Cooper died Tuesday at a Beverly Hills, Calif., hospital after a sudden illness, TMZ reports.
A Los Angeles native, Cooper started acting at age 3 and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance in Skippy at the tender age of 9. He is the youngest actor to be nominated for a leading role in Academy Awards history.
After enjoying child stardom, Cooper struggled to find more adult roles, so he left Hollywood to serve in World War II. When he returned, he appeared on TV series such as The People's Choice and Hennesey. In 1964, he moved behind the camera and became the vice president of program development at Columbia Pictures' TV division. Five years later, Cooper transitioned towards directing TV. He earned two Emmy awards for his directing work on M*A*S*H and The White Shadow.
Cooper found renewed fame playing Daily Planet editor Perry White in the original Superman film series starring Christopher Reeve, from 1978-1987. He later retired in 1989.
Cooper is survived by his sons, John "Jack" Cooper III and Russell Cooper.