PLEASE DON'T SHOOT MY DOG: The Autobiography of Jackie Cooper by Jackie with Dick Kleiner Cooper

PLEASE DON'T SHOOT MY DOG: The Autobiography of Jackie Cooper

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

One of the most unlikable showbiz memoirs in recent memory--as former child-star Cooper airs all his grudges, notes every snub and oversight, bad-mouths his colleagues, and defends himself (even when supposedly admitting faults and problems) with self-pity and petulance. True, at the start little Jackie certainly had a lot to become bitter about: fatherless (""America's Boy was the illegitimate son of a Jewish father and an Italian mother""), with an ailing mother and a monstrous grandmother, he grew up friendless, ""empty,"" and pressured, thanks also to an uncle-director who used psycho-manipulation (threatening to shoot Jackie's dog) to force him to emote on screen; then came a vile stepfather, career problems (""a has-been at fourteen""), and his mother's agonizing death. The only pluses were his early-acquired independence, acting skills, and sex life--including educational trysts, at 17, with Joan Crawford (""a wild woman. . . crazy""). So Jackie preferred to concentrate on music (playing drums), and then ""the war made a man of me"" (touring with a USO band): after the service, he shed his first wife, got fed up with the dregs of Hollywood work, and tried the theater--touring in Mr. Roberts, marrying sophisticated Hildy Parks (briefly), romancing Janis Paige (""neurotic""), marrying sane Barbara, and getting into early TV. Wanting to direct and act in movies, he nevertheless accepted his ""fate"": the TV series business--first as star (The People Choice), then as director, producer, and executive. Some of the TV-biz material here is intriguing (e.g., Cooper's version of the doomed pilot immortalized in Miller and Rhodes' Only You, Dick Daring]. And Skippy/Treasure Island fans will certainly be drawn, if turned off, by the early chapters on little Jackie's film work (Wallace Beery ""never even bought me an ice cream cone""). But, throughout, Cooper's unpleasant petty grumbles and swipes--at, among others, Bing Crosby, Dennis Day, Lauren Bacall, Alan Alda, Shirley Temple, evil agents, executives, etc.--leave a distasteful impression. And chunks of quotation from Jackie's friends (including his internist-cum-psychiatrist, who plugs his latest book!) don't help--especially when the whole family hashes over Jackie's recent temporary separation from wife Barbara. Unappealing and humorless, then, but nostalgia buffs are going to want to read at least the early, awful, child-star chapters.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow