When I was touring Old Highway 80 through the boondocks in East San Diego County, I came across the Coogan Ranch, or what remains of it. Here’s the gate to the ranch:
I stopped to read the paragraph and found that it was the ranch of movie star Jackie Coogan back in the early 1930s. Although I recognized the name, I couldn’t place him so I figured he was just slightly before my time. Nonetheless, I took two more pictures showing the old utility poles to the house and a lone foundation wall of the house:
My research for this blog post found that Jackie Coogan’s movie career started well before my time, in 1921 with Charlie Chaplain in the movie “The Kid.”
Picture from Wikipedia
According to resources, the Coogan Ranch was mapped as early as 1931, which would make Jackie a mere 17 years old, so I’m not sure that he owned the ranch himself. The same source, however, as well as others, say that Jackie Coogan did, in fact, own it. Sources say that he earned an estimated $3-$4 million as a child star, so it is possible that he bought it when he was 17, which I believe is the earliest that one can buy real estate legally.
In May 1935, at the age of 20, Jackie was the only survivor of a car crash in eastern San Diego County that killed his father; his best friend, 19-year-old actor Junior Durkin; their ranch foreman Charles Jones; and actor and writer Robert J. Horner. They were returning from a day of dove hunting in Mexico. Jackie’s father was driving when their car was forced off the mountain highway near Pine Valley by an oncoming vehicle, rolling down an embankment.
In October 1935, when Jackie turned 21, he found that almost his entire earnings had been spent by his mother and stepfather, Arthur Bernstein, on fur coats, diamonds and other jewelry, and expensive cars. Coogan’s mother and stepfather claimed that Jackie had enjoyed himself and simply thought he was playing before the camera. His mother insisted, “No promises were ever made to give Jackie anything”, and claimed he “was a bad boy.” Coogan sued them in 1938, but after his legal expenses, he received just $126,000 of the $250,000 which remained of his earnings.
The legal battle focused attention on child actors and resulted in the 1939 enactment of the California Child Actor’s Bill, often referred to as the “Coogan Law” or the “Coogan Act.” It required that a child actor’s employer set aside 15% of the earnings in a trust (called a Coogan Account), and specified the actor’s schooling, work hours, and time-off.
Remember earlier I said that his movie career started well before my time? Well, it also went well into my time. Some might remember Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester in 1964-66 television series, “The Addams Family.”
Picture from Wikipedia
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Interesting story. M 🙂
Fascinating! Thanks for posting! I never knew Jackie Coogan was Uncle Fester.
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The Coogan ranch was purchased and owned by Coogan’s production company and managed by JC and Genevieve Fuquay, my grandfather’s sister. My father worked on the ranch as a teenager. Respectfully yours, David S. Davies
Thank you for your historical contribution, David!