Saturday, October 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jackie Coogan!

Jackie Coogan was born on October 26, 1914, in Los Angeles, California. He was one of the earliest child stars of silent film and although he earned a fortune during his young career, his mother and stepfather squandered his income. He eventually sued them but by that stage there was little money left. His legal battle however, was responsible for California enacting the "Coogan Act" to protect child performers.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in a publicity photo for the 1921 movie, The Kid.




He married 4 times (his first marriage being to actress and pin-up girl, Betty Grable) and had four children. After returning from action in the Second World War, Jackie Coogan went back to acting. He struggled with financial problems, and addictions to alcohol and drugs, but he found fame again as the much loved Uncle Fester in The Addams Family television series (1964 - 1966). It was a role that his daughter Leslie, in The Addams Chronicles by Stephen Cox, said that he "cherished".

Jackie Coogan died on March 1, 1984, of cardiac arrest in Santa Monica, California.



26 comments:

  1. I loved this post! :) I had no idea I had seen Jackie Coogan as a boy too! Your posts are always fun yet informative, that is really cool.

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    1. Thank you so much, Jade! :) Wasn't he a beautiful, little boy?! In some ways it's hard to imagine Uncle Fester as that angelic child, but I can see the same soulfully expressive eyes in both photos.

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  2. Great post, Emma! Love the history. (^;

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    1. Thanks, Lorelei! :) Yes, Jackie Coogan's history as a child star, and his troubled off-screen life, is a whole saga separate from his relatively short time on 'The Addams Family'.

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  3. I didn't know he was the man behind the Coogan Act, very, very cool :)

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    1. Hi Undergroundfortea Gothic,

      Sadly, Jackie Coogan never received any justice for himself, but he made things a little fairer for the child performers who came after him. :)

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  4. Wow! I didn't know all that. And he worked with Charlie Chaplin? Anyway, I think it's interesting that he enjoyed his Uncle Fester character the best. Then again, it was a great show!

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    1. Hi Nightwind,

      From what I've read of Jackie Coogan's daughter's thoughts, 'The Addams Family' was a cathartic experience for him. It seems he got himself more emotionally on track during that period. And what a brilliant Uncle Fester he was!

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  5. I agree with previous commentators - interesting fact about the Coogan act!

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    1. Hi Ms Misantropia,

      It seems his whole life was affected by the exploitation he suffered at the hands of his mother, but the Coogan Act became his legacy to future generations.

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  6. Another brilliant post.

    I didn't realise he'd worked with Charlie Chaplin, and was married to Betty Grable, that's pretty amazing.

    He made a wonderful Uncle Fester.

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    1. Thank you so much, Winter Moon! :) Apparently, Charlie Chaplin helped Jackie Coogan out financially when he hit really hard times. It's awful to think that his own opportunistic mother was responsible for a lot of his heartache in life.

      And yes, he was a brilliant Uncle Fester! :D

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  7. OMG! Jackie's a libra and Charlie Chaplin was the chinese ox! :D

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  8. I had no idea that was him with Charlie Chaplin. I love that movie. I actually have that photo framed. I've always loved the old silent films. Great post :)

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    1. Oh, that's so cool that you've got the Chaplin photo framed, Jessie! It's such a beautiful picture and I hope it's extra special now that you know the little boy is baby Fester! :D

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    2. This absolutely makes me love the photo more. Those eyes are so recognizable. I'm surprised I never made the connection before.

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  9. Like most of the users above me, I had no idea about him working with Chaplin, and being responsible for the Coogan act. Thanks for letting us know, Emma! =)

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    1. You know how much I love my Addams Family, Maynard! :D

      Jackie Coogan actually has a very interesting history. This could easily have become a monster post if I had let loose! ;) Not only was he very involved in charity work, but he was also a pilot in the US Air Force during the war, flying on a mission behind Japanese lines in Burma.

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  10. What a beautiful child he was. Such a shame he struggled with addiction problems. I guess even back in those days, child stars sometimes ended up with issues...

    You “see the same soulfully expressive eyes in both photos”. His eyes are especially soulful in that first photo, Little Gothic Horrors! :D

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    1. Haha. Yes, even when he's hamming it up, I can still see the eyes of the child buried in there somewhere, Insomniac's Attic. The slightly downturned mouth is the same too.

      I've got a book called 'The Addams Chronicles' and his daughter tells a story about him coming home from the Addams set in tears because it had dawned on him that he was now being hired to play someone who looked monstrous, when he had originally been sought after for being such a gorgeous kid. Once he worked through that harsh realization he embraced the Uncle Fester character. :)

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    2. That sounds like an interesting book - would you recommend another addition to my Amazon Wishlist, LGH? :P

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  11. I just loved Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester! I have the series on DVD and just watching his expressions is some of my favorite parts of certain scenes!

    Thank you so much for visiting at The Tearoom yesterday! I really appreciated your comment! You might like to check back in my blog on Halloween Day as I have another extensive post planned which will be more in the creepier spirit of the day!

    Betty

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    1. I have the series on DVD too, Betty! I know just what you mean about the facial expressions. Uncle Fester is hilarious! :)

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  12. Hey! I love this post! Just to let you know I wrote an article on Jackie Coogan, was hoping you could give me some feedback and help me share? Thanks :)
    http://doyouremember.com/parents-swindled-jackie-coogan/

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    1. Hi Natasha,

      I checked out the link. Do you mean the article by Neil Vazquez? Loved it, but I'm a bit confused. Are you part of that site?

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