Gary Cooper


Actor
Gary Cooper

About

Also Known As
Frank James Cooper
Birth Place
Helena, Montana, USA
Born
May 07, 1901
Died
May 13, 1961
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

Gary Cooper's rugged mug, soft-spoken demeanor and earnest, haunted eyes for decades made him the quintessential lonely American of motion pictures, a more stoic, human protagonist versus boisterous, bigger-than-life Hollywood supermen. Privately a debonair ladies' man with a taste for high society, he crafted an image as just the opposite, from his prototype cowboy talkie "The Virginian...

Photos & Videos

I Take This Woman - Lobby Card
Friendly Persuasion - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Design for Living - Lobby Cards

Family & Companions

Clara Bow
Companion
Actor. Appeared together in "It" (1927) and three other movies; had relationship in the late 1920s.
Anderson Lawler
Companion
Actor. Contract player with Paramount; lived together in 1929.
Lupe Velez
Companion
Actor. Co-starred with Cooper in "Wolf Song" (1929) and shared a Laurel Canyon hideaway with him; his mother disapproved and came between the pair.
Evelyn Brent
Companion
Actor. Cooper's mother said, "Evelyn has been good to Gary; she has given him poise, she has taught him to think; her influence has been excellent, and I will always regard her with affection and gratitude"; the pair worked together on "Beau Sabreur" (1926) and "Paramount on Parade" (1930).

Bibliography

"Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers"
Maria Cooper Janis, Harry N. Abrams Inc. (1999)
"Gary Cooper: American Hero"
Jeffrey Meyers, William Morrow (1998)
"The Last Hero: A Biography of Gary Cooper"
Larry Swindell (1980)
"Coop: The Life and Legend of Gary Cooper"
Stuart M Kaminsky (1979)

Notes

"You're positive he's going to ruin your picture. I froze in my tracks the first time I directed him ("The Pride of the Yankees"). I thought something was wrong with him, and I saw a milion-dollar production go glimmering. I was amazed at the results on the screen. What I thought was underplaying turned out to be just the right approach. On the screen, he's perfect, yet on the set you'd swear it's the worst job of acting in the history of motion pictures." --Sam Wood (who directed Cooper four times) from "The Complete Films of Gary Cooper" by Homer Dickens (Citadel 1991)

"I knew it was a natural for me. My dad used to sit me on his knee and tell me stories about the sheriffs he dealt with in his days on the Montana Supreme Court bench, and all those episodes of the bygone years suddenly came back to me in full blossom right out of "High Noon" ... The sheriff I was asked to play was different than any I'd ever known or heard about because Sheriff Kane had to stand alone, literally, against the lawless. It was a challenging role--and I loved it." --Gary Cooper (reprinted in "The Motion Picture Guide", Volume IV)

Biography

Gary Cooper's rugged mug, soft-spoken demeanor and earnest, haunted eyes for decades made him the quintessential lonely American of motion pictures, a more stoic, human protagonist versus boisterous, bigger-than-life Hollywood supermen. Privately a debonair ladies' man with a taste for high society, he crafted an image as just the opposite, from his prototype cowboy talkie "The Virginian" (1929) playing shy, stoic "aw-shucks" her s. He built that image in such classics as Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds G s to Town" (1936) and "Meet John D " (1941) and celebrated biopics like "Sergeant York" (1941) and "Pride of the Yankees" (1942). Though he cooperated with the U.S. government's Hollywood witch hunts early in the Cold War, he nevertheless made a triumphant comeback in the anti-blacklisting parable "High Noon" (1952), refusing to dissociate himself from the film's blacklisted writer, Carl Foreman, karmic punctuation to what had been, on screen anyway, a legacy of a weary everyman who nevertheless stood tall against mob mentality.

