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 amazon.com etc etc etc

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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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