Frank B. “Jack” Cooper: Dan the Taxi Man

Some words of tribute to Frank B. Cooper (1891-1959), sometimes billed as F.B. Cooper, or Jack Cooper.

Originally from Stockport, England Cooper started out performing in music hall in his native country, then came to the U.S. in 1913 where he performed in vaudeville, musical comedy and stock  theatre. His very first film was the Keystone comedy Sunshine (1916) with Hank Mann and Bobby Dunn (ironically titled, given that he worked in Fox Sunshine comedies after his brief initial period with Sennett). Cooper worked for just about all the major comedy shops throughout the late teens and twenties, not just Sennett/Keystone/Triangle and Fox, but also Hal Roach, Educational, and several other smaller independents. Some of the best known comedies he appeared in during the 20s, were Harry Langdon shorts. Cooper’s biggest moment in the sun was probably starring in the “Dan the Taxi Man” series for Sennett 1928-29.

When talkies came in Cooper embarked for a while on a vaudeville tour with an act that spoofed them. It was called “Goofey Tone Films”. His partner in the act was Bud Pollard, later a director and producer of low-budget films and no apparent relation to Snub or Daphne.

In the ’30s, Cooper did far less film work, and generally in bit parts. You can see him in such films as The Pharmacist and The Fatal Glass of Beer with W.C. Fields (both 1933), Our Relations (1936) with Laurel and Hardy, General Spanky (1936) with Spanky McFarland from Our Gang, Goofs and Saddles (1937) and Three Smart Saps (1942) with the Three Stooges, Mooching Through Georgia (1939) with Buster Keaton, and Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).

It’s often erroneously assumed that he is the father of actor Jackie Cooper, much as Jack Coogan Sr. was to Jackie Coogan, but apparently this is not the case. For this and many of the other details in this piece we are grateful once again to Brent Walker’s authoritative Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory. 

To find out about the history of vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic film comedy, read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.