(Jackie Cooper interview)
Jackie Cooper (September 15, 1922 – May 3, 2011) was an American actor, TV director, TV producer and executive. He was a child actor who managed to transition to an adult career. He is also the youngest performer to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, an honor he received for the film Skippy (1931).
Early lifeCooper was born John Cooper, Jr. in Los Angeles, California. Cooper's father, John Cooper, left the family when Jackie was two years old. His mother, Mabel Leonard Bigelow (née Polito), was a stage pianist and former child actress. Cooper's maternal uncle, Jack Leonard, was a screenwriter, and his maternal aunt, Julie Leonard, was an actress married to director Norman Taurog. Cooper's stepfather was C. J. Bigelow, a studio production manager. His mother was Italian American (her family's surname was changed from "Polito" to "Leonard") and his father was Jewish.
 Start of acting career
Cooper as he appeared in the film Broadway to HollywoodCooper first appeared in films as an extra with his grandmother, who would bring him along in hopes of aiding her own attempts to get extra work. At age three, Jackie appeared in Lloyd Hamilton comedies under the name of Leonard. He graduated to bits in feature films such as Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 and Sunny Side Up. His director in these two films, David Butler, recommended the boy to director Leo McCarey, who arranged an audition for the Our Gang comedy series produced by Hal Roach. Cooper joined the Gang youngsters in the short Boxing Gloves in 1929. He was signed to a three year contract. He initially was only a supporting character in the series, but by early 1930 he had done so well with the transition to sound films that he had become one of the Gang's major characters. He was the main character in the episodes The First Seven Years, When the Wind Blows, and others. His most notable Our Gang shorts explore his crush on Miss Crabtree, the schoolteacher played by June Marlowe, which included the trilogy of shorts Teacher's Pet, School's Out, and Love Business.
Cooper flirts with schoolteacher Miss Crabtree in School's OutAccording to his autobiography, Cooper, under contract to Hal Roach Studios, was loaned in the spring of 1931 to Paramount to star in Skippy (directed by his uncle, Norman Taurog), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor—the youngest actor ever (at the age of 9) to be nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor. Although Paramount paid Roach $25,000 for Cooper's services, Cooper received only his standard Roach salary of $50 per week.
The handprints of Jackie Cooper in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.The movie catapulted young Cooper to super-stardom. Our Gang producer Hal Roach sold Jackie's contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in mid-1931, as he felt the youngster would have a better future in features. He began a long on-screen relationship with actor Wallace Beery in such films as The Champ (1931), The Bowery (1933) ,The Choices of Andy Purcell (1933), Treasure Island (1934), and O'Shaughnessy's Boy (1935). A legion of film critics and fans have lauded the relationship between the two as an example of classic movie magic. However, in his autobiography Cooper wrote that Beery was "a big disappointment", and accused him of upstaging and other attempts to undermine the boy's performances out of what Cooper presumed was jealousy.
 Adult years
in Gallant Sons (1940)Not conventionally handsome as he approached adulthood, Cooper had the typical child-actor problems finding roles as an adolescent, and he served in World War II, so his career was at a nadir when he starred in two popular television series, NBC's The People’s Choice and CBS's Hennesey. In 1954, he guest starred on the NBC legal drama Justice. Later, he appeared on ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, and also guest starred with Tennessee Ernie Ford on The Ford Show.
From 1964 to 1969, Cooper was vice president of program development at Columbia Pictures Screen Gems TV division. He was responsible for packaging series (such as Bewitched) and other projects and selling them to the networks. He reportedly cast Sally Field as Gidget. Cooper seemed to thrive at this job, acting only once during this period, in the 1968 TV-movie Shadow on the Land.
Cooper left Columbia in 1969 and started yet another phase of his career, one in which he would act occasionally in key character roles (namely the short-lived 1975 ABC series Mobile One, a Jack Webb/Mark VII Limited production), but mostly he devoted more and more of his time to directing dozens of episodic TV and other projects. His work as director on M*A*S*H and The White Shadow earned him Emmy awards.
Cooper found renewed fame in the 1970s and 1980s as Daily Planet editor Perry White in the Superman film series starring Christopher Reeve. In the commentary track for Superman, director Richard Donner reveals that Cooper got the role because he had a passport, and thus was able to be on set in a few hours, after Keenan Wynn, who was originally cast, suffered a heart attack.
 Personal lifeCooper has been married three times: to June Horne (1944–1949; with whom he had one son, John "Jack" Cooper III (born 1946); Hildy Parks (1950–1951); and to Barbara Kraus from 1954 until her death in 2009. Cooper and Barbara had three children - Russell (born 1956), Julie (1957–1997) and Cristina (1959–2009).
Cooper's autobiography, Please Don't Shoot My Dog, was published in 1982. The title comes from director Norman Taurog's threat to shoot young Jackie's dog if he could not cry in Skippy. Cooper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1501 Vine Street.
Cooper announced his retirement in 1989, although he was still directing episodes of the syndicated series Superboy. He began spending more time training and racing horses at Hollywood Park and outside San Diego during the Del Mar racing season. He has lived in Beverly Hills since 1955. He occasionally returned to the soundstage for retrospective and documentary programs about Hollywood in which he had toiled for the entire sound period to-date, and even some silent films.
 DeathOn May 3, 2011, Cooper died Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 88.