Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jackie Cooper, Great Child Actor Dies

I remember as a kid watching the original film version of "The Champ". It starred the original pug ugly, Wallace Beery as the prize fighting father of Jackie Cooper.

Jackie Cooper In the Little Rascals
In 1929, he was cast in the "Our Gang" short series of films and appeared in 15 in just two years. In 1931, he made his two signature feature films. The first was "Skippy". A synopsis is HERE (SKIPPY). I had a chance to watch this film recently and loved it. The great thing about this film and this era for film making is that kids on film acted their age. In future generations kids are often the smartest people in the room. In the world of 1931, "Skippy" learns hard lessons, but his father earns his affection. It is a beautiful film that I highly recommend. It's all about a respectable boy playing with kids from the other side of the street. Oh and a dog. The dog brings out the water works which was a requirement for Cooper in his MGM films.

That same year Cooper starred in "The Champ" and it is probably the best thing of which he is remembered. He steals the show from a veteran cast, especially Beery who went onto win the Oscar for Best Actor. But time has shone its light brighter on nine year old Jackie Cooper. You can get a synopsis of "THE CHAMP" HERE, The Champ
The Champ
Jackie Cooper would go on in 1934 to star as Jim Hawkins in Stevenson's classic novel, "Treasure Island", once again opposite Wallace Beery as Long John Silver. Of course, at the end the waterworks break out as he says goodbye to the peg legged pirate.

One of my recent discoveries of Cooper's, on TCM of course was Syncopation (1942). Cooper was older and not as compelling, but the movie was a great surprise as it tracks the course and progress of jazz in American society. Fiction mind you, but this low budget film, while pedestrian in many ways is stark in its portrayal of race relations, relative to films of the era. A great courtroom scene like no other, again relative to its time is just great. Cooper finds his way into the film about half way through, but this film is a nice film overall and worth a look.

Jackie Cooper would go onto serve at the end of World War II and get into theater first and then television. A two time Emmy winner for director, his modern film incarnation was as Perry White, Editor in chief of "The Daily Planet" in all four "SUPERMAN" movies. He was an iconic actor as a child who dedicated his life to entertainment. But, hey we have it all on film. R.I.P., Jackie Cooper.

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