September 16th, 2009 at 2:43 am

Goodbye, Billy

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Frank Coghlan, Jr. passed away last week, on Sept. 7. He was 93.

An actor whose career ran from the silents into the 1970s, “Junior” Coghlan played Billy Batson, the young alter ego of the Big Red Cheese in the 1941 serial Adventures of Captain Marvel.


Coghlan was a personable eternal juvenile with a sunny smile and a voice that never seemed to quite make its way out of puberty. He worked with stars ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Steve McQueen and served his country as a career Naval officer. He was in some extremely good movies and more than a few lousy ones, made TV appearances following his retirement from the service – including a guest shot on the 1974 Shazam series – and recounted his 50-plus years in show business in a 1992 autobiography, They Still Call Me Junior.


If he never became a household name, he was nonetheless a solid working actor with a colorful career. But it was his performance as Billy Batson that made him a popular figure at nostalgia conventions long after he’d stopped acting, and for which he’s still remembered today. For Coghlan, “Shazam” was the magic word, indeed.


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