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.