When child actor Jackie Coogan turned 18 he found out all his money ($68 million) had been spent by his mother who argued “No promises were ever made to give Jackie anything. Every dollar a kid earns before he is 21 belongs to his parents.” Coogan’s Bill was passed to protect child actors
John Leslie Coogan (October 26, 1914 – March 1, 1984), known professionally as Jackie Coogan, was an American actor who began his movie career as a child actor in silent films. Many years later, he became known as Uncle Fester on 1960s sitcom The Addams Family. In the interim, he sued his mother and stepfather over his squandered film earnings and provoked California to enact the first known legal protection for the earnings of child performers, widely known as the Coogan Act.
Early life and early career
Coogan was born in 1914 in Los Angeles, California, to John Henry Coogan, Jr., and Lillian Rita (Dolliver) Coogan, as John Leslie Coogan.  He began performing as an infant in both vaudeville and film, with an uncredited role in the 1917 film Skinner’s Baby. Charlie Chaplin discovered him in the Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles, a vaudeville house, doing the shimmy, a popular dance at the time, on the stage. Coogan’s father was also an actor. Jackie Coogan was a natural mimic and delighted Chaplin with his abilities. Chaplin subsequently cast him in a small role in A Day’s Pleasure (1919). He was Chaplin’s irascible sidekick in The Kid (1921) and played the title role in Oliver Twist, directed by Frank Lloyd, the following year. One of the first stars to be heavily merchandised; peanut butter, stationery, whistles, dolls, records, and figurines were among the Coogan-themed merchandise offered.
Coogan was tutored until the age of ten, when he entered Urban Military Academy and other prep schools. He attended several colleges, as well as the University of Southern California. In 1932, he dropped out of Santa Clara University because of poor grades.In November 1933, Brooke Hart, a close friend of Coogan’s from Santa Clara University, was kidnapped from his family-owned department store in San Jose and brought to the San Francisco area San Mateo – Hayward Bridge. After several demands for a $40,000 ransom, police arrested Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes in San Jose. Thurmond admitted that Hart had been murdered on the night he was kidnapped. Both men were then transferred to a prison in San Jose, California. A mob later broke into the building; Thurmond and Holmes were then hanged in an adjacent park. Coogan was reported to be among the mob that prepared and held the lynching rope.On May 4, 1935, at age 20, Coogan was the sole survivor of a car crash in San Diego County that took the life of his father and his best friend Junior Durkin, a child actor who appeared as Huckleberry Finn in two early 1930s films.
As a child star, Coogan earned an estimated $3 to $4 million ($48 million to $65 million adjusted for 2012 dollars), but the money was spent by his mother and stepfather, Arthur Bernstein, on extravagances such as fur coats, diamonds, and expensive cars. Coogan’s mother and stepfather claimed Jackie was having fun and thought he was playing. She stated, “No promises were ever made to give Jackie anything. Every dollar a kid earns before he is 21 belongs to his parents. Jackie will not get a cent of his earnings”, and claimed that “Jackie was a bad boy.” Coogan sued them in 1938, but, after legal expenses, only received $126,000 (US$ 2,055,000 in 2013) of the approximately $250,000 remaining of his earnings. When Coogan fell on hard times and asked Charlie Chaplin for assistance, Chaplin gave him $1000 without hesitation.The legal battle brought attention to child actors and resulted in the enactment of the California Child Actor’s Bill, often called the Coogan Law or the Coogan Act. This requires that a child actor’s employer set aside 15% of the earnings in a trust (often called a Coogan Account), and codifies issues such as schooling, work hours and time-off
Coogan took up the cause of the Armenians, Greeks, and others made destitute during the horrors of the First World War, working with Near East Relief. He toured across the United States and Europe in 1924 on a “Children’s Crusade” as part of a fundraising drive, which ended up providing more than $1,000,000 in clothing, food, and other contributions (worth more than $13 million adjusted for 2012 dollars). Coogan was honored by officials in the US, Greece, and Rome, where he met with Pope Pius XI