Gary Cooper in 1941
|Born||Frank James Cooper
May 7, 1901
Helena, Montana, U.S.
|Died||May 13, 1961
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Sacred Heart Cemetery, Southampton, New York|
|Alma mater||Grinnell College|
|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), usually known as 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.
Frank James Cooper was born on May 7, 1901 in Helena, Montana to English immigrants, Alice (née Brazier, 1873–1967) and Charles Henry Cooper (1865–1946). His father emigrated to Montana from Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire and became a prominent lawyer, rancher, and eventually a state supreme court judge. His mother emigrated from Gillingham, Kent, married Charles in Montana, and became a housewife and devoted mother. In 1906, Charles purchased the six-hundred acre Seven-Bar-Nine cattle ranch about fifty miles north of Helena near the town of Craig on the Missouri River, where Frank and his older brother Arthur spent their summers and learned to ride horses, hunt, and fish. Frank attended Central grade school in Helena.
In the late spring of 1910, Alice, wanting her sons to have an English education, accompanied them to England and enrolled them in Dunstable Grammar School in Bedfordshire, where they were educated from 1910 to 1913. At Dunstable, Cooper studied Latin and French, and took several courses in English history. While he managed to adapt to the discipline of an English public school and learned the requisite social graces, he never adjusted to the rigid class structure and formal Eton collars he was forced to wear. Following the outbreak of World War I, Cooper's mother arranged for her sons to return to the United States, where Cooper resumed his education at Johnson grammar school in Helena.
At the age of fifteen, Cooper injured his hip in a car accident and returned to the Seven-Bar-Nine ranch to recuperate by horseback riding at the recommendation of his doctor. The misguided therapy left him with his characteristic stiff, off-balanced walk and slightly angled riding style. After attending Helena High School for two years, he left school in 1918 and returned to the family ranch to help raise their five hundred head of cattle and work full-time as a cowboy. In 1919, his father arranged for his son to complete his high school education at Gallatin County High School in Bozeman, Montana. His English teacher, Ida W. Davis, played an important role in encouraging him to focus on academics, join the school's debating team, and become involved in dramatics. His parents would later credit her for helping their son complete high school, and Cooper would later confirm, "She was the woman partly responsible for me giving up cowboy-ing and going to college."
In the spring of 1920, while still attending high school, Cooper took three art courses at Montana Agricultural College. His interest in art was inspired years earlier by the western paintings of Charles Marion Russell and Frederic Remington. Cooper especially admired and studied Russell's Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross' Hole (1910), which still hangs in the state capitol building in Helena. In 1922, Cooper enrolled in Grinnell College in Iowa to continue his art education. Cooper did well academically in most of his courses, but was less successful in being accepted in the college's drama club. His drawings and watercolors, however, were exhibited throughout the dormitory, and he was named art editor for the college yearbook. During the summers of 1922 and 1923, Cooper worked at Yellowstone National Park as a tour guide driving the yellow jitney buses. Despite a promising first eighteen months at Grinnell, he left college suddenly in February 1924 and returned to Montana, where he managed the family ranch and contributed cartoons to a local newspaper.
In the fall of 1924, Cooper's father left the Montana Supreme Court bench and moved with his wife to Los Angeles to administer the estates of two relatives. At his father's request, Cooper joined his parents in California on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1924. In the coming weeks, after working a series of unpromising jobs, Cooper met some cowboys from Montana who were working as film extras and stuntmen in low-budget Western films for the small movie studios on Poverty Row on Gower Street. With the goal of saving enough money to pay for a professional art course, Cooper decided to try his hand working as a film extra for five dollars a day, and as a stuntman for twice that amount.
Early silent films
In early 1925, Cooper began his film career working as an extra and stuntman in silent films such as The Thundering Herd and Wild Horse Mesa with Jack Holt, Riders of the Purple Sage and The Lucky Horseshoe with Tom Mix, and The Trail Rider with Buck Jones. While his skills as a horseman led to steady work in Westerns, Cooper found the stunt work "tough and cruel", sometimes resulting in injury to the horses and riders. Hoping to move beyond the risky stunt work and obtain more prominent acting roles, Cooper paid for a screen test and hired casting director Nan Collins to work as his agent. Knowing that other actors were using the name "Frank Cooper", Collins changed her client's first name to "Gary" after her hometown of Gary, Indiana. Cooper liked the name immediately.
