The story is almost a cliche: Child actor works hard, only to have parents spend or gamble it all away, leaving the child destitute. While it's a story that could come from the pen of any Hollywood hack, sadly for Jackie Coogan, it was all too real.
An actor from almost the crib, Coogan was active in both films and vaudeville. It was while on stage that he delighted Charlie Chaplin, who cast the youngster as his sidekick in The Kid.
Coogan went on to earn millions, only to have his parents spend away every penny. He later sued them in 1935, ending up with only a fraction of the money he had made over his career.
If anything good came out of Coogan's cautionary tale, however, it was the passage of the California Child Actor's Bill, also referred to as the Coogan Bill or the Coogan Act, which states that employers must put 15 percent of a child actor's earnings into a trust.
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