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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

May 3, 2011

It's time for another edition of the Tuesday Timeline - and surprisingly enough, I managed to find a topic that fits the theme of the month!  But before we go on with today's topic, let's have a look at the events that I didn't pick.

So, let's do this!

1715 - A total solar eclipse - visible across parts of Europe and Asia - occurs, predicted by Edmond Halley within a time frame of four minutes!

1802 - Washington D.C. is officially incorporated as a city

1830 - The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway opens

1849 - The May Uprising in Dresden begins

1867 - The Hudson's Bay Company gives up all rights to Vancouver Island

1877 - Labatt Park holds its first baseball game

1901 - Jacksonville, Florida is devastated by The Great Fire of 1901

1915 - John McCrae pens the famous poem "In Flanders Fields"

1921 - The country of Ireland splits into two; that same day boxer Sugar Ray Robinson (d. 1989) is born in Detroit, Michigan

1933 - Singer James Brown (d. 2006) is born in Barnwell, South Carolina

1937 - The novel "Gone With the Wind" wins a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

1942 - Japanese naval troops invade Tulagi Island during the first part of Operation Mo which leads into the Battle of the Coral Sea during World War II

1947 - Canadian magician Doug Henning (d. 2000) is born in Winnipeg, Manitoba

1952 - CBS televises the Kentucky Derby - the first time the event is ever seen on live television

1957 - The decision is made by Walter O'Malley to relocate the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles, California

1960 - The European Free Trade Association is established

1973 - Construction of the Sears Tower (now named the Willis Tower) is finished - with a height of 1,451 feet, it becomes the tallest building in the least for a little while anyway

1978 - The first digital commercial e-mail - otherwise known as spam - is sent out

1986 - A bombing at a Sri Lanka airport kills 21 and injures 41

1987 - NASCAR develops the restrictor plate following a crash by driver Bobby Allison at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama

1989 - Christine Jorgensen - one of the first people to ever undergo gender reassignment surgery from male to female - dies at the age of 62

1999 - An F5 tornado strikes portions of Oklahoma City, killing 45

2000 - The sport of geocaching is played for the very first time

2003 - The Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire collapses

As for celebrity birthdays, we have the following; Robert Osborne, Frankie Valli, Ron Popeil, Greg Gumbel, Christopher Cross, Bruce Hall, David Ball, Ben Elton, Marco Mendoza, Sterling Campbell, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Sebelia, Josey Scott, Willie Geist, Christina Hendricks, Dule Hill, Jeff Halpern, Paul Banks, J. Tillman, and Cheryl Burke.

And, in addition to all those people...although he's been deceased for over fifteen years now, I want to wish my grandfather a happy birthday as well.  He would have turned one hundred years old today had he lived...

So...what date are we going back in time to today?

Well, in keeping up with the "five year old" theme, we're going back five years in time to May 3, 2011.  But don't think I'll be doing this for all five Tuesdays in May.  This just happened to be a fluke.

You know, I've never really had any experience with being a child actor.  The only time I've ever appeared on television was when a Canadian hypnotist came and hypnotized me on stage at my high school for a one-off special.  And I was eighteen at the time.

But I'm sure you've seen child actors who have done one of three things.  They've either transitioned well from child star to adult actor (think Fred Savage or Candace Cameron Bure).  They've lost their way, but found it again (as Jodie Sweetin and Drew Barrymore have proven).  Or sometimes they crash and burn and they can't find their way back again (pretty much the entire cast of "Diff'rent Strokes").

As for how I would classify this former child actor?  Well, I'd probably put him in the first category.  Certainly his childhood had a rough start, but he persevered, and managed to have a career that spanned no less than six decades. 

Sadly, May 3, 2011 would be the last day of Jackie Cooper's life.  The actor passed away at the age of 88 following a short illness.  But the legacy of work that he left behind would keep generations of fans entertained long after his passing.

After all, he did start his illustrious career at the tender age of seven!  Or at the very least, that was when he appeared in his first film - "Fox Movietone Follies of 1929".  It may have been an uncredited role, but it would be merely a taste of what was to come for the Los Angeles native, born in September 1922.

Reportedly, Cooper had been acting long before his appearance in his first film.  His grandmother used to bring him along to her own auditions in hopes that by having a baby around, it would convince talent scouts and producers to give her more work.  And while this seemed to work out, it often meant that Cooper was cast as well.

Of course, it made sense for Cooper to have a strong sense of belonging within his family.  When Cooper was just two, Cooper's father abandoned the family and never came back.  Now, you would have thought that a traumatic childhood memory such as having a parent abandon you would cause trauma for the young actor.  And I imagine that there were times in which he did have a hard time with it.

But you would have never known it from seeing him on screen.  After making a couple of uncredited film appearances in 1929, he was recommended by director David Butler to join the "Our Gang" comedy series of short films - which Cooper succeeded in joining.  For three years he transitioned from background player to lead actor within the series, and it was hard to resist not smiling at the crazy antics that Cooper and his character got into in the films - even developing a crush on a teacher!  Oh, how scandalous!

Perhaps his greatest achievement came in 1931, when Cooper was cast in the film "Skippy" - directed by his uncle, Norman Taurog.  Cooper's performance in the film was critically praised, and he did such a great job that he became the youngest actor to be nominated for an Academy Award - being just nine years old!

(It would be a record that Cooper would hold for nearly fifty years before 8-year-old actor Justin Henry was nominated in 1979 for "Kramer vs. Kramer".)

Unfortunately, Cooper did not win the award - he lost to Lionel Barrymore.  But that certainly didn't stop him from acting, though his career did slow down a bit as he matured.  During which time he left the film industry to serve in the United States Navy during World War II, where he received the Legion of Merit. 

Following the conclusion of the war, Cooper switched his focus from film to television and appeared in such series as " The People's Court with Patricia Breslin" and "Hennessey".  And for five years in the 1960s, Cooper became the vice president of program development at the Columbia Pictures Screen Gems TV division.

(It is also rumoured that Cooper was the one who decided to cast Sally Field as Gidget, but I cannot confirm nor deny this as fact.  Does anyone out there know if this is true?  If so, it would be an awesome story to tell!)

In his last few years, Cooper made several appearances in the 1970s-era Superman series, playing Daily Planet editor Perry White alongside Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder.  And he acted all the way through 1987, where his last role was playing Ace Morgan in the film "Surrender".

He spent the last few years of his life quietly, and died peacefully in the company of his loved ones.  Now, I would say that this would be the most ideal way to go.

And that was the story of Jackie Cooper - a child actor who managed to stay on the straight and narrow for most of his life.

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