In Memoriam: Jackie Cooper

Jackie Cooper

As is my usual policy when deciding to write an in memoriam piece I don’t like to rush it to strike while the news cycle is hot. Part of the reason why is that I like to give the people I choose to write about their due rather than being short and sweet to the point of being curt.

Jackie Cooper’s was a long and extensive career that can not be summed up in a few short and sweet sentences. I’ll try and give it better perspective here.

From 1929-1931 Cooper made about 13 shorts as part of Hal Roach’s legendary Little Rascals troupe. Hal Roach being one of the legendary producers of Hollywood and the Rascals being one of his longest lasting legacies.

Below in two parts you’ll find one of their shorts where Cooper features prominently.

1931 turned out to be a watershed year for the young actor who in that year went most of the way to establishing his Hollywood immortality. First, there is his participation in the film Skippy, which earned him a nomination as Best Actor. A film which is mysteriously unavailable on DVD in the US.

However, in that year he also delivered what is likely his most memorable performance in The Champ, a film for which Wallace Beery captured Best Actor.

Another fine and more mature performance from Cooper can be found in the film Peck’s Bad Boy, which is a wonderful example of classic filmmaking because the story is so simple but so emotive. It also features two outstanding antagonistic performances by Dorothy Peterson and Jackie Searl. The film can be seen in its entirety here:

Mickey Rooney, Freddie Batholomew and Jackie Cooper in The Devil is a Sissy (MGM)

Surprisingly Cooper never did capture the Juvenile Award, a special Academy Award that was awarded to a deserving young actor from 1934 to 1960. However, he did have another memorable performance with two of the other finest actors of his generation Freddie Bartholomew and Mickey Rooney in The Devil is a Sissy in 1936. His character being the most hardened of the lot.

While like many child actors Cooper found the work to be not as good or as consistent as he transitioned to adulthood he did keep working and with the advent of television he transitioned mediums and started building a long and impressive resume of guest appearances on the small screen.

Jackie Cooper with Emmy

Eventually he made his way behind the scenes as a director and producer. Some of his directorial credits include episodes of M*A*S*H for which he won an Emmy for the episode “Carry on, Hawkeye,” Mary Tyler Moore, The Rockford Files, The White Shadow for which he won an Emmy for the Pilot episode, Magnum, P.I., Cagney & Lacey, The Adventures of Superboy and Jake & the Fatman.

Between 1948 and 1971 there was but television work, he also garnered consecutive Emmy nominations as an actor in 1961 and 1962 for his work on Hennesey, but then there was the occasional blip of a film until he was cast as Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet, in the Superman films, the initial wave. It is in this capacity that he is known and remembered by many today as I have mentioned before many are lucky to be known by all for one film or project, even more fortunate are those who are known by many.

Jackie Cooper had many incarnations as an entertainer but in all of them he entertained audiences and endeared himself to them. He will be dearly remembered and sorely missed. He left an indelible mark on film and left innumerous memories behind. Let us take a moment and reflect on them.

Jackie Cooper in Superman (Warner Bros.)

In Memoriam- Corey Haim

Corey Haim Credit: Michael Bezjian/

It is so impossibly sad not to be shocked when learning of the death of one so young that it is nearly impossible to quantify in words. Corey Haim died at the young age of 38, the cause of death was ruled eventually to be natural causes. Haim battled substance abuse, with varying degrees of success, for most of his life.

Drug problems had already effectively cost Haim the career he had been building but now, tragically, if they have not cost him his life they were likely a contributing factor. However, that is all that bears saying as it is my policy with these pieces to not dwell too much on the details of how we lost the entertainer we admired but to try and preserve their memory and Haim in a very short span left quite a mark on the film industry with the parts he played.

His debut was in Firstborn where he played Terri Garr’s son. He is the son of a divorced woman who starts seeing a man named Sam, Peter Wellet, who always seems to be trying a get rich quick scheme but is, in fact, engaged in illegal activities. It is a purely dramatic role in which he is quite strong indeed.

Corey Haim was the actor who brought the character of Marty Coslaw to life on celluloid – Coslaw being the protagonist of King’s short werewolf novel Cycle of the Werewolf, which was called Silver Bullet as a film. It stands not only as one of his most impressive performances but also one of King’s better cinematic adaptations. Later on that same year he appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Murphy’s Romance with Sally Field and James Garner.

1986 brought one of his signature roles as the lovestruck nerd Lucas, few could adequately play both sides of the social spectrum and be convincing on either side. Haim did so with an ease that belied his years.

In 1987 he appeared in the now classic vampire film The Lost Boys and was one of the reasons for its success and it was truly his breakout role. He recently participated in a straight-to-video sequel in the mid-90s and on most of the work he did find was either on TV or straight-to-video projects.

In 1988 he starred in another horror vehicle The Watchers and one of the better known teen movies of the era License to Drive.

By 1989 his private life had been making such headlines that he tried to address them in the video Me, Myself and I. Prayer of the Rollerboys was pretty much Haim’s last hurrah as most had come to know him. Things were never quite the same after that either in his life or his career. Haim made several comeback attempts none of which obviously got him back to where he was previously. As a young screenwriter to aid my visualization of a film I’d frequently find actors to play roles if it suits them; at a time I was writing a character, an adult character fitting his age, with Haim in mind.

One could be cynical and scoff at yet another actor dying young after battling addiction for a bulk of his days but this was a person who lost their life far too soon and before we forget this story and bury it along with all the other unfortunate early losses Hollywood suffered recently with Heath Ledger, Brad Renfro and previously and shockingly with River Phoenix these incidents ought not be forgotten but should serve as a reminder because the only thing worse in this world than wasting away one’s talent is wasting away one’s life.

Megan Follows and Corey Haim in Silver Bullet (Paramount)