He was born Frank James Cooper, second son of British immigrants Charles and Alice Cooper, in Helena, Montana on May 7, 1901. Charles Cooper worked as a lawyer and kept a 600-acre ranch outside Helena, where Frank and older brother Arthur spent their early years until their mother, hoping to acculturate her sons, sent them off to school in England. Frank returned to Montana at age 16, upon the U.S.'s entry into World War I, and eventually matriculated at Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA, where he attempted to nurture a passion for drawing - until a serious car accident ended his college days in the summer of 1920. He would recover from his severely injured hip through an odd but painful therapy, horseback riding. This would come in handy four years later as his search for a job as a political cartoonist bore no fruit and Cooper followed his parents to Los Angeles - where they'd moved after his father's retirement form the Montana Supreme Court - and found work as a stunt horseman in motion pictures. The tall, lean Frank Cooper caught the eye of agent Nan Collins, who took him on as a client and, with somebody already working under his name in show business, redubbed him Gary Cooper, after her Indiana hometown. Another uncredited horseman role in "The Winning of Barbara Worth" (1926) expanded portentously when silent star Vilma Banky's onscreen suitor fell out and Cooper found himself promoted to third-billing. Variety called the then-unknown Cooper "a youth who will be heard of on the screen," Paramount made him a contract player at $150 a week and notoriously randy A-list actress Clara Bow set her sights on him, giving him a small role in her next picture "It" (1927) - originating the notion of the "It-girl," the buzz around their romance making Cooper the original "It-boy."

That led to his first top-billing as a stereotype hero-cowboy in "Arizona Bound" (1927), then another turn supporting Bow in "Wings" (1927), the first film to win the Academy Award as Best Picture. He crossed over to partial-sound pics, most notably in "Wolf Song" (1929), which co-starred his latest love, Mexican actress Lupe Velez. His first full-fledged talkie, Victor Fleming's "The Virginian" (1929), would take him to a new stratum of stardom, hitting big with audiences and creating an archetype for American westerns, Cooper playing the white-hat hero rigidly following his moral compass versus the black-hats of the chaotic west, along the way wooing the transplanted Eastern schoolmarm. Much in demand, he went on to crank out 11 more movies in the next two years, four of them westerns, but most notably "Morocco" (1930), a French Foreign Legion adventure that would make Marlene Dietrich his love interest both on and off camera. By the time he filmed "His Woman" (1931), his first pairing with screwball comedy ingénue Claudette Colbert, his schedule had worn down his health, as had a tempestuous, sometimes violent cohabitation with Velez and the meddling of his disapproving mother, all bringing Cooper to the brink of nervous exhaustion. Even as he embarked on a sabbatical, Velez notoriously pulled a pistol and fired several rounds at his train car as it departed for Chicago

He traveled to Europe, in Italy finding another watershed relationship, with Countess Dorothy di Frasso-nee-Taylor, a socialite ten years his senior who had married into Euro-aristocracy out of Watertown, NY. They began a country-hopping affair, while she undertook his "Pygmallion"-esque refinement. Paramount c rced him back to Hollywood with threats of replacing him on its A-list with a young Cary Grant, then immediately shoved both into naval adventure compromised by a love triangle over stage great Tallulah Bankhead in "The Devil and the Deep" (1932). Cooper proved susceptible to her charms, as most her co-stars did, Bankhead soon ending her unhappy flirtation with the movies and returning to the theater, notoriously averring, "The only reason I went to Hollywood was to f--k that divine Gary Cooper." His ladies'-man days would end not long after - at least officially - when he met a savvy 20-year-old New York debutante, Veronica "Rocky" Balfe, at a party in early 1933 and married her the next December.

In the meantime he stretched his by-now-signature solemn-yet-upright character, sometimes in sober North American expatriate roles such as Hemmingway's melodrama "A Farewell to Arms" (1932), "Today We Live" (1933) and the hit actioner "Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (1934), more spiritedly in comedies such as "Design for Living" (1933), "One Sunday Afternoon" (1933), "Desire" (1936) and "Mr. Deeds G s to Town" (1936). The latter two would prove pivotal for Cooper in developing his charming rube character, "Desire" reteaming him with Dietrich as a bright-eyed American abroad caught in her criminal web, "Deeds" codifying the character, by way of director Frank Capra, as an archetype of integrity and innocence in the face of sophisticated charlatanry. Longfellow Deeds, a tuba-playing small-town Vermonter inheriting a fortune, plus the big city swells and grifters that follow, "had to symbolize incorruptibility, and in my mind Gary Cooper already was that symbol," Capra later wrote. His intuition paid off with a hit, earning Cooper his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, not to mention a separate six-year contract with independent producer Samuel Goldwyn for a movie a year at $150,000 apiece. That move challenged the studios' perceived exclusivity with their stars. Paramount sued and lost, the court ruling he could still fulfill his obligation to the studio.

Cooper continued his share of adventure yarns, playing a mercenary in revolutionary China in "The General Died at Dawn" (1936), Wild Bill Hickok in Cecille B. DeMille's "The Plainsman," more conspicuously as the world-spanning explorer in "The Adventures of Marco Polo" (1938) and again as a Legionnaire in the blockbuster "Beau Geste" (1939). Bolstering his manly bona fides, he met Hemingway on vacation in Idaho in 1940, getting a sneak-peak at his forthcoming book, The Sun Also Rises. He kept his hand in comedy, reuniting with Colbert in "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" (1938), and with Capra in another rube-against-the-odds picture, "Meet John D " (1941). A subtle indictment of the fascist machinations inflaming Europe, "D " had Cooper as a vagabond hired by an unscrupulous newspaper to play the role of a made-up pundit, claiming to be the voice of America's unheard everymen, unknowingly becoming the key to a plan by the paper's industrialist owner to garner populist groundswell for his "iron-fist" presidential candidacy. The oft-corny film nevertheless signaled Cooper's capacity, as a Time cover story posited, to render "a personality that de-schmaltzes sentiment and de-rants rhetoric." The looming war would color an even more momentous project of 1941, director Howard Hawks in the World War I tale of Sgt. Alvin York, the hayseed pacifist drafted into the U.S. army, overcoming his personal objections and capturing an entire German company single-handed. "Sergeant York" scored 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Actor, which Cooper walked away with the next February.

On a roll, he reteamed successfully with Stanwyck in "Ball of Fire" (1942), playing a nerdy English professor who hooks up with a mob-connected showgirl to learn new slang, and then went somber again, earning another Oscar nomination for director Sam Wood's "Pride of the Yankees," playing the baseball great Lou Gehrig, whose career was cut short by the disease that bears his name. The inspirational Gehrig farewell speech would become part of his routine when he entertained troops during the war. Wood directed him again in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (1943), during which Cooper reverted to old ways, beginning an affair with co-star Ingrid Bergman. A meandering tale, it nevertheless proved box-office gold in Hollywood's volume of wartime anti-fascist messages - curious given Cooper and Wood's helping to found the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals the next year. "The Alliance," whose members also included Walt Disney, Robert Taylor and Clark Gable (not to mention its influential but unofficial godfather John Wayne), dedicated itself to winnowing "Red" influence out of motion pictures. The studio reteamed Cooper and Bergman in the period romance "The Saratoga Trunk," shot in 1943 but released in '45, but by then he had become he became increasingly dissatisfied with his work for Paramount. The contract lapsing that year, he would produce his own first post-studio picture, "Along Came Jones" (1945), as an early revisionist western, parodying his once-rote western roles.

1947 would prove momentous for Cooper, though not for his work. The Alliance invited the Red Scare's primary catalyst, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), to investigate subversive influences in film, an exercise in paranoia that would ruin careers and have Cooper as a "friendly witness." Apologists say Cooper addressed the committee ambivalently and never named names of suspected Reds as did other Hollywood denizens who would later find themselves ostracized for their political convenience. Signing with Warner Bros., Cooper would link himself to right-wing canon in King Vidor's attempt to film Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead, a job made difficult by the controlling author. The film's climactic scene had Cooper, as her heroic architect-turned-terrorist, giving the longest speech in movie history theretofore, but with Rand's overwrought writing translating miserably to spoken dialogue, Cooper didn't understand it, appealed to Vidor for it to be simplified, and Rand nearly shut down production until the studio guaranteed her a pristine reading. When released in 1949, the work intended as a testimonial to Rand's exceptionalism proved a garish bomb. Rumors bubbling about troubles in his marriage also gained traction when he and his "Fountainhead" love interest, 22-year-old Patricia Neal, began an affair, which would become a long-term relationship and particularly problematic as Rocky, a devout Catholic, refused to consider divorce (though they separated in 1951).

