Having been in movies for just about all of his life, from early roles such as the title character in SKIPPY (MGM, 1931), Wallace Beery's son in THE CHAMP (MGM, 1931) and one major cog in the ever changing repertory company's wheel in THE OUR GANG SERIES to much more mature roles such as that of the hard-boiled Daily Planet Editor, Perry White in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (Alexander Salkind/Warner Brothers, 1978), SUPERMAN II (Salkind/Warner Bros., 1980), SUPERMAN III (Cantharas Prod./Dovemead/Warners,1983) and SUPERMAN IV:THE QUEST FOR PEACE (Cannon Films/Golan-Globus Prod./Warner Bros.,1987);
Mr. Jackie Cooper has done all types of film acting. From the very heights at MGM, to the less than elite days in such productions as the Serial SCOUTS TO THE RESCUE (Universal,1939) or his early 1950's portrayal of Socrates 'Soc' Miller on his Sitcom "THE PEOPLES CHOICE"(Norden Productions/NBC, 1955-58), Jackie did his job well in acting in all, with no apologies.
THE work that we have the fondest memories of Mr. Cooper is his latter-day television Dramatic Series "HENNESSEY" (1959-62). It was low-key, every day life and hence, very realistic. Once again, it is listed as a Sitcom; but is much more of a dramatic outing.* IT is set in the then contemporary U.S. Navy and concerns itself with the life of Ship's Doctor, Lt. Chic Hennesey (Jackie Cooper). Others characters in the cast were: Martha Hale (Abby Dalton Woo, woo, woo, woo!), Captain Walter Shafer (Roscoe Karns in perhaps his most subdued role, ever!), Chief Petty Officer Max Bronsky (Pro Wrestler Henry Kulky), Harvey Spencer Blair III (James Komack) and a host of others.
In addition, "HENNESEY" was the proud exponent of a slough of top flight actors and soon to be Stars in guest spots. We were treated to the likes of folks like: Charles Bronson, Ross Ford, Frank Gorshin (Impressionist Extraordinaire & future Riddler on BATMAN), Arte Johnson (LAUGH-IN'S Funnyman), Marty Ingels (not Frederick Engels, Schultz!), Alan Reed, Jr. (Son of Fred Flintstone's voice. "Yabba-dabba-do!"), Jolene Brand (the Fox from ZORRO and Ernie Kovacs' TAKE A GOOD LOOK. Woo,woo,woo,woo!), Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara on BATMAN), William Schallert (Patty's Father & Cathy's Uncle on PATTY DUKE SHOW!), old time Burlesque Comedian Milton Frome (we saw him with Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney in the Broadway Musical Revue SUGAR BABIES) and a cast of thousands.
AS we said before, "HENNESSEY" is difficult to classify. It's listed as a Sitcom, but never "went for the laughs." It was a sort of Service "Comedy", but it had no hard Military or Naval scenes. It was definitely a Drama, with something to say; yet was never heavy-handed or preachy a la Norman Lear.
ONE particular episode sticks out in our mind after all these nearly 50 years. Never having seen this in re-runs, it surely made an impression on me little pre-adolescent pea brain. In it a group of veteran Seamen was mercilessly making fun of a speech impediment of a new Sailor. The young guy stuttered badly.
TO complicate matters, he was found to be smitten by Miss Hale (Abby Dalton). Hell, who wouldn't? There were many solutions tried; all being strictly by the book, but to no avail.
ENTER the veteran intermediate authority in the person of Chief Petty Officer Max Bronsky (Henry Kulky); who "requested" that the instigating bullies meet him in the gymnasium in order to assist in "demonstrating" some judo maneuvers. Once there, Max meted out some nasty throws to the smart asses and when asked why, he asked them why the psychological punishment to the new Kid Sailor. Max had drawn a distinct analogy between their hassling of the stuttering raw recruit and his physically manhandling them; while he was an obvious Master in the Martial Arts.
The show finished up with the Kid doing a sort of Romantic Reading to the Abby Dalton Character. It was very moving and subtly reminded all of us to "Be Kind to One Another!"**
NOTE: * Once again, we'll call this a "Comedy" in the Classic and Shakespearian sense of any story that turns out alright in THE END!
NOTE: ** This was Garry Moore's parting wish on his weekly Variety Show. It's sure some sentiment we sure could use now; as well as some decent Comedy & Musical Variety Shows! OH LORD! PLEASE, SEND US SOME GOOD OLD WEEKLY SHOWS! Whatever happened to the likes of Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Sid Caesar, Jackie Gleason, Danny Kaye or even Tom & Dick Smothers? POODLE SCHNITZ!!