Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jackie Coogan and the missing $4 Million Dollars

Shortly before he died Jackie Coogan was interviewed by a British Magazine. What struck me was the last words Jackie said. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I have a beautiful wife, wonderful kids and grandkids and the best friends, who could ask for anything more."
A lot of people would be amazed by that. Jackie was the world's first child star, appearing in "The Kid" with Charlie Chaplin in 1918. During the 20's Jackie's movies were actually making more money than Rudolf Valentino's, Douglas Fairbanks' and Mary Pickford's were.
I've been looking for a picture of Arthur Bernstein, Jackie Coogan's step-father. I finally found one in a story from Life Magazine 1938. I had seen a picture of Jackie with his Mom and Dad before, but I wanted to see a picture of the guy who was driving a new Rolls Royce while his stepson drove a used Ford, which he had purchased with his stepson's money, of course. Not a memorable face, but unforgettable for what he did. When Jackie's Dad, Jack, was killed in a traffic accident(which also killed Jackie's best friend, Trent "Junior" Durkin) near Pine Valley, California, Jackie was worth $4 Million Dollars. When Jackie's Mom, married his agent, Arthur Bernstein, 18 months later, he was still worth $4 Million Dollars. After giving excuse after excuse, Jackie won a subsequent lawsuit(1936) in which the settlement was half of the money that was left, around $136,000.00. About half of that went to pay off his debts.
How much money was $4 million 1935 dollars in today's money?
$100,000,000.00, that's $100 Million Dollars, which his mom and step-father blew through in 3 years through extravagant spending, traveling, partying, bad investments and, purportedly, drugs and booze. Amazing!
Worse than anything they did was what they said. You have to read it for yourself. They said that Jackie may have earned it, but the money belonged to them. Clarence Darrow once said that he could tell the intelligence of his clients by the amount they said. The less they said, he assumed, the more intelligent they were.
Jackie said that he was the luckiest guy in the world. I don't know about that, but the one thing of which I have no doubt, is that his wife, kids, grandkids and friends were. And maybe us too, because we had Jackie in our lives.

No comments: