|Birth name:||Frank James Cooper|
|Date of birth:||May 7 1901|
|Birth location:||Helena, Montana, U.S.|
|Date of death:||May 13 1961 (aged 60)|
|Death location:||Los Angeles, California, U.S. (prostate cancer)|
|Notable role(s):||Longfellow Deeds in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town|
Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees
Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls
|Academy Awards:||Best Actor|
1941 Sergeant York
1952 High Noon
Academy Honorary Award (1961)
|Spouse:||Veronica Balfe, stage name Sandra Shaw (1933 - 1961) (his death) 1 child|
Gary Cooper (born Frank James Cooper; May 7, 1901 – May 13, 1961) was an American actor known for his strong, quiet screen persona and understated acting style. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor twice and had a further three nominations, as well as an Academy Honorary Award in 1961 for his career achievements. He was one of the top 10 film personalities for 23 consecutive years and one of the top money-making stars for 18 years. The American Film Institute (AFI) ranked Cooper at No. 11 on its list of the 25 greatest male stars of classic Hollywood cinema.
Cooper's career spanned 36 years, from 1925 to 1961, and included leading roles in 84 feature films. He was a major movie star from the end of the silent film era through to the end of the golden age of Classical Hollywood. His screen persona appealed strongly to both men and women, and his range included roles in most major film genres. His ability to project his own personality onto the characters he played contributed to his natural and authentic appearance on screen. Throughout his career, he sustained a screen persona that represented the ideal American hero.
- 1 Life
- 2 Career
- 3 Legacy
- 4 Awards and nominations
- 5 Filmography
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
- 9 Credits
He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style as well as his stoic, individualistic, understated, but sometimes intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited for the many Westerns in which he appeared. Cooper is considered one of the icons of a time of simple American values symbolized especially by his portrayal of quiet, unassuming heroes, whose actions spoke much louder than their words.
Frank James Cooper was born on May 7, 1901, in Helena, Montana, the younger son of a Bedfordshire, England farmer turned American lawyer and judge, Charles Henry Cooper, and Kent, England-born Alice (née Brazier) Cooper. His brother, Arthur, was six years his senior.
In 1906 Charles Cooper purchased the Seven-Bar-Nine cattle ranch, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Helena, Montana. The boys spent their summers at the ranch and learned to ride horses, hunt, and fish. Cooper attended Central Grade School in Helena.
His mother wanted her sons to have an English education, so she took them back to England in 1909 to enroll them in Dunstable Grammar School in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. While there, they lived with their father's cousins, William and Emily Barton, at their home in Houghton Regis. Cooper studied Latin, French, and English history at Dunstable until 1912. While he adapted to English school discipline and learned the requisite social graces, he never adjusted to the rigid class structure and formal Eton collars he was required to wear. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Mrs. Cooper brought her sons home and enrolled young Frank in a Bozeman, Montana high school.
When he was 13, Cooper injured his hip in an automobile accident. He returned to the ranch his parents owned near Helena 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 horse-riding style.
A few years later, Cooper began college at Montana Wesleyan in Helena, then transferred to Iowa's Grinnell College, studying graphics and art with intentions of pursuing a career as a commercial artist or cartoonist. There he tried out, unsuccessfully, for the drama club. He attended Grinnell until the spring of 1924 but did not graduate. Returning to Helena, he managed the family ranch and contributed cartoons to the local paper. He also spent a summer working as a seasonal ranger in Yellowstone National Park. In 1924, Cooper's father left the Montana Supreme Court bench and moved with his wife to Los Angeles. Unable to make a living as an editorial cartoonist in Helena, Cooper joined them.
Failing as a salesman of both electric signs and theatrical curtains and as a promoter for a local photographer, the 6 ft. 3 in. (190 cm) Cooper found that he could earn money as an "extra" in the motion picture industry, usually cast as a cowboy or working as a stuntman. "Coop," as he was called by his peers, went on to appear in over 100 films.
Gary Cooper had several high-profile relationships with various actresses throughout his career, including Clara Bow, Lupe Vélez, American-born socialite-spy Countess Carla Dentice di Frasso (née Dorothy Caldwell Taylor), Patricia Neal, Grace Kelly, and Marlene Dietrich.
On December 15, 1933, Cooper wed Veronica "Rocky" Balfe, (May 27, 1913 - February 16, 2000). Balfe was a New York Roman Catholic socialite who had briefly acted under the name of Sandra Shaw. She introduced her husband to tennis, golf, and skiing, and he in turn took her fishing. He separated from her from 1951 to 1954, however, living mainly in Europe and becoming known as an international playboy. In the spring of 1954, Cooper returned home. That summer he and Rocky had a new home built in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles. Their reconciliation was a lasting one, and Cooper began going to church with his wife, Rocky, and his daughter, Maria. On April 9, 1959, he was formally admitted into the Catholic church:
I’d spent all my waking hours doing almost exactly what I, personally, wanted to do and what I wanted to do wasn’t always the most polite thing either. This past winter, I began to dwell a little more on what’s been in my mind for a long time (and thought), "Coop, old boy, you owe somebody something for all your good fortune." I guess that’s what started me thinking seriously about my religion. I’ll never be anything like a saint. I know. I just haven’t got that kind of fortitude. The only thing I can say for me is that I’m trying to be a little better. Maybe I’ll succeed.
