Actor Jackie Cooper has passed away. A Hollywood favorite and mainstay, he was probably most recognizable in the role as the edgy and rough Daily Planet editor Perry White in all four Christopher Reeves’ “Superman” films. Starting his career as a child actor, Cooper went on to work in almost every facet of show business for the remainder of his life, which nearly amounted to an impressive 50 years.
John Cooper, Jr. was born in Los Angeles on September 15, 1922. His father deserted his mother when John was two. Destitute, Mrs. Cooper found work at Fox studio as a secretary. With the help of her brother-in-law, director Norman Taurog, she was able to land some extra work for young Jackie.
Starring in several “Our Gang” comedy shorts, Cooper’s career quickly gained momentum. He landed the title role in 1931’s “Skippy.” For his emotional effort, he was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award, which he holds the record for being the youngest nominee to date. Cooper went on to star in the boxing tearjerker “The Champ” with Wallace Beery. Later, he had significant roles in 1933’s “Broadway to Hollywood,” “The Bowery,” and as Jim Hawkins in 1934’s “Treasure Island.”
As young Jackie got older, the parts became fewer and farther between. He did a four-year stint in the Navy, but after being discharged, he found his career had hit hard times. With some advice and urging by tough guy actor, John Garfield, he set his sights on Broadway. Cooper was successful in the part of Ensign Pulver on Broadway and road companies of “Mister Roberts.” Returning to Hollywood, he appeared in two consecutive hit television series “The People’s Choice,” and “Hennesey.”
In 1964, Cooper accepted a five-year contract as production head of Screen Gems, the television division of Columbia Pictures. The job was not easy and he was constantly pitching the higher-ups on shows he wanted to do. His last job was selling the show “The Flying Nun” with Sally Fields. It was a network hit.
Cooper turned his attention to work behind the camera. He went on to direct more than 250 half-hour, and hour-long series episodes, 16 two-hour movies and numerous pilots and commercials. For his work on “M*A*S*H*” and “The White Shadow,” Cooper won two Emmy awards. He swore that he’d never act again, but was lured behind the editor’s desk to portray Perry White for The Daily Planet in all of the “Superman” films starring Christopher Reeves. He will be remembered for his work as an actor, director, and producer.
Cooper died of old age on Tuesday in Santa Monica. Two sons, John and Russell, survive Cooper.
Sources: Seattle Times, New York Times, IMDb