Cooper as a 50-year-old leading man, meanwhile, was hardly setting the box office afire with by-the-numbers period adventure/romantic fare such as "Dallas" (1950) and "Distant Drums" (1951) as he once did - at least until independent producers Stanley Kramer and Carl Foreman came calling with a Western that would rock the genre. "High Noon," written by Foreman, told the tale of an aging marshal seeking the aid of townspeople to help fend off a gang whose leader he had put in prison, but finding no allies and only advice to flee with his young Quaker wife before the villains arrive. Cooper turned in a somber performance as the conflicted marshal, even as he reputedly began another amorous dalliance with his young co-star Grace Kelly. The film became a lightning rod, not only for its reversal of the sunny myths of square-jawed western superher s and intrepid pioneer-folk, but also for Foreman's use of the story as allegory for HUAC witch hunts, with which he himself had refused to cooperate. An overwhelming success financially and critically, it nevertheless became a target of the Alliance and its allies, who lobbied furiously against the film winning any of the seven Oscars for which it had been nominated, Alliance president John Wayne, and Cooper friend, calling it "the most un-American thing I have ever seen in my whole life." "High Noon" nevertheless won four Oscars, Cooper taking his second Best Actor statue and remaining friends with Foreman, who, now blacklisted, lost production credit on the film and moved to London. Cooper, shooting a new movie during the Academy Awards ceremony, asked Wayne to accept the award for him.