Cooper continued to appear in films almost to the end of his life. In one of his final projects, in December 1960, he also served as the narrator for an NBC documentary, The Real West, in which he helped clear up myths about famous Western figures.
On January 9, 1961, Cooper attended a dinner given in his honor and hosted by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at the Friars Club. The dinner was attended by many of his industry friends and concluded with a brief speech by Cooper who said, "The only achievement I'm proud of is the friends I've made in this community."
In mid-January, Cooper took his family to Sun Valley for their last vacation together. Cooper and Hemingway hiked through the snow together for the last time. Their twenty-year friendship had begun at Sun Valley in October 1940, with the two sharing a passion for the outdoors. For years they hunted duck and pheasant, and skied together in Sun Valley.
On February 27, after returning to Los Angeles, Cooper learned that he was dying. He later told his family, "We'll pray for a miracle; but if not, and that's God's will, that's all right too."
On April 17, Cooper watched the Academy Awards ceremony on television and saw his good friend James Stewart, who had presented Cooper with his first Oscar years earlier, accept on Cooper's behalf an honorary award for lifetime achievement – his third Oscar. Holding back tears, Stewart said, "Coop, I'll get this to you right away. And Coop, I want you to know this, that with this goes all the warm friendship and the affection and the admiration and the deep, the deep respect of all of us. We're very, very proud of you, Coop. All of us are tremendously proud." The award dedication read, "To Gary Cooper for his many memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, has gained for the motion picture industry." The following day, newspapers around the world announced that Cooper was dying. In the coming days he received numerous messages of appreciation and encouragement, including telegrams from Pope John XXIII, and Queen Elizabeth II, and a telephone call from President John F. Kennedy.
In his last public statement on May 4, 1961, Cooper said, "I know that what is happening is God's will. I am not afraid of the future." He received the Last rites on Friday, May 12, and died quietly the next day, aged 60.
Silent films, 1925–1928
In early 1925 Cooper began his film career in silent pictures. While his skilled horsemanship led to steady work in Westerns, Cooper found the stunt work – which sometimes injured horses and riders – "tough and cruel." Hoping to move beyond the risky stunt work and obtain 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 suggested he change his first name to "Gary" after her hometown of Gary, Indiana. Cooper immediately liked the name, legally changing his name to "Gary Cooper" in August 1933.
Cooper also found work in a variety of non-Western films, and landed credited roles that offered him more screen time in films, and 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 a week.
Cooper's first important film role was a supporting part in The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) starring Ronald Colman and Vilma Bánky, in which he plays a young engineer who helps a rival suitor save the woman he loves and her town from an impending dam disaster. Cooper's experience living among the Montana cowboys gave his performance an "instinctive authenticity," according to biographer Jeffrey Meyers, and critics singled out Cooper as a "dynamic new personality" and future star. Goldwyn rushed to offer Cooper a long-term contract, but Cooper held out for a better deal: a five-year contract with Jesse L. Lasky at Paramount Pictures for $175 a week. In 1927, with help from Clara Bow, Cooper landed high-profile roles in Children of Divorce and Wings (both 1927), the latter being the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. That year Cooper also appeared in his first starring roles in Arizona Bound and Nevada, both films directed by John Waters.
Paramount paired Cooper with Fay Wray in The Legion of the Condemned and The First Kiss (both 1928), advertising them as the studio's "glorious young lovers," although their on-screen chemistry failed to generate excitement with audiences. With each new film, Cooper's acting skills improved and his popularity continued to grow, especially among female movie-goers. Looking to exploit Cooper's growing audience appeal, the studio placed him opposite popular leading ladies such as Evelyn Brent in Beau Sabreur, Florence Vidor in Doomsday, and Esther Ralston in Half a Bride (also both 1928). Around the same time, Cooper made Lilac Time (1928) with Colleen Moore for First National Pictures, his first movie with synchronized music and sound effects. It became one of the most commercially successful films of 1928.
Hollywood stardom, 1929–1935
Cooper became a major movie star in 1929 with the release of his first talking picture, The Virginian (1929). Based on the popular novel by Owen Wister, The Virginian was one of the first sound films to define the Western code of honor and helped establish many of the conventions of the Western movie genre that persist to the present day. The romantic image of the tall, handsome, and shy cowboy hero who embodied male freedom, courage, and honor was created in large part by Cooper in the film. Unlike some silent film actors who had trouble adapting to the new sound medium, Cooper transitioned naturally, with his "deep and clear" and "pleasantly drawling" voice, which was perfectly suited for the characters he portrayed on screen.
