Jackie Cooper, the former child actor who found renewed fame in the 1970s and ’80s playing Daily Planet editor Perry White in four Superman films, has passed away following a “sudden bout of illness,” TMZ reports. He was 88.
Born in Los Angeles on Sept. 15, 1922, Cooper began acting as a toddler, appearing as an extra with his grandmother before moving on to small roles and then, in 1929, a supporting role in the Our Gang comedy short Boxing Gloves. By the early 1930s, Cooper was one of the Gang’s major characters, best known for his crush on the teacher Miss Crabtree.
He was nominated for an Academy Award at age 9 for the comic-strip adaptation Skippy, and holds the record for the youngest Oscar nominee in a leading role.
Cooper appeared in numerous films as a child and young adult in the 1930s and 1940s, before starring in 1950s television sitcoms The People’s Choice and Hennesey. In the ’60s, he began a new career as vice president of program development for Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems television arm, responsible for packaging series to sell to networks.
Cooper left Columbia in 1969 and began directing TV series — notably episodes of M*A*S*H, The Rockford Files and Black Sheep Squadron — and taking occasional acting parts. It was during this period, of course, that he was cast in Richard Donner’s Superman as prickly Daily Planet boss Perry White, a role he would reprise in the three sequels.