John Cooper Jr. (September 15, 1922 – May 3, 2011) was an American actor, television director, producer, and executive. He was a child actor who made the transition to an adult career. Cooper was the first child actor to receive an Oscar nomination. At age nine, he was also the youngest performer to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, an honor that he received for the film Skippy (1931). For nearly 50 years, Cooper remained the youngest Oscar nominee in any category.
Cooper in 1956.
John Cooper Jr.
September 15, 1922
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||May 3, 2011 (aged 88)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||June Horne (m. 1944–1949; divorced) |
Hildy Parks (m. 1950–1951; divorced)
Barbara Rae Kraus (m. 1954–2009; her death)
John Cooper Jr. was born in Los Angeles, California. Cooper's father, John Cooper, left the family when Jackie was two years old and the two never reunited. His mother, Mabel Leonard Bigelow (née Polito), was a stage pianist. Cooper's maternal uncle, Jack Leonard, was a screenwriter, and his maternal aunt, Julie Leonard, was an actress married to director Norman Taurog. Cooper’s stepfather was C.J. Bigelow, a studio production manager. His mother was Italian American whose surname was changed from "Polito" to "Leonard." Cooper was told by his family that his father was Jewish.
Start of acting careerEdit
Cooper first appeared in films as an extra with his grandmother, who took him to her auditions hoping it would help her get extra work. At age three, Jackie appeared in Lloyd Hamilton comedies under the name of "Leonard".
Cooper graduated to bit parts in feature films such as Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 and Sunny Side Up. His director in those films, David Butler, recommended Cooper to director Leo McCarey, who arranged an audition for the Our Gang comedy series produced by Hal Roach. In 1929, Cooper signed a three-year contract after joining the series in the short Boxing Gloves. He initially was to be a supporting character in the series, but by early 1930 his success in transitioning to sound films enabled him to become one of Our Gang's major characters. He was the main character in the episodes The First Seven Years and When the Wind Blows. His most notable Our Gang shorts explore his crush on Miss Crabtree, the schoolteacher played by June Marlowe. His Our Gang shorts included Teacher's Pet, School's Out, and Love Business.
Cooper, under contract to Hal Roach Studios, was loaned in the spring of 1931 to Paramount to star in Skippy, directed by his uncle, Norman Taurog. For his work in Skippy Cooper was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, the youngest actor, at age nine, to be nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor. Although Paramount paid Roach $25,000 for Cooper's services, Roach paid Cooper only his standard salary of $50 per week.
The film catapulted young Cooper to superstardom. Our Gang producer Hal Roach sold Jackie's contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1931. Cooper began a long onscreen relationship with actor Wallace Beery in such films as The Champ (1931), The Bowery (1933), The Choices of Andy Purcell (1933), Treasure Island (1934), and O'Shaughnessy's Boy (1935). A legion of film critics and fans have lauded the relationship between the two as an example of classic movie magic. However, in his autobiography, Cooper wrote that Beery was "a big disappointment" and accused Beery of upstaging him and attempting to undermine his performances out of what Cooper presumed was jealousy.
Cooper played the title role in the first two Henry Aldrich films, What a Life (1939) and Life with Henry (1941).
Once he reached adolescence, Cooper had problems finding roles. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, attaining the rank of captain and receiving the Legion of Merit. He starred in two popular television sitcoms, NBC's The People's Choice with Patricia Breslin and CBS's Hennesey with Abby Dalton. In 1954, he guest-starred on the NBC legal drama Justice. Later, he appeared on ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, guest-starred with Tennessee Ernie Ford on NBC's The Ford Show playing the role of America's "Uranium King", and as Charles A. Steen in "I Found 60 Million Dollars" on the Armstrong Circle Theatre.
In 1950, he was cast in a production of Mr. Roberts in Boston, Massachusetts in the role of Ensign Pulver. From 1964 to 1969, Cooper was vice president of program development at the Columbia Pictures Screen Gems TV division. He was responsible for packaging series, such as Bewitched, and selling them to the networks. Cooper acted only twice during this period, in 1964 when he appeared in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone episode "Caesar and Me", and in the 1968 made-for-television film Shadow on the Land.
Cooper left Columbia in 1969 and began appearing in character roles. In the fourth season of Hawaii Five-O, he played a doctor who murders his wife and bribes an innocent man to take the rap in The Burning Ice. He appeared as a murderous political candidate in Candidate for Crime starring Peter Falk as Columbo in 1973, and in the short-lived 1975 ABC series Mobile One, a Jack Webb/Mark VII Limited production. He guest-starred in a 1978 two-part episode of The Rockford Files: The House on Willis Avenue. Cooper’s work as director on episodes of M*A*S*H and The White Shadow earned him Emmy awards.
Cooper found renewed fame in the 1970s and 1980s as Daily Planet editor Perry White in the Superman film series, starring Christopher Reeve. Cooper got the role after Keenan Wynn, who was originally cast as White, became unavailable after suffering a heart attack. In the commentary track for Superman, director Richard Donner reveals that Cooper, who had auditioned for the part of Otis, Lex Luthor's henchman, received the role because he had a passport and was available to shoot in England on short notice.
Cooper served in the United States Navy during World War II and remained active in the Naval Reserve for the next several decades, reaching the rank of captain. He was married to June Horne from 1944 until 1949, with whom he had a son, John "Jack" Cooper, III, who was born in 1946. June was the daughter of director James W. Horne and actress Cleo Ridgely. Cooper was married to Hildy Parks from 1950 until 1951, and to Barbara Rae Kraus From 1954 until her death in 2009. Cooper and Kraus had three children, Russell, born in 1956, Julie, born in 1957, and Cristina, born in 1959. Julie and Cristina died in 1997 and 2009, respectively.
