The actor whose exploitation brought about the Coogan Laws governing earnings, education, hours, and trusts set aside (California Child Actor’s Bill)… Long and short, Coogan was screwed over by his mother and step-father. His mother’s response, “No promises were ever made to give Jackie anything. Every dollar a kid earns before he is 21 belongs to his parents. Jackie will not get a cent of his earnings.” Generations later we find this statement horrifying, at the time it reflected the norm.

My mother-in-law was born in the 1920s. She was one of ten children born to a doting mother and an alcoholic father. She, along with her brothers and sisters, was carted up and down the West Coast following the seasons – as small children they were migrant farm workers. She remembered fondly a short sojourn in Los Angeles where the family was housed Downtown and she and her sister played street urchins in a James Cagney gangster film. She talked about the bag lunch and sitting on Mr. Cagney’s knee. Film work was better than picking grapes.

Jackie Coogan and Charlie Chaplin THE KID

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  1. January 10, 2013

    That is so sad, but it was reality for so many young ones. In the theater it was extreme. There are a long line of actors that have had their childhoods and money ripped from them.

      • January 10, 2013

        It is. I have been approched about my daughter getting in the business. I am not speaking about one of those that you pay to have them take on your kid. I refused because I just don’t want that life for my kids. If they decided to go down that path later in life, I will support them, but while their brains are developing… absolutely not.

        Thanks so much. I am glad that you had a good laugh. I hope you keep coming back. I am following you too. 🙂 I am going to go read your link.


  2. George Kaplan
    April 2, 2013

    *CAVEAT* The following is about childhood but has nothing to do with child actors or the tragedy of Jackie Coogan. ‘Cause I laugh in the face of convention (but that’s okay because convention kicks me in the pants!)
    Here’s a wee story about childhood featuring a talking monkey – and what could be a metaphor loss…
    Long ago when some things were better and others worse, there lived a little boy – let’s call him Georgie. Georgie was shy and sensitive and mostly happy in the world but yet of it as children often are. His school days had not yet begun and he was at that time a rather chubby child with strawberry blond hair. One Christmas his grandmother queued to get young Georgie a new cuddly creature for his small menagerie of animals. Georgie loved the Muppet Show and he had a rubbery Kermit the Frog and a furry Scooter to go with his teddy bear (imagatively named Big Ted or plain Teddy!) and a couple of other things whose memory is now lost to the sands of time. This new animal was a monkey. A cheery, pink-faced – though monkeys usually have other less pleasant places that particular hue, Ew! – fellow in a pair of furry tourquoise dungarees with pink hands and pink feet to go with his pink fizzog. Why, may you say was it so important to queue for this cute primate? Well, beyond his cuteness he could *talk*! It’s worth remembering that this was many years ago (and an eyeblink) so a talking toy was a more surprising and delightful thing than it would be now, or then in the United States and parts of the UK for those who came from more or less privileged backgrounds at least! At the monkey’s – ape, actually, he had no tail- side was a ring and linked to that ring was a string (cont’d!)

  3. George Kaplan
    April 2, 2013

    – and when you pulled the ring that pulled the string Charlie the Chimp, for that was his name, would speak. And what would he say? “I like bananas!”, of course. Young Georgie liked his furry ape buddy and though as he grew older he was less apt to play with him he would still, every once in a while, pull that string and “I like Bananas!” would issue forth. But then before young Georgie’s tenth or eleventh birthday he pulled the string on a whim and…it broke. Just like that Charlie was without voice. And Georgie was, at the time, very sad. Such things are like portents of the end of childhood and the loss that was to come. Doubtless young Georgie has the occasion every few years to remember his childhood and feel the sweet ache of those lost and quite innocent years. Kermit’s rubber limbs have long since rotted away but Scooter and the Teddy Bear are in a cupboard somewhere, and who knows? Perhaps they remember when they were blessed with a child’s love and were not lonely. All it takes is to remember through the imagination of a child.

    Um, well, V., that was a perhaps true story. Odd, I know!

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