Cooper began his career as a player in the Our Gang series of shorts. He received his first Oscar nod at the age of nine for his work in the movie Skippy.
The film launched Cooper to stardom, and he went on to star opposite Wallace Beery in three films: The Champ (1931), playing the son of Beery’s fallen boxer; The Bowery (1933), as Beery’s foe; and Treasure Island (1934), in which he played Jim Hawkins to Beery’s Long John Silver.
Cooper, whose feisty manner won him underdog appreciation, also co-starred in such 1930s films as When a Feller Needs a Friend, Peck’s Bad Boy, The Devil Is a Sissy, Boy of the Streets, Gangster’s Boy and Streets of New York, as well as the serial Scouts to the Rescue.
Cooper served in the Navy in World War II and then returned to Hollywood. He starred in a variety of films and transitioned into the business side of things as well as directing several television series, among them MASH.
Cooper was in front of the cameras again in the 70s as Perry White in the Superman. Cooper would reprise that role for the first three sequels in the franchise.
“He was an icon, the last of his kind,” said his son, John Cooper III, who confirmed the actor’s death at the Berkeley East Convalescent Hospital in Santa Monica.
Cooper officially retired in 1989, and his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame can be found at 1501 Vine St.
“He retired, and I was like, ‘Dad, you’re only 67,’ ” recounts Cooper III. “He looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, but I worked for 64 years.’ ”
Mr. Cooper was married to June Horne, Hildy Parks and Barbara Kraus. In addition to Cooper III, he had another son, Russell, and two daughters, Julie and Christine. He is survived by his sons.