American Actor known for playing Uncle Fester Addams
American actor and comedian who began his movie career as a child actor in silent films.
Charlie Chaplin's film classic The Kid (1921) made him one of the first child stars in film history. He later sued his mother and stepfather over his squandered film earnings and provoked California to enact the first known legal protection for the earnings of child performers, widely known as the Coogan Act. Coogan continued to act throughout his life, later earning renewed fame in middle age portraying Uncle Fester in the 1960s TV series The Addams Family.
He was born as John Leslie Coogan in 1914 in Los Angeles, California, to John Henry Coogan Jr. and Lillian Rita (Dolliver) Coogan. He began performing as an infant in both vaudeville and film, with an uncredited role in the 1917 film Skinner's Baby. Charlie Chaplin discovered him in the Orpheum Theatre, a vaudeville house in Los Angeles, on the stage doing the shimmy, a dance popular at the time. Coogan's father was also an actor, as was his younger brother, Robert Coogan. Jackie Coogan was a natural mimic and delighted Chaplin with his abilities. Chaplin cast him in a small role in A Day's Pleasure (1919). He was Chaplin's irascible companion in The Kid (1921) and the following year played the title role in Oliver Twist, directed by Frank Lloyd. Coogan was one of the first stars to be heavily merchandised. Peanut butter, stationery, whistles, dolls, records, and figurines were among the Coogan-themed merchandise on sale.
Coogan was tutored until the age of 10, when he entered Urban Military Academy and other prep schools. He attended several colleges, as well as the University of Southern California. In 1932, he dropped out of Santa Clara University because of poor grades.
In November 1933, Brooke Hart, a close friend of Coogan from Santa Clara University, was kidnapped from his family-owned department store in San Jose and brought to the San Francisco area San Mateo–Hayward Bridge. After several demands for a $40,000 ransom, police arrested Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes in San Jose. Thurmond admitted that Hart had been murdered the night he was kidnapped. Both killers were transferred to a prison in downtown San Jose. A mob broke into the jail, and Thurmond and Holmes were hanged in a nearby park. Coogan was reported to be present and to have held the lynching rope.
In 1935, 20-year-old Coogan was the sole survivor of a car crash in eastern San Diego County that killed his father; his best friend, 19-year-old actor Junior Durkin; their ranch foreman Charles Jones, and actor and writer Robert J. Horner. The party was returning from a day of dove hunting over the border in Mexico in early May. With his father at the wheel, the car was forced off the mountain highway near Pine Valley by an oncoming vehicle and rolled down an embankment.
Coogan appeared with then-wife [Grable-38 | Betty Grable]] in "College Swing", a 1938 musical comedy starring George Burns, Gracie Allen, Martha Raye and Bob Hope.
In 1940, Coogan played the role of "a playboy Broadway producer" in the Society Girl program on CBS radio. He also starred in his own program, Forever Ernest, on CBS from April 29, 1946, to July 22, 1946.
Coogan enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor that December, he requested a transfer to Army Air Forces as a glider pilot because of his civilian flying experience. Graduating the Advanced Glider School with the Glider Pilot aeronautical rating and the rank of Flight Officer, he volunteered for hazardous duty with the 1st Air Commando Group.
In December 1943, the unit was sent to India. He flew British troops, the Chindits, under General Orde Wingate on March 5, 1944, landing them at night in a small jungle clearing 100 miles (160 km) behind Japanese lines in the Burma Campaign.
After the war, Coogan returned to acting, taking mostly character roles and appearing on television. From 1952 to 1953, he played Stoney Crockett on the syndicated series Cowboy G-Men. He guest-starred on NBC's The Martha Raye Show. He appeared too, as Corbett, in two episodes of NBC's The Outlaws with Barton MacLane, which aired from 1960–1962. In the 1960–1961 season, he guest-starred in the episode "The Damaged Dolls" of the syndicated crime drama The Brothers Brannagan. In 1961, he guest-starred in an episode of The Americans, an NBC series about family divisions stemming from the Civil War. He also appeared in episode 37, titled "Barney on the Rebound", of The Andy Griffith Show, which aired October 31, 1961. He had a regular role in a 1962–63 NBC series, McKeever and the Colonel. He finally found his most famous television role as Uncle Fester in ABC's The Addams Family (1964–1966). He appeared as a police officer in the Elvis Presley comedy Girl Happy in 1965.
He appeared four times on the Perry Mason series, including the role of political activist Gus Sawyer in the 1963 episode, "The Case of the Witless Witness", and TV prop man Pete Desmond in the final episode, "The Case of the Final Fadeout", in 1966. He was a guest several times on The Red Skelton Show, appeared twice on The Brady Bunch ("The Fender Benders" and "Double Parked"), I Dream of Jeannie (as Jeannie's uncle, Suleiman – Maharaja of Basenji), Family Affair, Here's Lucy and The Brian Keith Show, and continued to guest-star on television (including multiple appearances on The Partridge Family, The Wild Wild West, Hawaii Five-O, and McMillan and Wife) until his retirement in the middle 1970s.
Coogan was married four times, and had four children. His first three marriages to actresses were short-lived. He and Betty Grable were engaged in 1935 and married on November 20, 1937, and they divorced less than two years later on October 11, 1939. Eighteen months later on August 10, 1941, he married Flower Parry (d.1981). They had one son, John Anthony Coogan (writer/producer of 3D digital and film), born March 4, 1942, in Los Angeles; they divorced on June 29, 1943. Coogan married his third wife, Ann McCormack, on December 26, 1946; a daughter, Joann Dolliver Coogan, was born April 2, 1948, in Los Angeles. They divorced on September 20, 1951.
Dorothea Odetta Hanson, also known as Dorothea Lamphere, best known as Dodie, was a dancer and became Coogan's fourth wife in April 1952 and they were together over thirty years, until his death. She died in 1999. They had two children together, a daughter, Leslie Diane Coogan, born November 24, 1953, in Los Angeles, and a son, Christopher Fenton Coogan, born July 9, 1967, in Riverside County, who died in a motorcycle accident in Palm Springs on June 29, 1990.
Leslie Coogan has a son, actor Keith Coogan, who was born Keith Eric Mitchell on January 13, 1970, being three years younger than his uncle Christopher. He began acting in 1975, and changed his name in 1986, two years after his grandfather's death. His roles include the oldest son in Adventures in Babysitting. Footage of Jackie with his grandson, Keith can be seen in the 1982 documentary Hollywood's Children.
After suffering from heart and kidney ailments, Coogan succumbed to heart failure on March 1, 1984, at age 69, in Santa Monica, California. He had previously suffered several strokes and had been undergoing kidney dialysis when his blood pressure dropped. Coogan was taken to Santa Monica Hospital, where he died from cardiac arrest.
At his request, Coogan's funeral was open to the public and he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located on the 1700 block of Vine Street, just south of Hollywood Boulevard.
Jackie is 28 degrees from Rosa Parks, 23 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 18 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.