I'll go ahead and state the ooobvioous here - the kid was a brilliant, mindful, sharp, witty, & an awesomely unique ball of talent!! From the time he hit theater screens at age 5, he wowed em!! A kid that became the worlds first child celebrity, discovered by the greatest entertainer of all time, Sir Charlie Chaplin. Sir Chaplin had great favor upon the kid, as do I!! The favor was mutual in the kid .. in fact - when Charlie Chaplin came back to the U.S. to accept his honorary acadamy award, the kid (then a man) met him at the airport. This kid was Jackie Coogan, and he was a FIRST CLASS ACT, ALL THE WAY, FO SHOO!!! The original first child celebrity, the original Tom Sawyer, the original Huckleberry Finn, the original Oliver Twist, the original Uncle Fester, the original right hand to Charlie Chaplin ... Jackie was the original ... ORIGINAL! To top off all that originality - one needs some organization, RIGGHHT?? Howz about HIS OWN PRODUCTION COMPANY for the CHERRY ON TOP? Naw .. it's reality son! And Jackie Coogan was as real as real gets!!
The 1930's rolled in & so did Jackie's troubles. His first two films, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, while a success with his fan followers, were a flop with regular movie goers. It has been rumored that Jackie's role as Tom Sawyer was scripted right down to 'the way in which he was to walk.' (This would have hurt his performance due to Jackie being, like Chaplin, a method fly actor). Another rumor is that problems were happening with his parents marriage. Whatever the case - it was clear is that his performance was definatly marred with problems. On May 4, 1935, Jackie, (his best friend) Junior Durkin (pic of them together in Tom Sawyer..Durkin on left), & Jackie's father were cruising down the coast highway in San Diego when tragedy struck. Jackie's dad swerved to avoid a passing car, lost control and wrecked. Jackie was the sole survivor of the crash. The accident happened just shy of his 21st birthday. What a horrible break! Following any setback earlier in life .. Coogan, sometimes mentored by Chaplin, could just shake off his problem & move on to the next project. However - this blow .. understandably, would prove to be a much tougher one than the rest. So he walked away to take stock of where he was, was going, and wanted to go in his young life!
During his hiatus .. he ran into another actor with whom he'd worked with years previous.. Raymond Lee .. who had played alongside him as the bully kid, in the Chaplin film, 'The Kid'. The two became fast-friends after being re-aquainted again. Thanks to the power of YouTube - we can re-aquaint ourselves with that great scene from 'The Kid' ..
Annnnyway .. According to Jackie's aunt Anna .. Raymond had went on to have a semi-successful career and was living pretty off what income he'd earned. Naturally, it got Jackie to thinking that if Raymond was sitting pretty on the income he'd made as a bit semi-successful child actor .. Jackie knew he could be living GORGEOUS off his income he had accrued. Jackie had known that he was earning money from the films he appeared in, & now he was old enough to cash in on it. Jackie went to collect from his mom (who .. as his supposed TRUSTING gardian, was his stakeholder), and cash in! Turns out Jackie would have been living gorgeously! Just in his earnings from 'The Kid' alone, he was set to earn $326,000. In a total of all his films to that date, he would've had the privvie of calling himself $3.8 million dollars richer. That is of course .. if his supposed trusting, mother hadn't have squandered it all!! ALL!! $3.8 mil is alot of cash today .. remember ... this was the 1936. Gas was less than a quarter a gallon! ...Yes - I know.. I was thinking DAYYYYMNN-immediatly-followed-by-his-mom-was-a-no-good-huzzy-bitch,too! Jackie's initial reaction, was not speaking to his mother anymore, & I like to think he gave her a good verbal piece of his mind including a few choice words such as huzzy, skank, mooch, & leech!!
After finding out he had a weasel mom & no money - Jackie hit "almost" rock bottom. Pretty much outta site .. outta mind for 2 years. He, and his wife, Betty. Rumors have put him going in and out of Chaplin's driveway ALOT in those 2 years. I don't doubt those rumors .. they were great friends! According to a census report though, he lived in the same spot where this lovely garage now sits!) .. he had fallen on hard times & was being financially helped by Chaplin! In fact - checks have surfaced through the years that suggest he might have been on Chaplin's payroll. Whatever the situation though, it was understandably private, but, just another mute-small-portion of reason why Chaplin was among the GREATEST human beings to ever walk planet earth, IMO!!