Looking to capitalize on Cooper's growing popularity, Paramount cast him in several Westerns and wartime dramas. One of Cooper's more important performances was his portrayal of a sullen legionnaire in Josef von Sternberg's film Morocco (also 1930) with Marlene Dietrich in her introduction to American audiences. During production, von Sternberg focused his energies on Dietrich and treated Cooper dismissively. Tensions came to a head after von Sternberg yelled directions at Cooper in German. The 6 feet 3 inches (190 cm) actor approached the 5 feet 4 inches (160 cm) director, picked him up by the collar, and said, "If you expect to work in this country you'd better get on to the language we use here." Despite the tensions on the set, Cooper produced "one of his best performances," according to Thornton Delehanty of the New York Evening Post.
After returning to the Western genre in Zane Grey's Fighting Caravans (1931) with French actress Lili Damita, Cooper appeared in the Dashiell Hammett crime film City Streets (also 1931). He concluded the year with appearances in two unsuccessful films: I Take This Woman (also 1931) with Carole Lombard, and His Woman with Claudette Colbert. The demands and pressures of making ten films in two years left Cooper exhausted and in poor health, suffering from anemia and jaundice. He had lost 30 pounds (14 kg) during that period, and felt lonely, isolated, and depressed by his sudden fame and wealth.
In May 1931, Cooper left Hollywood and sailed to Algiers and then Italy, where he lived for the next year. During his time abroad, Cooper stayed with the Countess Dorothy di Frasso at the Villa Madama in Rome, where she taught him about good food and vintage wines, how to read Italian and French menus, and how to socialize among Europe's nobility and upper classes. After guiding him through the great art museums and galleries of Italy, she accompanied him on a ten-week big-game hunting safari on the slopes of Mount Kenya in East Africa, where he was credited with more than sixty kills, including two lions, a rhinoceros, and various antelopes. His safari experience in Africa had a profound influence on Cooper and intensified his love of the wilderness. After returning to Europe, he and the countess set off on a Mediterranean cruise of the Italian and French Rivieras. Rested and rejuvenated by his year-long exile, a healthy Cooper returned to Hollywood in April 1932 and negotiated a new contract with Paramount for two films per year, a salary of $4,000 a week, and director and script approval.
In 1932, after completing Devil and the Deep with Tallulah Bankhead to fulfill his old contract, Cooper appeared in A Farewell to Arms, the first film adaptation of an Ernest Hemingway novel. The film presented Cooper with one of his most ambitious and challenging dramatic roles, playing an American ambulance driver wounded in Italy who falls in love with an English nurse during World War I. Critics praised his highly intense and emotional performance, and the film became one of the year's most commercially successful pictures.
In 1933, after making Today We Live with Joan Crawford and One Sunday Afternoon with Fay Wray, Cooper appeared in the Ernst Lubitsch comedy film Design for Living, based on the successful Noël Coward play. Co-starring Miriam Hopkins and Fredric March, the film was a box office success, ranking as one of the top ten highest-grossing films of 1933. All three of the lead actors – March, Cooper, and Hopkins – received attention from this film as they were all at the peak of their careers. Cooper's performance was singled out for its versatility and revealed his genuine ability to do light comedy.
In 1934 Cooper was loaned out to MGM for the Civil War drama film Operator 13 with Marion Davies, about a beautiful Union spy who falls in love with a Confederate soldier. Despite Richard Boleslawski's imaginative direction and George J. Folsey's lavish cinematography, the film did poorly at the box office.
Back at Paramount, Cooper appeared in his first of seven films by director Henry Hathaway, Now and Forever, with Carole Lombard and Shirley Temple. Impressed by Temple's intelligence and charm, Cooper developed a close rapport with her, both on and off screen. The film was a box-office success.
The following year Cooper was loaned out to Samuel Goldwyn Productions to appear in King Vidor's romance film The Wedding Night. Cooper delivered a performance of surprising range and depth; however, the film was not popular with American audiences.
That same year Cooper appeared in two Henry Hathaway films: the melodrama Peter Ibbetson with Ann Harding, about a man caught up in a dream world created by his love for a childhood sweetheart, and the adventure film The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, about a daring British officer and his men who defend their stronghold at Bengal against rebellious local tribes. While the former, championed by the surrealists, became more successful in Europe than in the United States, the latter was nominated for seven Academy Awards and became one of Cooper's most popular and successful adventure films. Hathaway had the highest respect for Cooper's acting ability, calling him "the best actor of all of them."
American folk hero, 1936–1943
From Mr. Deeds to The Real Glory, 1936–1939
Cooper's career took an important turn in 1936. After making Frank Borzage's romantic comedy film Desire with Marlene Dietrich at Paramount, in which he delivered a performance considered by some contemporary critics as one of his finest, Cooper returned to Poverty Row for the first time since his early silent film days to make Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town with Jean Arthur for Columbia Pictures. In the film, Cooper plays the character of Longfellow Deeds, a quiet, innocent writer of greeting cards who inherits a fortune, leaves behind his idyllic life in Vermont, and travels to New York where he faces a world of corruption and deceit. Capra and screenwriter Robert Riskin were able to use Cooper's well-established screen persona as the "quintessential American hero" – a symbol of honesty, courage, and goodness – to create a new type of "folk hero" for the common man. Commenting on Cooper's impact on the character and the film, Capra observed:
As soon as I thought of Gary Cooper, it wasn't possible to conceive anyone else in the role. He could not have been any closer to my idea of Longfellow Deeds, and as soon as he could think in terms of Cooper, Bob Riskin found it easier to develop the Deeds character in terms of dialogue. So it just had to be Cooper. Every line in his face spelled honesty. Our Mr. Deeds had to symbolize incorruptibility, and in my mind Gary Cooper was that symbol.
