Frank Coghlan, Jr, the young man who played Billy Batson in the "Adventures of Captain Marvel" serial passed away peacefully in his sleep on Monday, September 7, at age 93.
Time is taking away all the people who were there at the beginning of the Captain Marvel saga, and this is the latest.
Frank played boys and teenagers in Hollywood from 1920 (Daredevil Jack) to 1946 (One More Tomorrow). He had the size, look, and voice that made it easy to believe that he was younger than his years, but as Billy Batson, he could handle himself in good boy-hero fashion.
He was in hundreds of movies and serials, but his work as Billy Batson is what he remains known by. The Los Angels Times obit identifies him as such and even includes a poster for the serial Read it here. He even had a small part written for him in the Shazam! TV series when an episode was shot in the San Diego Zoo, which he was working for at the time.
His autobiography was published in 1993 under the title "They 'Still Call Me Junior." I have yet to read it. There is a lovely little interview with him in PC Hamerlinck's Fawcett Companion.
Here is what I wrote about him in my chapter about the serial:
"Frank Coghlan Jr. Was called by Cecil B. De Mille “The Perfect Homeless Waif “ (The Fawcett Companion P.C. Hammerlinck, pg 123). He spent the first two and a half decades of his Hollywood career playing young boys. For the first half of this period he was credited as "Junior Coghlan," and for the second half of it he was frequently in uncredited roles. Some of these roles were in very popular movies, like Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), Knute Rockne All American (1940), The Courtship of Andy Hardy (1942), and This Is the Army (1943). His film career slowed after 1946, and he was working as the Director of Public Relations for the Los Angeles Zoo when the producers of the Shazam! TV series on CBS were looking to film an episode there. When he told them he had played Billy Batson in the serial, they wrote a part in the TV show for him."
You can see more about Motion picture serials and The Adventures of Captain Marvel in my Captain MArvel Culture preview pages.
By all accounts he was a very nice guy, and he will be missed.
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