Stars of Vaudeville #380: Jackie Coogan

Originally posted in 2011

Born this day in 1914, Jackie Coogan was, like Charlie Chaplin, a child performer, and also like Chaplin, was discovered for the movies while performing on the vaudeville stage. Unlike Chaplin, Coogan was discovered by…Charlie Chaplin.

Coogan’s career describes a “U” shape if you were to trace it on a graph. His early star turns in films like the title role in Chaplin’s The Kid (1921)Oliver Twist (1922) and Huckleberry Finn (1931), and many more besides….and then a fallow couple of decades when Hollywood didn’t know what to do with him.

And then he re-emerged as a bald, dumpy, whiny middle-aged man in the late 1940s and suddenly was castable again. His most famous role during these years was of course was Uncle Fester on The Addams Family (1964-66), but he worked almost constantly through the end of his life in 1984, often in bit parts, but by god he was working – -and always recognizable.  (I can see him right now in my mind’s eye, as a bad guy on Hawaii Five O. And here he is on The Brady Bunch) And now, his two most famous roles:

His first famous role:

His last famous role:

To learn more about silent and slapstick comedy please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc


To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.




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