Gary Cooper

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Gary Cooper (disambiguation).
Gary Cooper
Gary cooper promo image.jpg
Gary Cooper in 1941
Born Frank James Cooper
(1901-05-07)May 7, 1901
Helena, Montana, U.S.
Died May 13, 1961(1961-05-13) (aged 60)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Prostate cancer
Resting place
Sacred Heart Cemetery, Southampton, New York
Alma mater Grinnell College
Occupation Actor
Years active 1925–1960
Political party
Religion Roman Catholic (former Protestant)
Spouse(s) Veronica Cooper (m. 1933–61)
Children Maria (b. 1937)

Frank James Cooper (May 7, 1901 – May 13, 1961), better known by his professional name Gary Cooper, was an American film actor. Cooper is well remembered for his stoic, understated acting style and appearances in western, crime, comedy, and drama films which earned him numerous awards and high recognition in Hollywood and the rest of the world.

Cooper's career spanned from 1925 until shortly before his death in 1961 and consisted of more than one hundred films. He received five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, winning twice for Sergeant York and High Noon. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and received an Honorary Award by the Academy after his death.

Decades later, the American Film Institute named Cooper among the list of fifty greatest screen legends, ranking eleventh among the males. In 2003, his performances as Will Kane in High Noon, Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees, and Alvin York in Sergeant York, made the one-hundred greatest screen characters list, all of them as heroes.

Early life[edit]

Frank James Cooper was born on May 7, 1901 in Helena, Montana as one of two sons of an English immigrant couple, Alice (née Brazier, 1873–1967) and Charles Cooper (1865–1946).[1][2] His father was a farmer who later became an American lawyer and judge; his mother was a housewife and devoted mother.[3] She wanted her two sons to receive a better education than was available in Montana and arranged for the boys to attend Dunstable Grammar School in Bedfordshire, England, between 1910 and 1913.[4][1][5] Following the outbreak of World War I, Cooper's mother arranged for her sons to come back to the United States and enrolled them at Gallatin Valley High School in Bozeman, Montana.[2][6]

At the age of thirteen, Cooper injured his hip in a car accident and returned to his parents' ranch near Helena to recuperate by horseback riding at the recommendation of his doctor.[7] Cooper then studied at Iowa's Grinnell College until the spring of 1924, but did not graduate. During his time at Grinnell, he had tried out, unsuccessfully, for the college's drama club.[7] He returned to Helena, managing the ranch and contributing cartoons to the local newspaper.[1] In late 1924, Cooper's father left the Montana Supreme Court bench and moved with his wife to Los Angeles.[7] Their son, unable to make a living as an editorial cartoonist in Helena, joined them, moving there that same year, reasoning that he, "would rather starve where it was warm, than to starve and freeze too".[8]


Early silent films[edit]

Cooper in 1926

Unsuccessful as an editorial cartoonist, salesman of electric signs and theatrical curtains, promoter for a local photographer, and as an applicant for newspaper work in Los Angeles, Cooper found work as an actor in 1925.[9][1] Beginning as an extra in the film industry, usually as a cowboy, he is known to have had an uncredited role in the Tom Mix's 1925 Dick Turpin.[10] The following year, he received a screen credit in the two-reeler Lightnin' Wins with actress Eileen Sedgwick as his leading lady.[11] After the release of this short film, Cooper accepted a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures.[12] And decided to adopt the name "Gary Cooper" as his professional name, following the advice of casting director Nan Collins, who felt it evoked the "rough, tough" nature of her native Gary, Indiana.[13]

With help from established silent film star Clara Bow, Cooper broke through in a supporting role in the 1927 silent film Wings, the very first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.[14] Wings was followed up by Nevada in 1927, co-starring Thelma Todd and William Powell.[15]

Hollywood stardom[edit]

Cooper became a major star with the release of his first sound picture The Virginian in 1929, which features Walter Huston as the villainous Trampas.[1][2] The following year he appeared in The Spoilers with Betty Compson.[15][2] He followed this action film with Morocco (1930), starring Marlene Dietrich, in which he played a Foreign Legionnaire.[15] In 1932, Cooper appeared in Devil and the Deep along side Cary Grant, Tallulah Bankhead, and Charles Laughton.[7] The next year, Cooper was the second lead in the sophisticated Ernst Lubitsch comedy production of Noël Coward's Design for Living.[2] Appearances in A Farewell to Arms in 1932 and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town in 1936, furthered Cooper's box-office appeal.[1] He was producer David O. Selznick's first choice for the role of Rhett Butler in his 1939 epic film Gone with the Wind.[16] When Cooper turned down the role, he was passionately against it, declaring, "Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history. I'm glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling flat on his nose, not me."[17] Instead, he spent 1939 playing Michael Geste in the first remake of the classic Beau Geste.[18]