Both Desire and Mr. Deeds opened in April 1936 to critical praise and were major box-office successes. In his review in The New York Times, Frank Nugent wrote that Cooper was "proving himself one of the best light comedians in Hollywood." For his performance in Mr. Deeds, Cooper received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Cooper appeared in two other Paramount films in 1936: Lewis Milestone's adventure film The General Died at Dawn and Cecil B. DeMille's sprawling frontier epic The Plainsman, his first of four films with the director. Cooper portrayed Wild Bill Hickok in a highly fictionalized version of the opening of the American western frontier. The film was an even greater box-office hit than its predecessor, due in large part to Jean Arthur's definitive depiction of Calamity Jane and Cooper's inspired portrayal of Hickok as an enigmatic figure of "deepening mythic substance." That year Cooper appeared for the first time on the Motion Picture Herald exhibitor's poll of top ten film personalities, where he would remain for the next twenty-three years.
In late 1936 Cooper signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn for six films over six years with a minimum guarantee of $150,000 per picture. Cooper continued to make films with both studios, and by 1939 the United States Treasury reported that Cooper was the country's highest wage earner, at $482,819.
In contrast to his output the previous year, Cooper appeared in only one picture in 1937, Henry Hathaway's adventure film Souls at Sea, a critical and box-office failure, Cooper referred to it as his "almost picture," saying, "It was almost exciting, and almost interesting. And I was almost good." In 1938 he appeared in Archie Mayo's biographical film The Adventures of Marco Polo. Plagued by production problems and a weak screenplay, the film became Goldwyn's biggest failure to date, losing $700,000. During this period, Cooper turned down several important roles, including the role of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. Cooper was producer David O. Selznick's first choice for the part. He made several overtures to the actor, but Cooper had doubts about the project, and did not feel suited to the role. Cooper later admitted, "It was one of the best roles ever offered in Hollywood ... But I said no. I didn't see myself as quite that dashing, and later, when I saw Clark Gable play the role to perfection, I knew I was right."
Back at Paramount, Cooper returned to a more comfortable genre in Ernst Lubitsch's romantic comedy Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938) with Claudette Colbert. In the film, Cooper plays a wealthy American businessman in France who falls in love with an impoverished aristocrat's daughter and persuades her to become his eighth wife. Despite the clever screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, and solid performances by Cooper and Colbert, American audiences had trouble accepting Cooper in the role of a shallow philanderer. It succeeded only at the European box office market.
In the fall of 1938 Cooper appeared in H. C. Potter's romantic comedy The Cowboy and the Lady with Merle Oberon, about a sweet-natured rodeo cowboy who falls in love with the wealthy daughter of a presidential hopeful, believing her to be a poor, hard-working lady's maid. The efforts of three directors and several eminent screenwriters could not salvage what could have been a fine vehicle for Cooper. While more successful than its predecessor, the film was Cooper's fourth consecutive box-office failure in the American market.
In the next two years, Cooper was more discerning about the roles he accepted and made four successful large-scale adventure and cowboy films. In William A. Wellman's adventure film Beau Geste (1939), he plays one of three daring English brothers who join the French Foreign Legion in the Sahara to fight local tribes. Filmed in the same Mojave Desert locations as the original 1926 version with Ronald Colman, Beau Geste provided Cooper with magnificent sets, exotic settings, high-spirited action, and a role tailored to his personality and screen persona. This was the last film in Cooper's contract with Paramount.
In Henry Hathaway's The Real Glory (1939), he plays a military doctor who accompanies a small group of American Army officers to the Philippines to help the Christian Filipinos defend themselves against Muslim radicals. Many film critics praised Cooper's performance, including author and film critic Graham Greene, who recognized that he "never acted better."
From The Westerner to For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1940–1943
Cooper returned to the Western genre in William Wyler's The Westerner (1940) with Walter Brennan and Doris Davenport. Screenwriter Niven Busch relied on Cooper's extensive knowledge of Western history while working on the script. The film received positive reviews and did well at the box-office, with reviewers praising the performances of the two lead actors. That same year Cooper appeared in his first all-Technicolor feature, Cecil B. DeMille's adventure film North West Mounted Police (1940).
The early 1940s were Cooper's prime years as an actor. In a relatively short period, he appeared in five critically successful and popular films that produced some of his finest performances. When Frank Capra offered him the lead role in Meet John Doe before Robert Riskin even developed the script, Cooper accepted his friend's offer, saying, "It's okay, Frank, I don't need a script." Considered by some critics to be Capra's best film at the time, Meet John Doe was received as a "national event" with Cooper appearing on the front cover of TIME magazine on March 3, 1941. In his review in the New York Herald Tribune, Howard Barnes called Cooper's performance a "splendid and utterly persuasive portrayal" and praised his "utterly realistic acting which comes through with such authority." Bosley Crowther, in The New York Times, wrote, "Gary Cooper, of course, is 'John Doe' to the life and in the whole – shy, bewildered, non-aggressive, but a veritable tiger when aroused."