With marriage impossible, his relationship with Neal had ended by 1953, and he reunited with Rocky the next year. That year, he did another gun-slinging adventure in "Vera Cruz," this time as mercenaries with Burt Lancaster amid Mexico's 1866 revolution, a tale of conscience versus the shifting morals intrinsic to power politics. It gave Cooper a monster hit with another revisionist Western, "Vera Cruz" greatly influencing the coming spaghetti Western movement. Ensuing years would see him work with some of the cinema's top directors, Otto Preminger for "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell" (1955), with Cooper as the brash prophet of military air power; William Wyler for "Friendly Persuasion" (1956), a poignant film that had Cooper the head of a Quaker family whose pacifism is tested by the American Civil War; Billy Wilder for "Love in the Afternoon" (1957), with Cooper as the unlikely suitor of Audrey Hepburn; and Anthony Mann for "Man of the West" (1958). Largely considered the best of his final films, "The Hanging Tree" (1959) had Cooper as a frontier doctor attempting to be the moral anchor of a bawdy, troubled mining town and live down a dark past. His last two films, nautical mystery "The Wreck of the Mary Dearer" (1959) and psychological thriller "The Naked Edge" (1961), both showed a diminished, ill-looking Cooper, the result of cancer diagnosed in 1960, but kept from the public. One of his good friends, Jimmy Stewart, knew of Cooper's medical state when he emotionally accepted a special lifetime Oscar in spring 1961, Cooper spending his final days in his and Ricky's home in L.A.'s Holm by Hills neighborhood, until his death on May 14, 1961. He and Sidney Poitier share the distinction of being the only actors to have five films in the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies" list, with "Pride of the Yankees" at No. 22, "High Noon" at 27, "D " at 49, "York" at 57 and "Deeds" at 83.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Hollywood On Trial (1976)
Himself
The Naked Edge (1961)
George Radcliffe
The Hanging Tree (1959)
Dr. Joseph "Doc" Frail
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959)
Gideon Patch
They Came to Cordura (1959)
Major Thomas Thorn
Alias Jesse James (1959)
Ten North Frederick (1958)
Joseph B. Chapin
Man of the West (1958)
Link Jones, also known as Link Tobin
Love in the Afternoon (1957)
Frank Flannagan
Friendly Persuasion (1956)
Jess Birdwell
The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)
Billy Mitchell
Garden of Evil (1954)
Hooker
Vera Cruz (1954)
Ben Trane
Blowing Wild (1953)
Jeff Dawson
Return to Paradise (1953)
Mr. Morgan, also known as Morgantani
It's a Big Country: An American Anthology (1952)
Texan
High Noon (1952)
Will Kane
Springfield Rifle (1952)
Major "Lex" Kearney
You're in the Navy Now (1951)
Lt. John Harkness
Distant Drums (1951)
Capt. Quincy Wyatt
Starlift (1951)
Himself
Bright Leaf (1950)
Brant Royle
Dallas (1950)
Blayde "Reb" Hollister
It's a Great Feeling (1949)
Himself
Task Force (1949)
Jonathan L. Scott
The Fountainhead (1949)
Howard Roark
Good Sam (1948)
Sam [R.] Clayton
Unconquered (1947)
Captain Christopher Holden
Variety Girl (1947)
Saratoga Trunk (1946)
Clint Maroon
Cloak and Dagger (1946)
Prof. Alvah Jesper
Along Came Jones (1945)
Melody Jones
The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944)
Dr. Corydon M. Wassell
Casanova Brown (1944)
Casanova "Cas" Q. Brown
The Pride of the Yankees (1943)
Lou Gehrig
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
Robert Jordan
Ball of Fire (1942)
Prof. Bertram Potts
Sergeant York (1941)
Alvin C. York
Meet John Doe (1941)
John Doe, assumed name of Long John Willoughby
The Westerner (1940)
Cole Harden
Beau Geste (1939)
Beau Geste
The Real Glory (1939)
Doctor [Bill] Canavan
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938)
Michael Brandon
The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
Marco Polo
The Cowboy and the Lady (1938)
Stretch [Willoughby]
The Plainsman (1937)
Wild Bill Hickok
Souls at Sea (1937)
[Michael] "Nuggin" Taylor
Desire (1936)
Tom Bradley
The General Died at Dawn (1936)
O'Hara
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Longfellow Deeds
Hollywood Boulevard (1936)
Man at bar
The Wedding Night (1935)
Tony Barrett
Peter Ibbetson (1935)
Peter Ibbetson
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)
Lieutenant [Alan] McGregor
Operator 13 (1934)
Captain Jack Gailliard
Now and Forever (1934)
Jerry Day
Design for Living (1933)
George Curtis
Today We Live (1933)
[Lieutenant Richard] Bogard
One Sunday Afternoon (1933)
[Lucius] Biff Grimes
Alice in Wonderland (1933)
White Knight
A Farewell to Arms (1932)
Lieut. Frederic Henry
Devil and the Deep (1932)
Lieutenant Sempter
If I Had a Million (1932)
Steven Gallagher
Make Me a Star (1932)
Fighting Caravans (1931)
Clint Belmet
I Take This Woman (1931)
Tom McNair
His Woman (1931)
Captain Sam Whalan
City Streets (1931)
The Kid
The Spoilers (1930)
Roy Glenister
Seven Days Leave (1930)
Kenneth Dowey
The Texan (1930)
Enrique ["Quico," The Llano Kid]
A Man From Wyoming (1930)
Jim Baker
Only the Brave (1930)
Capt. James Braydon
Morocco (1930)
Tom Brown
Paramount on Parade (1930)
Galas de la Paramount (1930)
The Shopworn Angel (1929)
William Tyler
The Virginian (1929)
The Virginian
Wolf Song (1929)
Sam Lash
Betrayal (1929)
André Frey
Lilac Time (1928)
Capt. Philip Blythe
Half a Bride (1928)
Captain Edmunds
Doomsday (1928)
Arnold Furze
The First Kiss (1928)
Mulligan Talbot
Beau Sabreur (1928)
Major Henri de Beaujolais
Legion of the Condemned (1928)
Gale Price
It (1927)
Newspaper reporter
Wings (1927)
Cadet White
Arizona Bound (1927)
Dave Saulter
Nevada (1927)
Nevada
The Last Outlaw (1927)
Buddy Hale
Children of Divorce (1927)
Ted Larrabee
The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926)
Abe Lee

