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Jackie Coogan Never Got His Money Back After His Mother Stole Millions

Jackie Coogan was one of the most notable child stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age thanks to his performance in the Charlie Chaplin movie The Kid. Even more impressive was the fact that Jackie managed to find consistent employment in the entertainment industry as an adult. However, when Jackie was coming of age, his mother dealt him a serious blow by stealing all of the money that he had made as a kid. Join Facts Verse as we explore how Jackie Coogan never got his money back after his mother stole millions.

How Jackie Coogan Became The Kid

Jackie Coogan was born in Los Angeles, California, in October of 1914. The young boy was born into a family of vaudeville performers, and he got his start performing at a very young age because of it. Jackie was less than two years old when he got his very first gig as an actor. By the time he was five, Jackie had officially joined his parents’ vaudeville troop. The small child could be found touring with his parents around California, and this is how Jackie eventually caught the eyes of Charlie Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin believed in Jackie Coogan’s gift for vaudeville, and he thought that the boy might become Hollywood’s next big thing. Charlie’s intuition proved correct, as the silent-film icon found a lot of success when he began casting Jackie in projects. The most notable project featuring Jackie Coogan and Charlie Chaplin together was the 1921 movie The Kid. The Kid is widely considered to be one of Charlie’s most notable films, especially amongst his earlier works. The film revolved around a titular kid, who was played by none other than Jackie Coogan. With his years of vaudeville experience, Jackie had no trouble lighting up the screen alongside Charlie Chaplin. Even more so than Charlie himself, Jackie was the breakout star of The Kid.

Jackie Coogan’s appearance in The Kid made him an overnight sensation, and a great many more successes followed for the child performer over the course of the 1920s. As one of the biggest box-office draws of the decade, Jackie amassed many millions of dollars for his parents. Given that this was a century ago, those millions of dollars would’ve been more like billions today. Sadly, Jackie never got to experience any of the joys that were owed to him when it came to his amassed fortune. In fact, Jackie Coogan barely even saw a penny from his days as a child star.

The Accident That Changed Jackie’s Life

Around the time that Jackie Coogan had come of age, he and his father got into a serious car accident. The two were on a hunting trip in Mexico when their car suddenly swerved off the road. Jackie survived, but he had some serious injuries that he needed to recover from. Meanwhile, his father didn’t make it. Jackie was devastated by the loss of his father, but things were about to get even worse for the former child star. Not long after his father’s death, Jackie’s mother remarried. The man that Jackie’s mother chose as her new husband wasn’t a strange. In fact, it was someone that both she and Jackie knew very well.

When Jackie Coogan’s mother chose to remarry after the car crash that killed her husband, the man she chose as her new husband was her son’s business manager. Jackie’s business manager was a many by the name of Arthur Bernstein. Shortly after getting married, Jackie’s mother and his new stepdad broke the news to the former child star that they were going to keep his child-star earnings for themselves. As one might imagine, Jackie was furious.

Jackie Coogan didn’t have his father to defend him, and he didn’t have much legal recourse when it came from getting his child-star earning back from his mother and his stepdad. According to California law, there was no reason that Jackie’s mother was technically required to hand over any of the money that she had amassed from her son’s days as an underage performer. Still, Jackie didn’t want to take all of this lying down. A few years after receiving the news that his mother was planning on stealing all of his child-star earnings, Jackie took his mother and his stepdad to court.

Not only did Jackie’s mother steal all of his child-star earnings, but Jackie Coogan also started seeing himself blacklisted in the industry due to the connections of his new stepfather. Arthur Bernstein’s connections in the entertainment industry had helped Jackie out a great deal during his days as a child star, but now they were being used against him. Jackie was in dire straits, and he was in desperate need of the money that he had earned during the peak days of his success. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

Jackie Bounced Back After the Tragedy

As we’ve already established, Jackie Coogan didn’t have a whole lot of recourse in defending himself against his mother and stepfather taking all of his child-star earnings. However, the court proceeding helped create a precedent that would protect future child stars. The matter was settled out of court about a year after the fact, and Jackie ended up being given around $100,000. $100,000 certainly meant a lot more back then than it does now, but it was still a far cry from the millions of dollars that Jackie had made for his parents.

Although Jackie Coogan wasn’t able to get nearly as much money from his mother and stepfather as he arguably deserved, the relatively meager sum that he did receive ended up being more than enough to get the former child star back on his feet. It also led to the creation of what has come to be known as the Coogan Law. This law dictates that 15% of a child star’s earning must be placed into a special account, dubbed a Coogan account, that the child will be able to access when they come of age. This law, passed in 1939, has helped plenty of child stars in the day since.

Another victory for Jackie Coogan was the fact that he was able to find consistent employment in the entertainment industry as an adult. Of course, it is all too common for child stars to find themselves out of work as adults. However, this wasn’t the case for Jackie. In fact, one of the roles that the actor took during his adult years has arguably become just as iconic as his 1921 role in Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid!

Jackie Adored Playing Uncle Fester

In the 1960s, Jackie Coogan was cast to play the role of Uncle Fester on the television series The Addams Family. The show was based upon the popular comic strips by Charles Addams, which appeared in The New Yorker. Though the live-action series was as successful as it’s producer had hoped during it’s initial two-season run, it went on to become something of a cult phenomenon via reruns. Today. There are few properties quite as ubiquitous, though Christopher Lloyd’s portrayal of Uncle Fester has usurped Jackie Coogan’s in the eyes of modern audiences.

Christopher Lloyd might be the most well-known Uncle Fester nowadays, but that none other than Jackie Coogan himself held title for decades. Jackie Coogan loved playing the role of Uncle Fester, as Uncle Fester was essentially an overgrown child. This meant that Jackie Coogan got to act like a kid again, just like he did during his child-star days. As the first actor to portray the character of Uncle Fester in live action, Jackie Coogan was given a significant amount of leeway when it came to his performance. It was Jackie who came up with the character’s high voice, though this voice wouldn’t be carried over in future iterations. Many members of the cast on The Addams Family didn’t enjoy all of the makeup that was required for their roles. However, Jackie felt differently about his makeup.

Jackie Coogan apparently had so much fun wearing his Uncle Fester makeup that he would sometimes refuse to take it off at the end of the day. By the time he received his role on The Addams Family, Jackie was 50 years old. Audiences couldn’t believe that the man behind the Uncle Fester makeup was the same kid that they had fallen in love with decades previously via Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid.

Jackie Coggan’s Personal Life

In addition to all of the work that Jackie Coogan did in the entertainment industry, the performer also served in the United States Army for a period of time, during which he won an Air Medal. When it came to the star’s romantic life, he was married four separate times. Jackie’s first wife was none other than Betty Grable, whom he married in 1937. Sadly, the marriage was short lived. Jackie and Betty divorced in 1939, and the former child star was onto a new wife by 1941. Jackie’s second and third wives were also actresses.

Jackie Coogan’s second wife was Flower Parry, and the two were married from 1941 to 1943. The former child star’s third wife, then, was Ann McCormack. Jackie and Ann were married form 1946 to 1951. After three short-lived marriages, Jackie decided that he wanted his fourth wife to be someone outside of the entertainment industry. In 1952, he married a woman by the name of Dorothea Lamphere. Amazingly, the marriage lasted all the way up until Jackie’s 1984 death. Jackie passed away in March of 1984 from a heart attack. At the time of his death, the actor was 69 years old.

Jackie Coogan never go this money back after his mother stole millions, but this thankfully didn’t do the former child star in. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that former child star Jackie Coogan came up with Uncle Fester’s original voice himself, and there’s a California law named after him? Comment down below!

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