An Airman's Story: Flight Officer Jackie Coogan


Flight Officer Jackie Coogan was born John Leslie Coogan on October 26, 1914, in Los Angeles California.  His father was a successful vaudeville performer and as a child Flight Officer Coogan would perform with his father.  Flight Officer Coogan's talent attracted the attention of Charles Chaplin and he soon moved over to silent films, taking on a few small parts before landing the role of The Kid in Charlie Chaplin's movie "The Kid".  Flight Officer Coogan worked steadily as an actor until he was ten, then he began attending the Urban Military Academy.  He also, during this period,  participated in a charity called Near East Relief. which provided clothing, food, and other sundries to Armenia and Syrian victims of the Ottoman Empire. Flight Officer Coogan briefly attended several California universities but struggled to settle down in academics.

When Flight Officer Coogan was twenty, he was the only survivor in a severe automobile accident that took the lives of his father, best friend, the family's ranch manager, and another actor.  His troubles were further compounded when it was discovered, on his twenty-first birthday, that his mother and stepfather had spent the earnings from his child acting days and he was, effectively, broke.  Flight Officer Coogan was forced to take legal action against his mother, and while he never did regain very much of his former earnings, the case was instrumental in establishing the 1939 Child Actors Bill,  which forced parents to set aside part of the earnings their children make, as well as establishing education requirements and limiting the number of hours a child can work on set.

He enlisted in the US Army in March of 1941, but when Pearl Harbor was attacked that December he asked to be transferred to the US Air Force in order to utilize his civilian pilot training.  Flight Officer Coogan graduated from Advanced Glider School and volunteered to be part of the Ist Air Commando Group. Flight Officer Coogan deployed to India and was responsible for flying British Chindits (a Special Forces Unit) behind enemy lines during the Burma Campaign.

When the war entered, Flight Officer Coogan returned to acting, with most of his in television productions, and where he would take on one of his most popular (and my personal favorite) roles, that of Fester Addams in the Addams family.  He would also appear in guest roles in all of the most popular television shows of the time, including Perry Mason, The Brady Bunch, I Dream of Jeannie, Here's Lucy, and The Partridge Family.

Flight Officer Jackie Coogan died on March 1, 1984, and rests in Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles.  His star on the Walk of Fame is at 1654 Vine Street. 

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