Producer (Feature Film)

Along Came Jones (1945)
Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Hollywood On Trial (1976)
Other

Cast (Special)

The Men Who Made the Movies: King Vidor (1973)
Himself
Hedda Hopper's Hollywood (1960)
Guest

Cast (Short)

Snow Carnival (1949)
Narrator
Lest We Forget (1937)
Himself
La Fiesta de Santa Barbara (1935)
Himself
Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (1934)
Himself

Misc. Crew (Short)

The Voice That Thrilled the World (1943)
Archival Footage
Breakdowns of 1941 (1941)
Archival Footage

Life Events

1910

Moved to England with his mother and older brother

1917

Returned to the USA

1923

Submitted many delightful cartoons and caricatures to the Helena (Montana) INDEPENDENT

1924

Joined his parents in Los Angeles, hoping to interest local newspapers in his artistic abilities

1925

Screen acting debut in "The Thundering Herd"

1926

First came to attention as second lead in "The Winning of Barbara Worth"

1927

Had walk-on as a reporter in "It", starring Clara Bow; first of four films in which both Bow and Cooper acted

1927

Had first starring role in the silent "Arizona Bound" (locations shot in Bryce Canyon, Utah), did his own stunt work

1927

Played a key role in William Wellman's "Wings", having one scene ("When your time comes, you're going to get it") before dying; audiences remembered him, and fan mail poured in

1928

Reteamed with Wellman for second "flyboy" movie, "Legion of the Condemned"; first film with Fay Wray

1928

First feature film with speaking part, "The Shopworn Angel"

1930

Portrayed sardonic, independent soldier, too taciturn to spell out his love for Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg's "Morocco"

1931

Starred opposite Claudette Colbert in "His Woman"

1932

Essayed his first Hemingway character (Frederick Henry) opposite Helen Hayes in Frank Borzage's "A Farewell to Arms"

1933

Played the White Knight in "Alice in Wonderland"

1933

Fifth and last performance opposite Fay Wray in "One Sunday Afternoon"

1933

Made stage debut at NYC's Paramount Theatre in skit directed by Ernst Lubitsch

1934

First of seven features with director Henry Hathaway, "Now and Forever", co-starring Shirley Temple and Carole Lombard; association with Hathaway actually went back to several films directed by Victor Fleming on which Hathaway assisted

1936

Reunited with Dietrich and Borzage for "Desire"

1936

Received first of five Academy Award nominations as Best Actor for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", directed by Frank Capra and co-starring Jean Arthur

1937

Starred opposite Arthur in "The Plainsman", the first of four films with director Cecil B. DeMille

1938

Reteamed with Colbert for "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife"

1939

US Treasury Department reported that Cooper was the nation's top wage earner at $482,819

1940

Turned down the leading role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent" (Joel McCrea undertook the part)

1940

Starred in William Wyler's "The Westerner", one of seven Cooper films in which Walter Brennan played a supporting role

1941

Reunited with Capra for "Meet John Doe", starring opposite Barbara Stanwyck

1941

Earned first Best Actor Oscar for Howard Hawks' "Sergeant York", the biopic of the WWI hero

1942

Portrayed baseball great Lou Gehrig in "The Pride of the Yankees"; nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor

1943

Second time as Hemingway hero (Robert Jordan) in Sam Wood's "For Whom the Bell Tolls", opposite Ingrid Bergman; received fourth Best Actor Oscar nomination

1945

Formed production company Cinema Artists for making of "Along Came Jones"; also producer

1945

Romanced Bergman a second time in Wood's "Saratoga Trunk"

1946

Offered credible turn as a nuclear scientist caught up in espionage in Fritz Lang's "Cloak and Dagger"

