Please Don't Shoot My Dog
By Jackie Cooper with Dick Kleiner, Morrow, 1981
Winner of the "Putting Up with Wallace Beery" Award
Quite a lot has been written about Jackie Cooper -- not the least of which is his own memoir -- so I'm not going to beat (you should pardon the expression) a dead horse. For immediate gratification on that score, please visit Immortal Ephmera for an excellent article about the life of Mr. Cooper by Cliff Aliperti.
I've always like this guy, even though I was never much of an "Our Gang" fan and am loath to watch anything with Wallace Beery in it unless I absolutely have to. Cooper was a likable, believable, and competent actor, both as a child and an adult.
My earliest memory of him was in the first (first) Superman movie as Daily Planet editor, Perry White. I was informed at the time that Cooper had been the child star in Treasure Island (1934), which I had only just the day before seen on television (even though it starred Wallace Beery) and enjoyed quite a lot. To be honest, up to that point I'd always confused him with Jackie Coogan, but what do you want, I was 13 and not paying that close attention.
Much older and wiser now, I appreciate how Cooper was able to overcome his era's miserable treatment of young actors and the sad meme of bullying directors, an estranged parent, early fame and sudden public rejection with oncoming adolescence. He was sensible enough to work on television, both in front of and behind the camera, and by the mid-1960s was enjoying a solid career as vice president of program development for CBS.
As he approached 50, a whole new career as a character actor opened up for him on shows like McCloud, Ironside, Hawaii 5-0, Columbo, and one of my favorites, Circle of Fear. I don't know if he's a good guy, but I choose to think so. He married three times: two shorts and one really long, so maybe he found some personal as well as professional success.
His memoir is a pretty interesting if somewhat repetitive read, and now that it's beach season, not a bad choice if you can find it at a Goodwill somewhere.