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Jackie Cooper: 1922 - 2011

Posted by Thurston McQ on Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I used to think Jackie Cooper and Jackie Coogan were the same person. I would tell people the kid from Chaplin's The Kid grew up to be Clark Kent's boss. I learned at some point that they were two different people, and that the kid from Chaplin's The Kid grew up to play Fester Addams. I decided Coogan had been the child star, and that Cooper must have been grabbed off the street for his interesting face and made to try out for Perry White after multiple casting calls had turned up no one suited to the role. He was perfect, of course, and was hired on the spot.

That's not quite how it went down, but I didn't have IMDb growing up. Fact checking just wasn't something I did. Here's how recognizable Cooper's face is: some years back, a friend and I were watching the Little Rascals short "Teacher's Pet," and there he was. "I think that's Perry White!" I kept saying to my friend, who quickly lost all interest in hearing me say "I think that's Perry White!" and who was kind enough to remind me IMDb had, indeed, come into my life by then.

Maybe if I'd watched more Little Rascals growing up I wouldn't think of Jackie Cooper as Perry White. For me, though, that's who he will be. Superman was one of those constant babysitters I'm always referring to in my Retro Review column, and Cooper's Perry White is a part of what makes it stand out for me even today. Nowhere in Superman does the property's late thirties roots peek more prominently through the soil than in the newsroom scenes, and Cooper's facility with the pace of the Hawksian dialog helps sell every scene he's in. He's so perfect in every scene he's in, it's almost hard to believe he only got the role because Keenan Wynn had a heart attack.

Even if there's little to me that's a bigger deal than being a part of Superman, I realize Cooper was a bigger deal than his Superman part. He still holds the record for being the youngest actor nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He was a Little Rascal. He held his own as a child actor opposite the likes of Wallace Beery. He served in World War II. He was a fair drummer. He was an Emmy-winning television director. He was all these things.

And if all those things weren't enough, he was Perry White, too.

Jack S. Pharaoh
Location:
Posts: 2231
Posted: 8 years 46 weeks ago

I don't think I every really appreciated Jackie Cooper in 'Superman' and 'Superman II' as a kid.  When I watched the movies after they came out on DVD (in 2001, I think), I was kinda blown away by how good he was, and how funny the movies were.

Thurston McQ
Location: Germany
Posts: 142
Posted: 8 years 46 weeks ago

I've found they definitely have a lot of rewatch value.

Quasar
Location:
Posts: 7588
Posted: 8 years 45 weeks ago

I find it extremely hard to believe that anyone would lose interest in hearing Thursty constantly repeating himself.

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