1947

Played opposite Paulette Goddard in "Unconquered", the last of his over 50 films for Paramount; also marked final collaboration with DeMille

1947

Testified as a "friendly witness" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), investing Communism in Hollywood

1949

His undaunted naturalism contributed strongly to the success of King Vidor's "The Fountainhead", co-starring Patricia Neal; Ayn Rand scripted from her 1943 best-selling novel

1950

Reteamed with Neal for "Bright Leaf"; only film with Lauren Bacall

1952

Collected second Best Actor Oscar for his dignified, lone sheriff in "High Noon", a suspense Western revolving around the sheriff's crisis of conscience; written by Carl Foreman, it also operated as an allegory for the writer's difficulties with HUAC (he was an uncooperative witness) that led to his blacklisting; Cooper took a cut in salary for a percentage of the profits, marking the beginning of big star participation in movie-making; produced by Stanley Kramer

1953

Reteamed with Stanwyck for offbeat "Blowing Wild"

1954

Last of seven films directed by Henry Hathaway, "Garden of Evil", co-starring Susan Hayward and Richard Widmark

1955

Suffered for his foresight as the title character of Otto Preminger's "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell"

1955

Made TV debut as guest on "The Steve Allen Show"

1956

Played a Quaker drawn reluctantly into Civil War in Wyler's "Friendly Persuasion"

1956

"Told" his memoirs to SATURDAY EVENING POST writer George Scullins, and they appeared in eight installments, entitled "Well, It Was This Way"

1957

Romanced younger woman Audrey Hepburn in sparkling comedy "Love in the Afternoon", director Billy Wilder's first film co-written with I.A.L. Diamond

1958

Formed Baroda Productions; first film "The Hanging Tree" (1959)

1958

Converted to Roman Catholicism, the religion of his wife and daughter

1958

Underwent treatment for an ulcer and had minor facial surgery

1959

Acted in four films, including "The Wreck of the Mary Deare", directed by Michael Anderson

1960

Had two major abdominal operations for stomach cancer

1961

Narrated and appeared in the excellent documentary "The Real West", produced as part of NBC-TV's "Project 20" series; aired on March 26

1961

Presented with honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement on April 17; accepted by longtime friend Jimmy Stewart because Cooper was too ill to attend

1961

Last film, "The Naked Edge" (for Baroda), helmed by Michael Anderson; released posthumously

1968

A nationwide televison popularity poll conducted by VARIETY still included Cooper and Clark Gable, though both had departed the scene nearly a decade before

Photo Collections

I Take This Woman - Lobby Card
I Take This Woman - Lobby Card
Friendly Persuasion - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Here is a photo taken behind-the-scenes during production of Friendly Persuasion (1956), produced and directed by William Wyler and starring Gary Cooper.
Design for Living - Lobby Cards
Here are some Lobby Cards from Design for Living (1932), directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, and Gary Cooper. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Souls at Sea - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Souls at Sea - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Souls at Sea - Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Jumbo Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Jumbo Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Movie Posters
Souls at Sea - Movie Posters
For Whom the Bell Tolls - Movie Poster
For Whom the Bell Tolls - Movie Poster
The Pride of the Yankees - Publicity Stills
The Pride of the Yankees - Publicity Stills
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town - Movie Posters
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town - Movie Posters
Sergeant York - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Sergeant York (1941), starring Gary Cooper. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Sergeant York - Alvin York's Registration Card
Here is Alvin York's Registration Card for service in the United States military. Note the remarks written for question 12: Do you claim exemption from draft? York's story was filmed by Warner Bros. in Sergeant York (1941), starring Gary Cooper.
Meet John Doe - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for Frank Capra's Meet John Doe (1941), starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Fountainhead - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from The Fountainhead (1949). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Fountainhead - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from The Fountainhead (1949). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Love in the Afternoon - Lobby Card
Here is a lobby card from Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon (1957), starring Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Operator 13 - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Here is a photo taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Operator 13 (1934), starring Marion Davies and Gary Cooper.
Ball of Fire - Movie Poster
Here is the American half-sheet movie poster for Ball of Fire (1942), starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Half-sheets measured 22x28 inches.
The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm - Behind-the-Scenes Still
Here is a photo taken behind-the-scenes during production of Universal Pictures' The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm (1957), starring Majorie Main.
Devil and the Deep - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from Paramount Pictures' Devil and the Deep (1932), starring Gary Cooper, Tallulah Bankhead, and Charles Laughton.
Sundown - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Walter Wanger's Sundown (1941), directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Gene Tierney and Bruce Cabot.
Devil and the Deep - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Paramount's Devil and the Deep (1932), starring Charles Laughton, Gary Cooper, and Tallulah Bankhead. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Devil and the Deep - Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills from Paramount's Devil and the Deep (1932), starring Gary Cooper, Tallulah Bankhead, and Charles Laughton. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Operator 13 - Movie Poster
Here is the original half-sheet movie poster for MGM's Operator 13 (1934), starring Marion Davies and Gary Cooper.
Gary Cooper - State Express Cigarette Card
This is a small cigarette card of actor Gary Cooper. These cards were included in Cigarette packs in the 1930s and were collectible items. Customers could even purchase books to organize and collect these cards. State Express was an active Cigarette Card producer, creating a wide range of cards featuring famous people of which film stars were an often popular draw.

