American actor Jackie Coogan belonged to a family of vaudevillians. At age four Coogan was already a stage attraction performing with his father when he caught the eye of Charles Chaplin, who immediately hired him (and his father as well). After giving him a bit part in the short A Day's Pleasure (1919), he made Coogan his co-star in the masterpiece The Kid (1921). This launched Coogan's film career and he went on to become one of the highest paid film actors of the day. Movie audiences worldwide doted on him, but his career as a child star petered out when he was 13 and too old to be "cute." In 1935 when his mother and stepfather refused to let him have the $4 million that he had amassed during his child acting days, he filed suit against them. When the settlement finally came, he received a mere $126,000., but the legal fight brought attention to such abuses, and resulted in the "California Child Actor's Bill" also known as the "Coogan Act" which protected the earnings of child actors. He was married to Betty Grable for 3 years, and to three other showgirls in succession afterwards. During his adulthood, he occasionally appeared in films playing character roles and worked frequently in television, most notably as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family TV series. He died on March 1, 1984.
Biography by Bruce Lawton
- Earned his first film role, in Skinner's Baby, at the age of 18 months.
- Rose to fame at the age of 4, when Charlie Chaplin cast him in his film The Kid (1919).
- Sued his mother after she squandered the majority of his child-star earnings. He only recovered a small portion of the money.
- Is the namesake of the Coogan Law, which protects the rights of child actors by requiring that a portion of their earnings go into a blocked trust account.