Cooper with Jean Arthur in 1936

Alfred Hitchcock wanted him to star in Foreign Correspondent in 1940 and Saboteur in 1942, which he both refused citing a lack of interest in thrillers.[19] Cooper later acknowledged he had made a mistake in turning down the director.[20] Instead of Cooper, Hitchcock cast Joel McCrea in Foreign Correspondent.[21] In 1940, Cooper cemented his cowboy credentials in The Westerner.[7] He won his first Academy Award for Best Actor in 1942 for his performance as the title character in Sergeant York (1941).[2] It has often been rumored that Alvin York refused to authorize a movie about his life unless Cooper portrayed him. Evidence has since surfaced that the film's producer, Jesse L. Lasky, sent a telegram pleading with Cooper to take the part and signed York's name to it.[2] In 1943, Cooper worked with Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls directed by Sam Wood, which earned him his third Academy Award nomination.[1] The film was based on a novel by Cooper's close friend Ernest Hemingway. Cooper and Hemingway developed a strong friendship and spent many vacations in Sun Valley, Idaho together.[22]

In 1945, Cooper appeared in Along Came Jones, a Western comedy lampooning his hesitant speech and mannerisms and his own image in general. The film co-starred Loretta Young.[23] It was the only film for which Cooper received a credit as producer during his long career.[24][23] Having worked previously at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif for the award-winning The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), and other productions, Cooper chose the heavily filmed movie ranch as the site for the bulk of the location work for Along Came Jones and had a Western town, known as "Iverson Village" or "El Paso Street", built at the site for the film.[25][26]

Later films[edit]

Cooper won his second Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Marshal Will Kane in High Noon (1952), considered one of his finest roles.[1] While ill with an ulcer and busy filming Blowing Wild in 1953 in Mexico, he wasn't present to receive his Academy Award in February; he asked John Wayne to accept it on his behalf.[27] The following year, Cooper helped to present Academy Awards by reading the list of nominees for the Best Actress award, which went to Audrey Hepburn.[28]

Cooper continued to play the lead in films almost to the end of his life.[1] His later box office hits included the stark Western adventure Garden of Evil (1954) with Susan Hayward and Richard Widmark,[2] the influential Western Vera Cruz (1954) in which he guns down villain Burt Lancaster in a showdown,[29] William Wyler's Friendly Persuasion (1956),[30] in which he portrays a Quaker farmer during the American Civil War, Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon (1957) with Audrey Hepburn,[31] and Anthony Mann's Man of the West (1958), a hard-edged action Western with Lee J. Cobb.[32] Cooper's final motion picture was the British film, The Naked Edge (1961), made in London in the autumn of 1960.[33]


Cooper's grave in Sacred Hearts Cemetery in Southampton, New York

On April 14, 1960, Cooper underwent surgery for prostate cancer after it had metastasized to his colon.[34] He fell ill again on May 13 and underwent further surgery in early June.[34] By the end of the year the cancer had spread to his lungs and bones.[35] His wife, Veronica Cooper, was told the cancer was terminal on December 27. Cooper, however, was not informed of this until February 1961.[36]

Cooper was too ill to attend the 33rd Academy Awards in April 1961, so his close friend, James Stewart, accepted the honorary Oscar on his behalf.[35] Stewart's emotional speech hinted that something was seriously wrong. One month later on May 13, 1961, six days after his sixtieth birthday, Gary Cooper died.[37][1] In his last public statement, Cooper said, "I know that what is happening is God's will. I am not afraid of the future."[38]

Cooper was originally interred in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver City, California. In May 1974, his body was removed when his widow Veronica remarried and moved to New York. She had Cooper's body exhumed and reburied in Sacred Hearts Cemetery in Southampton, New York.[39]

Personal life[edit]


Cooper was born and raised as a Protestant. In his fifties, he was slowly drawn to Catholicism, and officially became a Catholic on April 9, 1959.[40] He met Pope Pius XII at Vatican City on June 26, 1953 while touring Europe to promote High Noon.[34]

