Nationality: American. Born: John Cooper, Jr. in Los Angeles, California, 15 September 1921; nephew of the director Norman Taurog. Education: Attended Notre Dame University, Indiana. Military Service: U.S. Navy during World War II. Family: Married
1) June Horne, son: John; 2) Hildy Parks; 3) Barbara Kraus, children: Russell, Julie, and Christina. Career: At age three acted in comedies with Bobby Clark and Lloyd Hamilton; 1929—in eight episodes of the Our Gang comedies; 1931—in series of successful films with Wallace Beery, beginning with The Champ; mid-1930s—contract with MGM; late-1940s—on Broadway in Magnolia Alley; then national tour as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts; 1954—star of Broadway play King of Hearts; 1955–58—in TV series The People's Choice, and in Hennesey, 1959–62; 1963–72—in charge of television production for Columbia Pictures Television; 1970s—regular appearances on TV series Columbo and Police Story, and host of The Dean Martin Comedy World, 1974, and in series Mobile One, 1975; also director of episodes of M*A*S*H, The Rockford Files, Kojak, and Quincy. Awards: Emmy Awards for direction, for M*A*S*H episode, "Carry on Hawkeye," 1973, and for the pilot of The White Shadow, 1978. Address: 9621 Royalton Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, U.S.A.
Films as Actor:
8 Our Gang comedy shorts; Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 (Butler); Sunny Side Up (David Butler) (as tenement boy); Boxing Gloves (Mack and McGowan—short) (as Jackie)
Skippy (Taurog) (title role); Donovan's Kid (Young Donovan's Kid) (Niblo) (as Midge Murray); The Champ (King Vidor) (as Dink); Sooky (Taurog) (as Skippy Skinner)
When a Feller Needs a Friend (Pollard) (as Eddie Randall); Divorce in the Family (Reisner) (as Terry Parker)
Broadway to Hollywood (Ring Up the Curtain) (Mack) (as Ted Hackett Jr. as child); The Bowery (Walsh) (as Swipes McGurk)
Lone Cowboy (Sloane) (as Scooter O'Neal); Treasure Island (Fleming) (as Jim Hawkins); Peck's Bad Boy (Cline) (as Bill Peck)
Dinky (Bretherton and Lederman) (title role); O'Shaughnessy's Boy (Boleslawski) (as Stubby); Tough Guy (Franklin) (as Freddie)
The Devil Is a Sissy (The Devil Takes the Count) (Van Dyke) (as "Buck" Murphy)
Boy of the Streets (Nigh) (as Chuck)
White Banners (Goulding) (as Peter Trimble); Gangster's Boy (Nigh) (as Larry Kelly); That Certain Age (Ludwig) (as Ken); Newsboys' Home (Harold Young) (as "Rifle" Edwards)
Scouts to the Rescue (Taylor and James—serial); The Spirit of Culver (Man's Heritage) (Taurog) (as Tom Allen); Streets of New York (The Abe Lincoln of Ninth Avenue) (Nigh) (as Jimmy); Two Bright Boys (Santley) (as Roy O'Donnell); The Big Guy (Lubin) (as Timmy Hutchins); What a Life! (Reed) (as Henry Aldrich)
Gallant Sons (Seitz) (as Byron "By" Newbold); The Return of Frank James (Fritz Lang) (as Clem/Tom Grayson); Seventeen (Louis King) (as William Sylvanus Baxter)
Ziegfeld Girl (Leonard) (as Jerry Regan); Her First Beau (Reed) (as Chuck Harris); Glamour Boy (Hearts in Spring-time) (Murphy) (as Tiny Barlow); Life with Henry (Reed) (as Henry Aldrich)
Syncopation (Dieterle) (as Johnnie); Men of Texas (Men of Destiny) (Enright) (as Robert Houston Scott); The Navy Comes Through (A. Edward Sutherland) (as Babe)
Where Are Your Children? (Nigh) (as Danny)
Stork Bites Man (Endfield) (as Ernie); Kilroy Was Here (Karlson) (as John J. Kilroy)
French Leave (Kilroy on Deck) (McDonald) (as Skitch)
Everything's Ducky (Don Taylor) (as Lt. Parnell)
Shadow on the Land (Sarafian—for TV)
The Love Machine (Haley) (as Danton Miller); Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring (Deadly Desire) (Sargent—for TV)
The Astronaut (Robert Michael Lewis—for TV)
Chosen Survivors (Roley) (as Raymond Couzins); The Day the Earth Moved (Robert Michael Lewis—for TV)
The Invisible Man (Robert Michael Lewis—for TV)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (Edwards) (as service repairman)
Operation Petticoat (Astin—for TV)
Superman (Richard Donner) (as Perry White)
Superman II (Lester) (as Perry White)
Superman III (Lester) (as Perry White)
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Furie) (as Perry White); Surrender (Belson) (as Ace Morgan)
Hollywood Chronicles (doc)
Films as Director:
Stand Up and Be Counted
Having Babies III (for TV); Perfect Gentlemen (for TV) (+ pr); Rainbow (for TV)
Sex and the Single Parent (for TV)
Marathon (for TV); Rodeo Girl (for TV); White Mama (for TV)
Leave 'em Laughing (for TV)
Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story (for TV)
The Ladies (for TV); The Night They Saved Christmas (for TV)
Izzy and Moe (for TV)
By COOPER: book—
Please Don't Shoot My Dog (autobiography), with Dick Kleiner, New York, 1981.
By COOPER: article—
"That Old 'Gang' of Theirs," interview with Frank Lovece, in Entertainment Weekly (New York), 19 August 1994.
On COOPER: articles—
De Roos, Robert, "When the Wise Guys Were Wrong," and "How Did Jackie Cooper Escape the Classic Child-Star Fate?," in TV Guide (New York), 6 and 13 October 1968.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 31 October 1979.
"And We Thought He Hated Cleo," in Los Angeles Magazine, March 1981.
Films in Review (New York), October 1981.
Screen International (London), 23 July 1983.
* * *
Child actors as stars and protagonists in features had become an important part of movie fare by the mid-1930s. Jackie Cooper, a boy who had gained audience approval in the "Our Gang" comedies when this series switched to sound in 1929, became a star in 1931 with the full-length films Skippy and The Champ, well before such moppet actors as Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland were cast in leading roles.
In Skippy Cooper plays an enterprising boy able to manipulate his middle-class parents, who do not always approve of his adventures with boys from the "wrong side of the tracks." Cooper's skills were even more evident in The Champ in which he portrays the son of a prizefighter on the skids. Although this work lapses into sentimentality, the combined talents of Wallace Beery ("The Champ") and Cooper helped to make this work an important film of the early 1930s. Because their names were similar, Cooper was sometimes confused with Jackie Coogan. In fact there was another connection: in 1934 Jackie Cooper played the lead in the film Peck's Bad Boy, a role that Coogan had created in a silent version 13 years earlier.
Cooper went on to play Jim Hawkins to Beery's Long John Silver in the screen adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. At the age of 17 he played opposite Deanna Durbin in That Certain Age, the kind of film that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland were handling more successfully in the "Andy Hardy" series. As Cooper grew older, his acting became less fresh and natural.
After establishing himself as an actor and director in television, Cooper returned to the medium that had made him a star when he released his Stand Up and Be Counted in 1972, his debut as a film director. Still active today as both an actor and director, Cooper remains best known for the roles he created as a child star in the early 1930s.