That same year Cooper made two films with director and good friend Howard Hawks. In the biographical film Sergeant York, Cooper portrays war hero Alvin C. York, one of the most decorated American soldiers in World WarTemplate:NbsI. The film chronicles York's early backwoods days in Tennessee, his religious conversion and subsequent piety, his stand as a conscientious objector, and finally his heroic actions at the Battle of the Argonne Forest, which earned him the Medal of Honor. Initially, Cooper was nervous and uncertain about playing a living hero, so he traveled to Tennessee to visit York at his home, and the two quiet men established an immediate rapport and discovered they had much in common. Inspired by York's encouragement, Cooper delivered a performance that Howard Barnes of the New York Herald Tribune called "one of extraordinary conviction and versatility," and that Archer Winston of the New York Post called "one of his best." After the film's release, Cooper was awarded the Distinguished Citizenship Medal by the Veterans of Foreign Wars for his "powerful contribution to the promotion of patriotism and loyalty." York admired Cooper's performance and helped promote the film for Warner Bros. Sergeant York became the top-grossing film of the year and was nominated for eleven Academy Awards. Accepting his first Academy Award for Best Actor from his friend James Stewart, Cooper said, "It was Sergeant Alvin York who won this award. Shucks, I've been in the business sixteen years and sometimes dreamed I might get one of these. That's all I can say ... Funny when I was dreaming I always made a better speech."
Cooper concluded the year back at Goldwyn with Howard Hawks to make the romantic comedy Ball of Fire with Barbara Stanwyck. The screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder provided Cooper the opportunity to exercise the full range of his light comedy skills. In his review for the New York Herald Tribune, Howard Barnes wrote that Cooper handled the role with "great skill and comic emphasis" and that his performance was "utterly delightful." Though small in scale, Ball of Fire was one of the top-grossing films of the year and Cooper's fourth consecutive picture to make the top twenty.
Cooper's only film appearance in 1942 was also his last under his Goldwyn contract. In Sam Wood's biographical film The Pride of the Yankees, Cooper portrays baseball star Lou Gehrig who established a record with the New York Yankees for playing in 2,130 consecutive games. Cooper was reluctant to play the seven-time All-Star, who had died only the previous year from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), (now commonly called "Lou Gehrig's disease"). Beyond the challenges of effectively portraying such a popular and nationally recognized figure, Cooper knew very little about baseball and was not left-handed like Gehrig.
After Gehrig's widow visited the actor and expressed her desire that he portray her husband, Cooper accepted the role that covered a twenty-year span of Gehrig's life – his early love of baseball, his rise to greatness, his loving marriage, and his struggle with illness, culminating in his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, before 62,000 fans. Cooper quickly learned the physical movements of a baseball player and developed a fluid, believable swing. The handedness issue was solved by reversing the print for certain batting scenes. The film was one of the year's top ten pictures and received eleven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Cooper's third).
Soon after the publication of Ernest Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, Paramount paid $150,000 for the film rights with the express intent of casting Cooper in the lead role of Robert Jordan, an American explosives expert who fights alongside the Republican loyalists during the Spanish Civil War. The original director, Cecil B. DeMille, was replaced by Sam Wood who brought in Dudley Nichols for the screenplay. After the start of principal photography in the Sierra Nevada in late 1942, Ingrid Bergman was brought in to replace ballerina Vera Zorina as the female lead – a change supported by Cooper and Hemingway. Howard Barnes in the New York Herald Tribune wrote that both actors performed with "the true stature and authority of stars." While the film distorted the novel's original political themes and meaning, For Whom the Bell Tolls was a critical and commercial success and received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Cooper's fourth).
Due to his age and health, Cooper did not serve in the military during World War II, but like many of his colleagues, he got involved in the war effort by entertaining the troops. In June 1943, he visited military hospitals in San Diego, and often appeared at the Hollywood Canteen serving food to the servicemen. In late 1943, Cooper undertook a tour of the South West Pacific with actresses Una Merkel and Phyllis Brooks, and accordionist Andy Arcari.
Traveling on a B-24A Liberator bomber, the group toured the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Queensland, Brisbane – where General Douglas MacArthur told Cooper he was watching Sergeant York in a Manila theater when Japanese bombs began falling – New Guinea, Jayapura, and throughout the Solomon Islands.
The group often shared the same sparse living conditions and K-rations as the troops. Cooper met with the servicemen and women, visited military hospitals, introduced his attractive colleagues, and participated in occasional skits. The shows concluded with Cooper's moving recitation of Lou Gehrig's farewell speech. When he returned to the United States, he visited military hospitals throughout the country. Cooper later called his time with the troops the "greatest emotional experience" of his life.
