Jackie Coogan was born on October 26, 1914 in Los Angeles, California to John Henry Coogan Sr., a dancer and actor, and Lilian Rita Dolliver Coogan, a child star.
Before he was Uncle Fester on The Addams Family, Jackie Coogan was a child star of silent films.
Jackie Coogan began his career when he was an infant appearing in vaudeville.
At the age of 3, he made his film debut in Skinner's Baby (1917).
Charlie Chaplin discovered young Jackie in a Los Angeles vaudeville house, doing the shimmy, a popular dance at the time. Jackie was a natural mimic and delighted Chaplin with his abilities. Chaplin gave him a small part in A Day's Pleasure (1919).
In 1921, Chaplin cast him as his sidekick in the classic The Kid.
Jackie Coogan would appear in numerous films such as Oliver Twist (1922), Circus Days (1923), The Rag Man (1925), Tom Sawyer (1930), Huckleberry Finn (1931), Love in September (1936), College Swing (1938), and Sky Patrol (1939).
With the outbreak of World War II, Jackie Coogan put his acting career on hold.
In March 1941, Jackie Coogan enlisted in the US Army. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he requested a transfer to the US Army Air Forces as a glider pilot because of his civilian flying experience. After graduating from glider school, he was made a Flight Officer and he volunteered for hazardous duty with the 1st Air Commando Group. In December 1943, the unit was sent to India. On March 5, 1944, he was a member of the Burma Campaign.
After the war, Jackie Coogan returned to Hollywood and appeared in a few films such as Kilroy was Here (1947) and French Leave (1948).
Most of Jackie's post war career was in televison. He appeared on such classic shows as Police Story, Gunsmoke, McMillan & Wife, Ironside, The Partridge Family, Barnaby Jones, Hawaii Five-O, Marcus Welby M.D., The Brady Bunch, Adam-12, I Dream of Jeannie, The Virginian, Perry Mason and The Andy Griffith Show.
Jackie Coogan's most memorable television role would be as Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.
Jackie Coogan was married four times. His first wife was Betty Grable (1937-1939, divorced). He next married Flower Parry (1941-1943, divorced) and they had one son. His third marriage was to Ann McCormack (1946-1951, divorced) they had one duaghter. His fourth marriage was to Dorothea Lamphere (1952 to his death) and they had two children, a son and a daughter.
Jackie Coogan's film career spanned 67 years and he made his final film appearance in The Prey (1984).
Jackie Coogan was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has his hand and foot prints in concrete out front of Grauman's Chinese Theater (now Mann's Chinese Theater).
As a child star, Coogan earned an estimated $3 to 4 million, but the money was taken by his mother, Lilian, and stepfather, Arthur Bernstein, for extravagances such as fur coats, diamonds, and cars. He sued them in 1938 (at age 23), but after legal expenses, he only received $126,000 of the approx. $250,000 left. When Coogan fell on hard times, Charlie Chaplin gave him some financial support.
The legal battle did, however, bring attention to child actors and resulted in the state of California enacting the California Child Actor's Bill, sometimes known as the Coogan Bill or Coogan Act. This requires that the child's employer set aside 15% of the child's earnings in a trust, and codifies such issues as schooling, work hours and time-off.
Jackie Coogan died on March 1, 1984 at the age of 69 of cardiac arrest.