mabel Leonard. His father abandoned the family when Jackie was just two years old. His mother who worked as a stage pianist later remarried C. J. Bigelow, a studio production manager.
There were many people in his family including his maternal uncle and maternal aunt who made a career for themselves in show business. Jackie appeared in his first film when he was just three.
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As a little boy he was given small roles that did not require much acting. He appeared in films like as ‘Fox Movietone Follies of 1929’ and ‘Sunny Side Up’. But Jackie was very talented for his young age and was soon receiving offers for playing supportive roles.
In 1929, he appeared in the short comedy film, ‘Boxing Gloves’ which was his official debut. By 1930 he had become an accomplished child actor and played the leading role in the comedy film, ‘The First Seven Years’.
He played the title role in the 1931 film, ‘Skippy’ in which his character tries to help his new friend in saving a dog. This movie was directed by Jackie’s uncle, Norman Taurog, and was a big hit with several Academy Award nominations.
He was flooded with film offers post the success of ‘Skippy’ and acted in the film ‘The Champ’ in 1931. It was the story of an alcoholic boxer who wants to regain his life for the sake of his young son.
He played the role of Jim Hawkins in ‘Treasure Island’ in 1934 which was adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous eponymous novel in which a boy discovers a treasure map and travels in search of the hidden treasures.
His success as a child actor began to wane as he approached adolescence. Even though he had been cute as a child, he was not handsome enough to play an adult leading man. He served in the US Navy during the World War II. He eventually became a Captain and received the Legion of Merit.
After serving in the World War II, he returned to acting though he struggled to find good roles. He also began to suffer problems in his marriage and took to drinking. He was on the verge of a total collapse when he somehow managed to reclaim his life.
Unable to find good film roles, he began appearing in television. He was a part of the cast in the NBC sitcom, ‘The People’s Choice’ and the CBS sitcom ‘Hennesey’. He also guest starred on the NBC legal drama ‘Justice’ in 1954.
In 1964, he became the vice president of program development at Columbia Pictures Screen Gems TV division, a role he would hold till 1969. By now he had minimized his acting assignments and acted only sporadically.
He began acting frequently again during the 1970s and 1980s. He also directed a variety of television shows during his period. His role as Perry White in the ‘Superman’ film series helped him regain his lost fame and fortune. His final film role was in the 1987 film ‘Surrender’.
In spite of his successful career as an adult actor, his best remembered role remains that of the little boy he played in ‘Skippy’. The boy who tries his best to collect money to buy a license for a dog before it is put to sleep struck a chord with the audience and also with the film critics.
Awards & Achievements
At the age of nine he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the portrayal of Skippy in the film of the same name, ‘Skippy’ (1931). At that time he became the youngest ever actor to receive this honor.
Personal Life & legacy
He married June Horne in 1944 and had a child with her. The couple divorced in 1949.
He married Hildy Parks in 1950. This marriage too ended in divorce.
He tied the knot for the third time in 1954 with Barbara Rae Kraus. The couple had three children and remained together till Barbara’s death in 2009.
Cooper lived a long life and died in May 2011 after a short illness.