Love life[edit]

Cooper had several high-profile relationships with actresses, including Clara Bow, Lupe Vélez, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Anita Ekberg, Tallulah Bankhead, and Patricia Neal.[41]

On December 15, 1933, Cooper married Veronica Balfe, a Catholic actress.[34] In 1937 the couple had a child they named Maria.[42] Some ten years after the marriage, Cooper began an affair with Patricia Neal after meeting her on the set of The Fountainhead.[43] The relationship eventually became an open secret in Hollywood, and Veronica confronted Cooper with the rumors which he admitted were true and also confessed that he was in love with Neal, and continued to see her.[44] In 1950 Neal discovered she was pregnant; Cooper arranged and paid for her to have an abortion to avoid the public scandal of having a child out of wedlock.[44][43] Cooper and his wife separated in May 1951, but he was hesitant to divorce her, fearing he would lose the respect of his daughter.[45] Neal finally ended the affair at Christmas 1951.[44][43]

Political views[edit]

Cooper was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party. He voted for Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and for Herbert Hoover in 1928 and 1932. He campaigned for Wendell Willkie in 1940.[46] In 1944 he attended a 93,000-large Republican rally in the Los Angeles Coliseum in support of the Dewey-Bricker ticket.[47][48] While filming Good Sam in October 1947, he testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities where he was asked if he had observed "communistic influence in Hollywood".[49] Cooper named no one in particular but said he had "turned down quite a few scripts because I thought they were tinged with communistic ideas".[49] He also testified that he had heard statements such as, "Don't you think the Constitution of the United States is about 150 years out of date" and, "Perhaps this would be a more efficient government without a Congress"—statements he characterized as "very un-American".[49]


Cooper's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

For his contribution to the film industry, Cooper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6243 Hollywood Blvd.[50] He also has a star on the sidewalk outside the Ellen Theater in Bozeman, Montana.[51]

Cooper was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in 1966.[52]

Cooper's popularity is directly responsible for the popularity of the given name Gary from the 1930s to the present day.[53]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Throughout his thirty-six year long acting career, Cooper received numerous awards and nominations, which can be seen below:[1][2]

Year Award Film Result
1937 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Nominated
1937 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Won
1941 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor Sergeant York Won
1942 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role Sergeant York Won
1943 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role The Pride of the Yankees Nominated
1944 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role For Whom the Bell Tolls Nominated
1952 Photoplay Award for Most Popular Male Star High Noon Won
1953 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role High Noon Won
1953 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actor High Noon Won
1957 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actor Friendly Persuasion Nominated
1959 Laurel Awards for Top Action Performance The Hanging Tree Won
1960 Laurel Awards for Top Action Performance They Came to Cordura Won