Cooper worked in non-Western films, appearing, for example, as a masked Cossack in The Eagle with Rudolph Valentino, as a Roman guard in Ben-Hur with Ramón Novarro, and as a flood survivor in The Johnstown Flood with George O'Brien. Gradually he began to land credited roles that offered him more screen time, such as Tricks, in which he played the film's antagonist, and the short film Lightnin' Wins with Eileen Sedgwick. As a featured player, he began to attract the attention of major film studios. On June 1, 1926, Cooper signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn Productions for fifty dollars per week.
Cooper's first important film role was in The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) with Ronald Colman and Vilma Bánky. Cooper played the role of engineer cowboy Abe Lee, who dies a hero's death after an exhaustive ride to warn a community of an impending dam disaster. Cooper's experience living among the Montana cowboys gave his performance an "instinctive authenticity". The film premiered on October 14 and was a major success, with critics singling out Cooper as a "dynamic new personality" and future star. Goldwyn rushed to offer the actor a long-term contract, but Cooper held out for a better deal—finally signing a five-year contract with Jesse L. Lasky at Paramount Pictures for $175 per week. In 1927, with help from established silent film star Clara Bow, Cooper landed high-profile roles in Children of Divorce and Wings, the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Also that year, Cooper appeared in his first starring roles in Arizona Bound, a B-Western with Betty Jewel, and Nevada with Thelma Todd and William Powell—both films directed by John Waters.
In 1928, Paramount paired Cooper with a youthful Fay Wray in The Legion of the Condemned and The First Kiss—advertising them as the studio's "glorious young lovers"—but their on-screen chemistry failed to generate much excitement with audiences. Still, with each new film, Cooper's acting skills improved and his popularity continued to grow, especially among female movie-goers. During this time he was earning as much as $2,750 per film and receiving a thousand fan letters per week. Looking to leverage Cooper's growing audience appeal, the studio placed him opposite popular leading ladies in films such as Beau Sabreur with Evelyn Brent, Doomsday with Florence Vidor, Half a Bride with Esther Ralston, and Lilac Time with Colleen Moore. The latter film, which introduced synchronized music and sound effects, became one of the most commercially successful films of 1928.
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. The following year he appeared in The Spoilers with Betty Compson. He followed this action film with Morocco (1930), starring Marlene Dietrich, in which he played a Foreign Legionnaire. In 1932, Cooper appeared in Devil and the Deep alongside Cary Grant, Tallulah Bankhead, and Charles Laughton. The next year, Cooper was the second lead in the sophisticated Ernst Lubitsch comedy production of Noël Coward's Design for Living. Appearances in A Farewell to Arms in 1932 and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town in 1936, furthered Cooper's box-office appeal. He was producer David O. Selznick's first choice for the role of Rhett Butler in his 1939 epic film Gone with the Wind. 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." Instead, he spent 1939 playing Michael Geste in the first remake of the classic Beau Geste.
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. Cooper later acknowledged he had made a mistake in turning down the director. Instead of Cooper, Hitchcock cast Joel McCrea in Foreign Correspondent. In 1940, Cooper cemented his cowboy credentials in The Westerner. He won his first Academy Award for Best Actor in 1942 for his performance as the title character in Sergeant York (1941). 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. 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. 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.
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. It was the only film for which Cooper received a credit as producer during his long career. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Cooper continued to play the lead in films almost to the end of his life. His later box office hits included the stark Western adventure Garden of Evil (1954) with Susan Hayward and Richard Widmark, the influential Western Vera Cruz (1954) in which he guns down villain Burt Lancaster in a showdown, William Wyler's Friendly Persuasion (1956), in which he portrays a Quaker farmer during the American Civil War, Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon (1957) with Audrey Hepburn, and Anthony Mann's Man of the West (1958), a hard-edged action Western with Lee J. Cobb. Cooper's final motion picture was the British film, The Naked Edge (1961), made in London in the autumn of 1960.
On April 14, 1960, Cooper underwent surgery for prostate cancer after it had metastasized to his colon. He fell ill again on May 13 and underwent further surgery in early June. By the end of the year the cancer had spread to his lungs and bones. His wife, Veronica Cooper, was told the cancer was terminal on December 27. Cooper, however, was not informed of this until February 1961.
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. 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. In his last public statement, Cooper said, "I know that what is happening is God's will. I am not afraid of the future."
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.
Cooper was raised as a Protestant. In his fifties, he was slowly drawn to Catholicism, and became a Catholic on April 9, 1959. He met Pope Pius XII at Vatican City on June 26, 1953 while touring Europe to promote High Noon.