Mature roles, 1944–1952
In 1944 Cooper appeared in Cecil B. DeMille's wartime adventure film The Story of Dr. Wassell with Laraine Day – his third movie with the director. Despite receiving poor reviews, Dr. Wassell was one of the top-grossing films of the year. With his Goldwyn and Paramount contracts now concluded, Cooper decided to remain independent and formed his own production company, International Pictures, with Leo Spitz, William Goetz, and Nunnally Johnson. The fledgling studio's first offering was Sam Wood's romantic comedy Casanova Brown with Teresa Wright. The film received poor reviews, with the New York Daily News calling it "delightful nonsense," and Bosley Crowther criticizing Cooper's "somewhat obvious and ridiculous clowning." 
In 1945 Cooper starred in and produced Stuart Heisler's Western comedy Along Came Jones with Loretta Young for International. In this lighthearted parody of his past heroic image, Cooper plays comically inept cowboy Melody Jones who is mistaken for a ruthless killer. Audiences embraced Cooper's character, and the film was one of the top box-office pictures of the year – a testament to Cooper's still vital audience appeal. It was also International's biggest financial success during its brief history before being sold off to Universal Studios.
Cooper's career during the post-war years drifted in new directions as American society was changing. While he still played conventional heroic roles, his films now relied less on his heroic screen persona and more on novel stories and exotic settings. In November 1945, Cooper appeared in Sam Wood's nineteenth-century period drama Saratoga Trunk with Ingrid Bergman. In 1947 Cooper appeared in Cecil B. DeMille's epic adventure film Unconquered with Paulette Goddard, which would be his last unqualified box-office success for the next five years.
In 1948, Cooper signed a long-term contract with Warner Bros. His first film under the new contract was King Vidor's drama The Fountainhead (1949) with Patricia Neal and Raymond Massey. Based on the novel by Ayn Rand who also wrote the screenplay, the film reflects her philosophy and attacks the concepts of collectivism while promoting the virtues of individualism. For most critics, Cooper was hopelessly miscast in the role of Howard Roark. In his review for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther concluded he was "Mr. Deeds out of his element."
Cooper returned to his element in Delmer Daves' war drama Task Force (1949), about a retiring rear admiral who reminisces about his long career as a naval aviator and his role in the development of aircraft carriers. Cooper's performance and the Technicolor newsreel footage supplied by the United States Navy made the film one of Cooper's most popular during this period.
Cooper's most important film during the post-war years was Fred Zinnemann's Western drama High Noon (1952) with Grace Kelly and Katy Jurado for United Artists. During the filming, Cooper was in poor health and in considerable pain from stomach ulcers. His ravaged face and discomfort in some scenes "photographed as self-doubt,"  and contributed to the effectiveness of his performance. Considered one of the first "adult" Westerns for its theme of moral courage, High Noon received enthusiastic reviews for its artistry, with TIME magazine placing it in the ranks of Stagecoach and The Gunfighter. Bosley Crowther, in The New York Times, wrote that Cooper was "at the top of his form," and John McCarten, in The New Yorker, wrote that Cooper was never more effective. The film earned $3.75 million in the United States and $18 million worldwide. Following the example of his friend James Stewart, Cooper accepted a lower salary in exchange for a percentage of the profits, and ended up making $600,000. Cooper's understated performance was widely praised, and earned him his second Academy Award for Best Actor. John Wayne accepted the Oscar for Cooper who was out of the country at the time, saying, "Coop and I have been friends, hunting and fishing, for more years than I like to remember. He's one of the nicest fellows I know. I don't know anybody any nicer."
Later films, 1953–1959
Cooper made four films outside the United States. For Mark Robson's drama Return to Paradise, he endured spartan living conditions, long hours, and ill health during a three-month location shoot on the island of Upolu in Western Samoa. Despite its beautiful cinematography, the film received poor reviews. His next three films were shot in Mexico.
During this period, Cooper struggled with health problems. As well as his ongoing treatment for ulcers, he suffered a severe shoulder injury during the filming of Hugo Fregonese's action adventure film Blowing Wild (1953) when he was hit by metal fragments from a dynamited oil well. The next year when filming Robert Aldrich's Western adventure Vera Cruz with Burt Lancaster, he re-injured his hip falling from a horse, and was burned when Lancaster fired his rifle too close and the wadding from the blank shell pierced his clothing.
Cooper appeared in Otto Preminger's 1955 biographical war drama The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell. Some critics felt Cooper was miscast, and that his dull, tight-lipped performance did not reflect Mitchell's dynamic and caustic personality. In 1956, Cooper was more effective playing a gentle Indiana Quaker in William Wyler's Civil War drama Friendly Persuasion with Dorothy McGuire. Like Sergeant York and High Noon, the film addresses the conflict between religious pacifism and civic duty. For his performance, Cooper received his second Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actor. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, was awarded the Palme d'Or at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.
Cooper traveled to France in 1956 to make Billy Wilder's romantic comedy Love in the Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn and Maurice Chevalier. In the film, Cooper plays a middle-aged American playboy in Paris who pursues and eventually falls in love with a much younger woman. Despite receiving some positive reviews – including from Bosley Crowther who praised the film's "charming performances" – most reviewers concluded that Cooper was simply too old for the part. The following year, Cooper appeared in Philip Dunne's romantic drama Ten North Frederick. While Cooper brought "conviction and controlled anguish" to his performance, it was not enough to save what Bosley Crowther called a "hapless film."
