Jackie Cooper: A case study for child actors

May 5, 2011

Actor Jackie Cooper, right, is shown with actor Wallace Beery in a scene from the 1931 film “The Champ.” (Reuters)

After such a ripe and early start, one might expect Cooper’s life story to take a turn toward the sordid as he got older and roles became scarcer. But it didn’t. At a time when Cooper didn’t have hilarious Twitter feeds or reality TV at his disposal to keep the light of his fame shining, he did what, frankly, more young stars should consider doing: He diversified.


Actor Jackie Cooper. (Reuters)

And at age 56, he tackled one of his more notable roles: as the volatile newspaper editor Perry White in 1978’s “Superman” and the sequels that followed.

We always assume that very young actors will eventually turn into screwed-up messes. But Cooper — one of the first, most famous child stars — never did. With his passing once again reminding so many of what he accomplished, let’s hope that some of today’s under-18 actors are reading about him and thinking of his life as a potential guide post.

Gallery: Jackie Cooper dies at 88

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.
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