LOS ANGELES – Jackie Cooper, the former child movie star who won a best actor Oscar nomination at the age of 9 and grew up to play the Daily Planet editor in Christopher Reeves’ four “Superman” movies, has died. He was 88.
Cooper died Tuesday of old age at a nursing facility in Santa Monica, Calif.
“He was a fascinating guy who really did everything, from all different aspects of the business,” said his son, Russell Cooper. “You can’t really say that about many people.”
Cooper reigned with Shirley Temple as one of the most popular child stars of the 1930s. Starting in comedy shorts, he appeared in eight of the popular “Our Gang” comedies. He rose to an Oscar nomination with “Skippy,” a sentimental adaptation of a popular comic strip. He followed with such hits as “The Champ,” “The Bowery,” “Treasure Island” and “O’Shaughnessy’s Boy.”
With his career fading after World War II, Cooper left Hollywood for the New York theater. He returned to Hollywood and starred in two successful TV situation comedies, “The People’s Choice” (1955-58) and “Hennessey” (1959-62). He appeared as a Navy doctor in “Hennessey,” which he also produced and directed.
“I think it’s tough to direct and star in a feature,” he commented in a 1971 interview. “Either the direction or the performance will suffer. But an actor can direct himself in television. I found it essential to relieve the crushing boredom of starring in a series.”
He went on to direct more than 250 half-hour and hourlong series episodes, 16 two-hour movies and numerous pilots and commercials. At one point he vowed he would never act again. But he returned for an occasional role, most notably as the gruff Perry White in the “Superman” films.
“He managed to change with the business,” said his other son, John Cooper. “Early in his life, he experienced the kind of success that many people do not have, if they have that kind of success at all, until much later.”