Cooper participated in several automobile racing events, including the record-breaking class D cars at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. He drove in several SCCA road racing competitions. Cooper was named the honorary starter for the 1976 Winston 500 at the Alabama International Motor Speedway, which is now known as Talladega Superspeedway, in Talladega, Alabama.
Cooper's autobiography, Please Don't Shoot My Dog, was published in 1982. The title refers to an incident during the filming of Skippy, when Norman Taurog, who was directing Cooper in a crying scene, ordered a security guard to take away his dog and pretend to shoot him backstage. The stunt resulted in genuine tears; however, even upon discovering his dog was fine, Cooper was left with ill feelings toward his uncle.
Cooper announced his retirement in 1989, although he continued directing episodes of the syndicated series Superboy. He began spending more time training and racing horses at Hollywood Park and outside San Diego during the Del Mar racing season. Cooper lived in Beverly Hills from 1955 until his death.
Cooper died on May 3, 2011 from natural causes, in Santa Monica, California. He was survived by his two sons. He outlived both his daughters and wife, Barbara Rae Kraus. He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, in honor of his naval service.
|1929||Fox Movietone Follies of 1929||Little Boy||Uncredited|
|1929||Sunny Side Up||Jerry McGinnis||Uncredited|
|1931||Skippy||Skippy||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor|
|1931||Young Donovan's Kid||Midge Murray|
|1931||The Champ||Dink Purcell|
|1932||When a Feller Needs a Friend||Edward Haverford 'Eddie' Randall|
|1932||Divorce in the Family||Terry Parker|
|1932||Broadway to Hollywood||Ted Hackett Jr.|
|1933||The Bowery||Swipes McGurk|
|1933||Lone Cowboy||Scooter O'Neal|
|1934||Treasure Island||Jim Hawkins|
|1934||Peck's Bad Boy||Bill Peck|
|1935||O'Shaughnessy's Boy||Joseph 'Stubby' O'Shaughnessy|
|1936||Tough Guy||Frederick Martindale 'Freddie' Vincent, III|
|1936||The Devil Is a Sissy||'Buck' Murphy|
|1937||Boy of the Streets||Chuck Brennan|
|1938||White Banners||Peter Trimble|
|1938||That Certain Age||Kenneth 'Ken' Warren|
|1938||Gangster's Boy||Larry Kelly|
|1938||Newsboys' Home||Rifle Edwards|
|1939||Scouts to the Rescue||Bruce Scott|
|1939||The Spirit of Culver||Tom Allen|
|1939||Streets of New York||James Michael 'Jimmy' Keenan|
|1939||Two Bright Boys||Rory O'Donnell|
|1939||What a Life||Henry Aldrich|
|1939||The Big Guy||Jimmy Hutchins|
|1940||Seventeen||William Sylvanus Baxter|
|1940||The Return of Frank James||Clem|
|1940||Life with Henry||Henry Aldrich|
|1940||Gallant Sons||Byron 'By' Newbold|
|1941||Ziegfeld Girl||Jerry Regan|
|1941||Her First Beau||Chuck Harris|
|1941||Glamour Boy||Tiny Barlow|
|1942||Men of Texas||Robert Houston Scott|
|1942||The Navy Comes Through||Joe 'Babe' Duttson|
|1943||Where Are Your Children?||Danny Cheston|
|1947||Stork Bites Man||Ernest (Ernie) C. Brown|
|1947||Kilroy Was Here||John J. Kilroy|
|1948||French Leave||Skitch Kilroy|
|1959||Hennesey||Lt. Charles 'Chick' Hennesey, MD||Television Series 1959 to 1962|
|1961||Everything's Ducky||Lt. J.S. Parmell|
|1964||Calhoun: County Agent||Everett Calhoun||Television film|
|1968||Shadow on the Land||Lt. Col. Andy Davis||Television film|
|1971||The Love Machine||Lt. J.S. Parmell|
|1971||Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring||Ed Miller||Television film|
|1972||The Astronaut||Kurt Anderson||Television film|
|1972||Stand Up and Be Counted||Doctor||Uncredited, Also director|
|1973||Columbo||Nelson Hayward||Television series|
|1973||Of Men and Women||Ted||Television film|
|1974||Chosen Survivors||Raymond Couzins|
|1974||The Day the Earth Moved||Steve Barker||Television film|
|1975||Journey into Fear||Eric Hurst|
|1978||Having Babies III||Director|
|1979||Sex and the Single Parent||Director|
|1980||Superman II||Perry White|
|1981||Leave 'em Laughing||Director|
|1982||Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story||Director|
|1983||Superman III||Perry White|
|1984||The Night They Saved Christmas||Director|
|1985||Izzy & Moe||Director|
|1986||Murder, She Wrote||Carl Schulman / Neil Fletcher|
|1987||Superman IV: The Quest for Peace||Perry White|
|1987||Surrender||Ace Morgan||(final film role)|
- Sharon Knolle. "Former Child Star Jackie Cooper Dies at Age 88". Moviefone. Archived from the original on January 27, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
- "Jackie Cooper". The Telegraph. May 5, 2011. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
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- Zierold, Norman J. The Child Stars, New York: Coward-McCann, 1965.
- Willson, Dixie. Little Hollywood Stars", Akron, OH, e New York: Saalfield Pub. Co., 1935.