On December 15, 1933, Cooper married Veronica Balfe, a Catholic actress. In 1937 the couple had a child they named Maria. Some ten years after the marriage, Cooper began an affair with Patricia Neal after meeting her on the set of The Fountainhead. 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. 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. Cooper and his wife separated in May 1951, but he was hesitant to divorce her, fearing he would lose the respect of his daughter. Neal finally ended the affair at Christmas 1951.
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. In 1944 he attended a 93,000-large Republican rally in the Los Angeles Coliseum in support of the Dewey-Bricker ticket. 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". 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". 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".
For his contribution to the film industry, Cooper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6243 Hollywood Blvd. He also has a star on the sidewalk outside the Ellen Theater in Bozeman, Montana.
Awards and nominations
|1937||Academy Award for Best Actor||Mr. Deeds Goes to Town||Nominated|
|1937||New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor||Mr. Deeds Goes to Town||Nominated|
|1941||New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor||Sergeant York||Won|
|1942||Academy Award for Best Actor||Sergeant York||Won|
|1943||Academy Award for Best Actor||The Pride of the Yankees||Nominated|
|1944||Academy Award for Best Actor||For Whom the Bell Tolls||Nominated|
|1952||Photoplay Award for Most Popular Male Star||High Noon||Won|
|1953||Academy Award for Best Actor||High Noon||Won|
|1953||Golden Globe Award for Best Actor||High Noon||Won|
|1957||Golden Globe Award for Best Actor||Friendly Persuasion||Nominated|
|1959||Laurel Award for Top Action Performance||The Hanging Tree||Won|
|1960||Laurel Award for Top Action Performance||They Came to Cordura||Won|
- The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926)
- Children of Divorce (1927)
- Arizona Bound (1927)
- Wings (1927)
- Nevada (1927)
- The Last Outlaw (1927)
- Beau Sabreur (1928)
- The Legion of the Condemned (1928)
- Doomsday (1928)
- Half a Bride (1928)
- Lilac Time (1928)
- The First Kiss (1928)
- The Shopworn Angel (1928)
- The Wolf Song (1929)
- Betrayal (1929)
- The Virginian (1929)
- Only the Brave (1930)
- Paramount on Parade (1930)
- The Texan (1930)
- Seven Days' Leave (1930)
- A Man from Wyoming (1930)
- The Spoilers (1930)
- Morocco (1930)
- Fighting Caravans (1931)
- City Streets (1931)
- I Take This Woman (1931)
- His Woman (1931)
- Devil and the Deep (1932)
- If I Had a Million (1932)
- A Farewell to Arms (1932)
- Today We Live (1933)
- One Sunday Afternoon (1933)
- Design for Living (1933)
- Alice in Wonderland (1933)
- Operator 13 (1934)
- Now and Forever (1934)
- The Wedding Night (1935)
- The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)
- Peter Ibbetson (1935)
- Desire (1936)
- Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
- The General Died at Dawn (1936)
- The Plainsman (1936)
- Souls at Sea (1937)
- The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
- Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938)
- The Cowboy and the Lady (1938)
- Beau Geste (1939)
- The Real Glory (1939)
- The Westerner (1940)
- North West Mounted Police (1940)
- Meet John Doe (1941)
- Sergeant York (1941)
- Ball of Fire (1941)
- The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
- For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
- The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944)
- Casanova Brown (1944)
- Along Came Jones (1945)
- Saratoga Trunk (1945)
- Cloak and Dagger (1946)
- Unconquered (1947)
- Good Sam (1948)
- The Fountainhead (1949)
- Task Force (1949)
- Bright Leaf (1950)
- Dallas (1950)
- You're in the Navy Now (1951)
- Distant Drums (1951)
- High Noon (1952)
- Springfield Rifle (1952)
- Return to Paradise (1953)
- Blowing Wild (1953)
- Garden of Evil (1954)
- Vera Cruz (1954)
- The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)
- Friendly Persuasion (1956)
- Love in the Afternoon (1957)
- Ten North Frederick (1958)
- Man of the West (1958)
- The Hanging Tree (1959)
- They Came to Cordura (1959)
- The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959)
- The Naked Edge (1961)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gary Cooper.|
- Official Website
- Gary Cooper at the Internet Movie Database
- Gary Cooper at AllMovie
- Gary Copper at Turner Classic Movies
- Gary Cooper at Iverson Movie Ranch