Despite his ongoing health problems and several operations for ulcers and hernias, Cooper continued to work in action films. In 1958 he appeared in Anthony Mann's Western drama Man of the West (1958) with Julie London and Lee J. Cobb. The film has been called Cooper's "most pathological Western," with its themes of impotent rage, sexual humiliation, and sadism. Cooper, who struggled with moral conflicts in his personal life, "understood the anguish of a character striving to retain his integrity ... [and] brought authentic feeling to the role of a tempted and tormented, yet essentially decent man." Mostly ignored by critics at the time, the film is now well-regarded by film scholars and is considered Cooper's last great film.
After his Warner Bros. contract ended, Cooper formed his own production company, Baroda Productions, and made three unusual films in 1959 about redemption. In Delmer Daves' Western drama The Hanging Tree, Cooper plays a frontier doctor who saves a criminal from a lynch mob, and later tries to exploit his sordid past. Cooper delivered a "powerful and persuasive" performance of an emotionally scarred man whose need to dominate others is transformed by the love and sacrifice of a woman. In Robert Rossen's historical adventure They Came to Cordura with Rita Hayworth, he plays an army officer who is found guilty of cowardice and assigned the degrading task of recommending soldiers for the Medal of Honor during the Pancho Villa Expedition of 1916.
In Michael Anderson's action drama The Wreck of the Mary Deare with Charlton Heston, Cooper plays a disgraced merchant marine officer who decides to stay aboard his sinking cargo ship in order to prove the vessel was deliberately scuttled and to redeem his good name. Like its two predecessors, the film was physically demanding and Cooper, who was a trained scuba diver, did most of his own underwater scenes. In all three roles Cooper effectively conveyed the sense of lost honor and desire for redemption.
After Cooper's death on May 13 1961, a requiem was held on May 18 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, attended by many of hiss friends, including James Stewart, Jack Benny, Henry Hathaway, Joel McCrea, Audrey Hepburn, Jack L. Warner, John Ford, John Wayne, Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Fred Astaire, Randolph Scott, Walter Pidgeon, Bob Hope, and Marlene Dietrich. Hemingway was too ill to attend the funeral. Cooper was buried in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
In May 1974, after his family relocated to New York, Cooper's remains were exhumed and reburied in Sacred Hearts Cemetery in Southampton. His grave is marked by a three-ton boulder from a Montauk quarry.
Cooper's career spanned thirty-six years, from 1925 to 1961. During that time he appeared in more than 100 films, 84 of them playing the leading role in a feature film. He was a major movie star from the end of the silent film era to the end of the golden age of Classical Hollywood. His natural and authentic acting style appealed powerfully to both men and women, and his range of performances included roles in most major movie genres. He appeared on the Motion Picture Herald exhibitor's poll of top ten film personalities for 23 consecutive years, from 1936 to 1958. He was also one of the top money-making stars for 18 years, appearing in the top ten in 1936–1937, 1941–1949, and 1951–1957, and topping the list in 1953. In Quigley's list of all-time money-making stars, Cooper is listed fourth, after John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Tom Cruise.
The screen persona he developed and sustained throughout his career represented the ideal American hero – a tall, handsome, and sincere man of steadfast integrity who emphasized action over intellect, and combined the heroic qualities of the romantic lover, the adventurer, and the common man. More than half a century after his death Cooper's enduring legacy is his image of the ideal American hero preserved in his film performances. Charlton Heston once observed, "He projected the kind of man Americans would like to be, probably more than any actor that's ever lived."
In more than half his feature films, Cooper portrayed Westerners, soldiers, pilots, sailors, and explorers – all men of action. In the rest he played a wide range of characters, included doctors, professors, artists, architects, clerks, and baseball players. Cooper's heroic screen image changed with each period of his career. In his early films, he played the young naive hero sure of his moral position and trusting in the triumph of simple virtues (The Virginian). After becoming a major star, his Western screen persona was replaced by a more cautious hero in adventure films and dramas (A Farewell to Arms). During the height of his career, from 1936 to 1943, he played a new type of hero: a champion of the common man willing to sacrifice himself for others (Mr. Deeds, Meet John Doe, and For Whom the Bell Tolls).
In the post-war years, Cooper attempted broader variations on his screen image, which now reflected a hero increasingly at odds with the world who must face adversity alone (The Fountainhead and High Noon). In his final films, Cooper's hero rejects the violence of the past, and seeks to reclaim lost honor and find redemption (Friendly Persuasion and Man of the West).
On February, 1960, Cooper was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6243 Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to the film industry. He was awarded a star on the sidewalk outside the Ellen Theater in Bozeman, Montana.
On May 6, 1961, Cooper was awarded the French Order of Arts and Letters in recognition of his significant contribution to the arts. On July 30, 1961, he was posthumously awarded the David di Donatello Special Award in Italy for his career achievements. In 1966 Cooper was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. In 2015, he was inducted into the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame.
