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When Jackie Coogan Had His Hair Cut

Masculinity, Maturity, and the Movies in the 1920s

Peter W. Lee

Keywords: boyhood; child actor; fan culture; Hollywood; maturation; motion pictures

This article uses details of the personal and professional life of American screen actor Jackie Coogan to examine the social transition from boyhood into manhood during the 1920s. As Hollywood’s first child superstar, Coogan was given a haircut to make visual his maturation from his famed persona as an orphaned waif into a leading man. The haircut was also linked to larger concerns about the so-called flaming youth of the Lost Generation; what was known as Americanism; and identity construction for both child and parental roles. Unfortunately for Coogan, fans refused to accept his makeover; his screen persona in public memory contributed to the decline of his career while concurrently protecting the Kid from a vilified mother.

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