In 1938, 2 years after finding out his mother had blown all of his earnings .. on the encouragement of his family & friends .. he sued his mother. In court it was learned his mother had looted almost ALL of Jackie's money on luxeries for herself. Blown it ALL on BIG toy extravagances such as fur coats, diamonds, and cars...not car...carS, not to mention the plush pad in Bev Hills! By now, Jackie lived with the wife, Betty Grable, modestly on Montana Ave.! Apparently you can live on that street now too .. there's one for rent next to the damn-lost-key-lady .. hardy har har! I should state that, in all, Jackie was married four times. There isn't much info in that area that I have ever seen. As such - I am guessing he wanted that privy .. so I am choosing to leave it out here except the rare mention now & then. According to court transcripts, the most mind boggling wrench thrown in court was when his mother testified that .. ""Jackie always thought he was just playing on those sets. He really never knew he was working!"" YAAWWWNN!! There ya go .. atta girl hun .. break your sons heart a bit more! It was so REDICULOUS the courtroom was speachless, actually described as hearing a pin drop for minutes afterward .. probably because of shock?? I guess it was the child psycologist, Shirley Brown, that took the stand who needed to make clear in the head of Jackie's mom that .. ""indeed, EVERY SINGLE CHILD she had EVER counciled on the set of ANY film, knew FULL WELL that it was work and not noon playtime they were doing!"" Clearly everyone else in that courtroom knew. Anyhoo - for all of his efforts .. Jackie - in the end, & after legal expenses, he only received $126,000 of the approximately $250,000 remaining of his original earnings of 3.8 million. I am SURE that most of all .. Jackie was pleased that his case prompted California lawmakers to enact what became known as "The Coogan Act." It states that "any company that employs a child, set aside 15% of said child's earnings in a trust, and codifies such issues as schooling, work hours and time-off." To read more on the law .. click here.
With the case against his mother & step-father over .. Jackie took a few years off to travel overseas. He had taken a break from film & by 1941, had decided to join the United States Army. Only months after enlisting, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Jackie, in his own words, always loving the action, respectfully requested to be transferred to the United States Air Force. The request was granted and he was first to volunteer for hazardous border duty with the '1st Air Commando Group.' In December 1943, the unit was sent to India. He flew British troops, the Chindits, under General Orde Wingate on March 5, 1944, landing them at night in a small jungle clearing 100 miles behind Japanese lines in the Burma campaign. Jackie spent two years in the military. A childhood dream, realized. When released .. he decided to return to his first love of acting .. it was afterall -- in his blood! Here is Jackie talking about 'The Kid,' later in life..
His first endeavor into work was a film with his younger brother .. Robert. The film was called 'Kilroy Was Here.' In a life imitating art kinda true scenario .. Jackie plays the lead charactor, Kilroy, whos main ambition is to get a college education, & finds himself one-half credit short for college entrance. The leading lady, writes feature stories about him as "Kilroy,", the most talked about G. I. of the war, and is able to get him registered. Fraternity members grow VERY jealous and attempt to make him withdraw from college. It's a WONDERFUL film, but highly underrated. Even when it was released. Besides marking 'the awesome' Jackie's return to cinema, it's a landmark film in that it proved Jackie still had it & kinda served as a big FUCK YOU to those who had snubbed, or wrote him off as a has been!. The film would have done much, MUCH better if the studio had realized who they had and promoted it a bit more! Some people will NEVER cease to amaze me!! Especiallystudio heads! Jackie's next film, 'French Leave,' which was basically a part 2 for 'Kilroy Was Here,' did MUCH better at the box office, but it would mark the end of Jackie's big screen roles for decades. He would take up a VERY successful stint as a regular on television both in starring roles & reoccurring cameos on shows such as 'The Brady Bunch,' 'Perry Mason,' 'Lucy,' 'Andy Griffith,' & 'I Dream of Jeannie' ... just to name a FEW .. and took on the lead role as the original LOVEABLE, HUGGABLE, Uncle Fester, in 'The Addams Family!' Now thanks to Minisode Network on YouTube .. it's watchable!
In 1972 .. Jackie was working on the set of, "The Brady Bunch," doing a cameo when he got word that his childhood mentor, Charlie Chaplin, (who had been gone from Hollywood since 1952, due to USA re-entry denial thanks to a narrow-minded, scum-of-the-earth, piece-of-shit running the FBI in the 50's .. Jerk-off Ed-gut Hoover!) Annyway .. Jackie heard that Charlie would be coming to accept an Honorary Acadamy Award. Jackie decided to show up with wife Dorothea Lamphere, at the airport to surprize Charlie, which he did! When Charlie entered the airport .. he immediatly saw and recognized Jackie. As the two hugged, they both broke down in tears and Charlie told Jackie .. 'There is noone on earth I'd rather see than you!.' The two were almost inseparable during Charlie's brief stay to accept his Honorary Acadamy Award. What I would have given to be there!! Sweet doesn't even begin to describe what that would've been like!
As Jackie revealed on '"This Is Your Life," in 1974, television proved to be more enjoyable to him in later years. He said he 'probably wouldn't have liked it as a kid but as an adult it was the perfect show.' The hours weren't as long .. and he was able to more act the way he wanted to. (It could almost be said Jackie invented method acting .. if Chaplin hadn't of." ;) In 1980, Jackie made a brief return to film. He played an unforgettable Mr. Fleacollar, in a "Jeckyl and Hyde" parody called "Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype." I remember when I was a kid .. renting this film and because Jackie was in it .. I COULDN'T WAIT to see it! I was NOT impressed with it. I remember my take being Jackie did a great job, but why was he in such a stupid ass film?? Well - I realize now .. I didn't get the comedy in it. I'd never seen ANYTHING like it, with stupid comedy, if you will. I LOVED the film 'Airplane!', but hated 'The Naked Gun.' Yeah - it's one of those comedys!! All that said - Jackie did a great job as always and it's worth a watch just to see him!! ;) If you can bare to sit through 9 and a half minutes of ads .. (YES - I DID JUST SAY 9 BORING MINUTES) .. you can see it for free by clicking here! If you can sit through the 9 minutes of their ads .. you DESERVE to see it free!!
Folks ? .. Ain't it funny how we are worth more dead than alive?? Elvis' career was sulled, to the lull, on a low sound, of just a hum when he died .. After he died, the public deemed him royalty & he becomes as loved as sliced bread & fried peanut butter & banana sammiches! He was top of the charts uhhhagain with second hits that had already been hits, once ....now .. or twice,,,... or maybe ....... thrice ... if he'd been around ??!! What in the hell is wrong with us!?!?!? Uh I mean!! Geeeeeeezzz Luigi! Michael J was THE peerrrv one minute, & turd the next .... Then he DIES! .... BAM! "He's a free-burrd!!", "An angel that's now a puurdy star.", The BAD, SMOOTH Criminal, & Billie Jean was not-HIS-lover!! (it wasBrooke Sheilds you big dum dums!! Not BILLIE 'FRIGGIN' JEAN!!!!) She's just a girl who claimed he was THE ONE! ALL HITS ..again!Does this sound familiar?? The folks who were laughing at MJ & his nose ... NOOWW say .. "He was indeed the great one!" "I'VE CHANGED MY MOOOD, Michael was the KING, DUUUDE!' a week ago .. "Old chart toppers, #1 ... again!! Merchandise, KA-CHING! MJ cds are NOWHERE to be had unless ebay for 2-300 dollars! WHY OO' WHY!?!? Ya know ... EEEVVERYONE & their pigs KNEW that the name ANNA NICOLE SMITH would bring hatred to more than one at a party .. she was the ULTIMATE drugie, & sex addict, horrible, crazy .. OOoo but then -- she DIES! Google makes in BILLIONS in Revenue of Anna Nicole Smith searches serge! Merchandise .. KA-CHING! And she's the QUEEN, more loved than The Jonas Brothers, and her rentals are <<<shhhhwoouup..>>> FLYIN off rental store shelves! The list goes on & and on! Something to think about. It's very interesting to observe!! Annyway - this whole paragraph has been leading up to why I think Jackie's last film almost ""didn't"" get distributed! His final film was an indie horror film called, "The Prey." It was shot it 78 .. (and shelved.) How ironic is it that Jackie died in March of 84, and that film was released a few months after his death. It hadn't picked up a distributer since it had been shot in 78, now it was 84? I just think it's ironic! So in a sense - HE is the ultimate one that got this one, his final film picked up by dying. That's SAD in my ironic opine!
By the 1980's, Jackie was enjoying a semi-retired life in the confines of his Palm Springs home. On the morning of March 1, 1984 - he was in Malibu visiting his daughter, Leslie, when chest pains struck. Jackie had been suffering from heart disease & hypertension for some time. He was rushed to Santa Monica Hospital, where the pains turned into an attack. He passed away at the hospital at 1:47pm. Hollywood had lost another of it's finest, & the very first, (and best, IMO), child celebrity the world had ever seen! At his funeral, John Astin gave the eulogy and spoke of how Jackie was like true family to all in, 'The Addams Family' cast. In attendance were Andy Griffith, Lucille 'Lucy' Ball, & I saw some other supposed celebs that had signed the funeral book.. but the names, I didn't recognise. My buddro Scott Michaels has a GREAT page on the deaths of the Addams Family cast .. minus John Astin (coz he is still living & at 3,667 yrs old .. I am whole heartedly convinced that the man has attained immortality!) It is complete with Jackie's death certificate, tidbits, & casket photo of him! Check it out by clicking here! <**WARNING**his site is addictive .. i'm just sayin'!
R.I.P., Jackie! Do you know that bar you set? .. noone has ever come close to it!! The projects you lent your talent to .. you turned into PURE GOLD!! Like your mentor, Charlie Chaplin ... the heart of Hollywood has, AND FOREVER WILL HAVE, your & his name embedded into it! The sun will never set, and the candle will never burn out on your awesome legacy! Much love my friend! See you when I get there!
Among my favorite of videos on youtube. This clip shows the cast & crew of 'The Kid,' the day filming WRAPPED! It also features young Jackie doin' da shimmy! :) Remember - that's what caught Charlie's eye & landed Jackie the screen-test for The Kid! I implore you to .. WATCH it .. then get up & TRY it! It's not as easy as it looks! :)
On a world tour in 1929, for the premiere of, 'The Kid,' Jackie visits Germany & the GM Plant there .. Being a science enthusist, Jackie, while in Germany, insisted on stopping by Rüsselsheim to meet Fritz von Opel, who has become a world sensation with his famed Rocket car. Years later Jackie recalled how he learned QUICKLY while in Germany .. 'when you don't understand a language - just smile, wave, & talk before they talk because they don't understand you either!' Words of GREAT advice to live by! :)