The following is a list of Cooper's feature film appearances excluding cameos.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Gary Cooper Biography". Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Erickson, Hal. "Gary Cooper: Full Biography". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ Arce 1979, pp. 17–18.
  4. ^ Benson 1986, pp. 191–195.
  5. ^ "Gary Cooper". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ Swindell 1980, p. 33.
  7. ^ a b c d e Aliperti, Cliff (August 26, 2012). "The Rise of Gary Cooper Covered by His Hometown Helena Newspaper". Immortal Ephemera. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  8. ^ Arce 1979, pp. 22–23.
  9. ^ Arce 1979, pp. 20–25.
  10. ^ McDonald 1987, p. 66.
  11. ^ Rainey 2008, p. 66.
  12. ^ Palmer 2004, p. 10.
  13. ^ Arce 1979, p. 25.
  14. ^ "The 1st Academy Awards (1929)". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c "Gary Cooper Biography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  16. ^ Selznick 2000, pp. 172–173.
  17. ^ Donnelley 2003, pp. 279–280.
  18. ^ Britton 2003, pp. 54-56.
  19. ^ Britton 2003, p. 53.
  20. ^ McGilligan 2003, p. 133.
  21. ^ Wilson 2013, p. 503.
  22. ^ Swindell 1980, p. 177.
  23. ^ a b "A Man Sure Likes Lipton's Brisk Flavor says Gary Cooper". Life Magazine: 48. November 12, 1945. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  24. ^ Meyer 1998, p. 194.
  25. ^ Reid 2004, p. 118-119.
  26. ^ Roberts 1997, p. 196.
  27. ^ Arce 1979, p. 252.
  28. ^ "Summer Under the Stars: Audrey Hepburn". Classic Hollywood. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  29. ^ Crowther, Bosley (December 27, 1954). "Vera Cruz (1954)". The New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  30. ^ Crowther, Bosley (November 2, 1956). "Friendly Persuasion (1956)". The New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  31. ^ Mackie, Drew (July 27, 2012). "Seven Reasons to Watch 'Love in the Afternoon'". KCET. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  32. ^ Malcolm, Dereck (March 23, 2000). "Anthony Mann: Man of the West". The Guardian. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  33. ^ Crowther, Bosley (July 1, 1961). "The Naked Edge (1961)". The New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  34. ^ a b c d Kendall, Mary Claire (May 13, 2013). "Gary Cooper's Quiet Journey of Faith". Forbes. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  35. ^ a b Petersen, Anne Helen (June 6, 2012). "Scandals of Classic Hollywood: That Divine Gary Cooper". The Hairpin. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  36. ^ Arce 1979, p. 274.
  37. ^ Arce 1979, p. 282.
  38. ^ Bacon, James (May 14, 1961). "Battling Until End, Gary Cooper Dies". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  39. ^ Janis 1999, p. 167.
  40. ^ Janis 1999, p. 160.
  41. ^ Swindell 1980, pp. 104–105.
  42. ^ Shearer 2006, p. 123.
  43. ^ a b c Harmetz, Aljean (August 9, 2010). "Patricia Neal, an Oscar Winner Who Endured Tragedy, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  44. ^ a b c Shearer 2006, pp. 88–89.
  45. ^ Shearer 2006, pp. 114-122.
  46. ^ Meyer 1998, p. 202.
  47. ^ Meyer 1998, p. 202.
  48. ^ Jordan 2011, pp. 231–232.
  49. ^ a b c "Gary Cooper: Excerpts of Testimony before HUAC". University of Virginia. October 23, 1947. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  50. ^ "Gary Cooper". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  51. ^ "Take a summer stroll in Downtown Bozeman". Montana Magazine. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  52. ^ "Great Western Performers". National Cowboy Museum. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  53. ^ Hanks & Hodges 2003, p. 106.


  • Arce, Hector (1979). Gary Cooper: An Intimate Biography. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-14130-6. 
  • Benson, Nigel (1986). Dunstable in Detail. Dunstable: The Book Castle. ISBN 978-0-950-97732-4. 
  • Britton, Wesley (2005). Beyond Bond: Spies in Fiction and Film. Westport: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-98556-1. 
  • Dickens, Homer (1970). The Films of Gary Cooper. New York: Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0-806-50010-2. 
  • Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries, 2nd Edition. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-844-49430-9. 
  • Hanks, Patrick; Hodges, Flavia (2003). A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-192-11651-2. 
  • Janis, Maria Cooper (1999). Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN 978-0-810-94130-4. 
  • Jordan, David M. (2011). FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-00970-8. 
  • Jordan, René (1974). Gary Cooper. Boynton Beach, Florida: Pyramid Books. ISBN 978-0-515-03416-5. 
  • McDonald, Archie P. (1987). Shooting Stars: Heroes and Heroines of Western Films. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-36685-6. 
  • McGilligan, Patrick (2003). Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. New York: ReganBooks. ISBN 978-0-060-39322-9. 
  • Meyer, Jeffrey (1998). Gary Cooper: American Hero. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 978-0-688-15494-3. 
  • Palmer, Ann (2004). Letters to the Dead: Things I Wish I'd Said. Frederick, Maryland: PublishAmerica. ISBN 978-1-413-73727-1. 
  • Rainey, Buck (1990). Those Fabulous Serial Heroines: Their Lives and Films. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-810-81911-5. 
  • Rogers, Ginger (1991). Ginger: My Story. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-061-56470-3. 
  • Roberts, Randy (1997). John Wayne: American. Lincoln, Nebraska: Bison Books. ISBN 978-0-803-28970-3. 
  • Reid, John (2004). Award-Winning Films of the 1930s. Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu Publishing. ISBN 978-1-411-61432-1. 
  • Selznick, David O. (2000). Memo from David O. Selznick. New York: Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-375-75531-6. 
  • Shearer, Stephen Michael (2006). Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-813-12391-2. 
  • Swindell, Larry (1980). The Last Hero: A Biography of Gary Cooper. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-14316-5. 
  • Wilson, Victoria (2013). A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907–1940. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-83168-8. 

External links[edit]