The American Film Institute (AFI) ranked Cooper eleventh on its list of the 25 male stars of classic Hollywood. Three of his characters – Will Kane, Lou Gehrig, and Sergeant York – made AFI's list of the one hundred greatest heroes and villains, all of them as heroes. His Lou Gehrig line, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." is ranked by AFI as the thirty-eighth greatest movie quote of all time.
Awards and nominations
|1937||Academy Award||Best Actor||Mr. Deeds Goes to Town||Nominated|
|1937||New York Film Critics Circle Award||Best Actor||Mr. Deeds Goes to Town||Nominated|
|1941||New York Film Critics Circle Award||Best Actor||Sergeant York||Won|
|1942||Academy Award||Best Actor||Sergeant York||Won|
|1943||Academy Award||Best Actor||The Pride of the Yankees||Nominated|
|1944||Academy Award||Best Actor||For Whom the Bell Tolls||Nominated|
|1945||New York Film Critics Circle Award||Best Actor||Along Came Jones||Nominated|
|1952||Photoplay Award||Most Popular Male Star||High Noon||Won|
|1953||Academy Award||Best Actor||High Noon||Won|
|1953||Golden Globe Award||Best Actor||High Noon||Won|
|1953||New York Film Critics Circle Award||Best Actor||High Noon||Nominated|
|1957||Golden Globe Award||Best Actor||Friendly Persuasion||Nominated|
|1957||New York Film Critics Circle Award||Best Actor||Friendly Persuasion||Nominated|
|1959||Laurel Award||Top Action Performance||The Hanging Tree||Won|
|1960||Laurel Award||Top Action Performance||They Came to Cordura||Won|
|1961||Academy Award||Academy Honorary Award||Won|
- Hector Arce, Gary Cooper: An Intimate Biography (Bantam Books, 1980, ISBN 978-0553141306).
- Jeffrey Meyers, Gary Cooper: American Hero (Aurum Press Ltd, 2005, ISBN 978-1845130466).
- Larry Swindell, The Last Hero: A Biography of Gary Cooper (New York: Doubleday, 1980, ISBN 978-0385143165).
- Diane Howard, Faith and Restoration: The Story of Gary Cooper Movie Guide. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- Mary Cooper Janis, Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers (Harry N. Abrams, 1999, ISBN 978-0810941304).
- Mary Cooper Janis, Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers (Harry N. Abrams, 1999, ISBN 978-0810941304).
- James Stewart, 1960 (33rd) Academy Awards Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- Homer Dickens, The Films of Gary Cooper (Carol Pub Group, 1971, ISBN 978-0806500102).
- Frank S. Nugent, Movie Review: Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936) The New York Times, April 17, 1936. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- David O. Selznick, Memo from David O. Selznick: The Creation of "Gone with the Wind" and Other Motion Picture Classics, as Revealed in the Producer's Private Letters, Telegrams, Memorandums, and Autobiographical Remarks (Modern Library, 2000, ISBN 978-0375755316).
- Bosley Crowther, Movie Review: Meet John Doe (1941) The New York Times, March 13, 1941. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- Robert Owens, Medal of Honor: Historical Facts and Figures (Nashville: Turner Publishing, 2004, ISBN 978-1563119958).
- Bosley Crowther, Movie Review: Casanova Brown (1944) The New York Times, September 15, 1944. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- Richard Schickel, Gary Cooper, Legends (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1985, ISBN 978-0316773072).
- John Wayne, Academy Awards Acceptance Speech 1952 (25th) Academy Awards. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- Stuart Kaminsky, Coop: The Life and Legend of Gary Cooper (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, ISBN 978-0312169558).
- Top Ten Money Making Stars Quigley Publishing. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
- Gary Cooper Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars American Film Institute. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains American Film Institute. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes American Film Institute. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Arce, Hector. Gary Cooper: An Intimate Biography. Bantam Books, 1980. ISBN 978-0553141306
- Dickens, Homer. The Films of Gary Cooper. Carol Pub Group, 1971. ISBN 978-0806500102
- Janis, Mary Cooper. Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers. Harry N. Abrams, 1999. ISBN 978-0810941304
- Kaminsky, Stuart. Coop: The Life and Legend of Gary Cooper. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979. ISBN 978-0312169558
- Meyers, Jeffrey. Gary Cooper: American Hero. Aurum Press Ltd, 2005. ISBN 978-1845130466
- Owens, Robert. Medal of Honor: Historical Facts and Figures. Nashville: Turner Publishing, 2004. ISBN 978-1563119958
- Selznick, David O. Memo from David O. Selznick: The Creation of "Gone with the Wind" and Other Motion Picture Classics, as Revealed in the Producer's Private Letters, Telegrams, Memorandums, and Autobiographical Remarks. Modern Library, 2000. ISBN 978-0375755316
- Swindell, Larry. The Last Hero: A Biography of Gary Cooper. New York: Doubleday, 1980. ISBN 978-0385143165
All links retrieved July 13, 2022.
- Gary Cooper at the Internet Movie Database
- Gary Cooper Turner Classic Movies
- Gary Cooper Find-A-Grave
- Photographs of Gary Cooper Virtual History
- Gary Cooper Reel Classics
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