Videos

Movie Clip

The Story Of Dr. Wassell (1944) — (Movie Clip) We Were Such Fools In China Amid a hefty opening staged by producer-director C.B. DeMille, title character Gary Cooper is sorting wounded Americans from a damaged Navy cruiser in Java, 1942, taking flak from Stanley Ridges when Laraine Day appears as Madeline, their history unknown but intense, Irving Bacon and Ottola Nesmith intrigued, Signe Hasso on the train, in The Story Of Dr. Wassell, 1944.
Ball Of Fire (1942) - Just Another Apple Stripper Sugarpuss (Barbara Stanwyck) surprises grammar Professor Potts (Gary Cooper), ready to begin her interview right away, his colleagues, modeled on the Seven Dwarves, supporting the idea, in Howard Hawks' Ball Of Fire, 1942.
Ball Of Fire (1942) - Shove In Your Clutch Sugarpuss (Barbara Stanwyck) briefed backstage by thugs Pastrami (Dan Duryea) and Asthma (Ralph Peters), all of them mistaking Professor Potts (Gary Cooper) for a lawman, in Howard Hawks' Ball Of Fire, 1942, from an original script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett.
Ball Of Fire (1942) - Two And Two Are Five Allen Jenkins is the garbage man, seeking trivia help from encyclopedia-writing professors (Oscar Homolka, Aubrey Mather, Richard Haydn, S.Z. Sakall et al), Potts (Gary Cooper) committing to new research, in Howard Hawks' Ball Of Fire, 1942.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938) - I'll Buy The Trousers Continuing the opening scene, the emphatic meet-cute, from the first screenplay collaboration by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, Ernst Lubitsch directing, as Claudette Colbert appears, in a French Riviera department store, rescuing Gary Cooper as a rich American who’s refusing to buy pajama-pants he doesn’t need, with Rolfe Sedan and Lionel Pape, in Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, 1938.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938) - American Understood The opening shot established the French Riviera, now we meet Gary Cooper, the implied American, shopping, met by Rolfe Sedan, then Lionel Pape, which leads to Charles Halton on the phone, in Ernst Lubitsch’s Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, 1938, also starring Claudette Colbert, from a screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938) - How Does One Get A Job? Claudette Colbert as financially-challenged French Riviera denizen Nicole arrives on the beach, meeting David Niven as pal Albert, when they’re confronted by Gary Cooper as American millionaire Brandon who, we discover, has bought a bathtub from her equally impoverished dad, aiming to woo her, in Ernst Lubitsch’s Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, 1938.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938) - It's The Same Ocean! With French Riviera hotel staff (Franklin Pangborn accompanied by Armand Cortes) offering new rooms, Gary Cooper as the still not-named American millionaire who’s having trouble sleeping, the surprise appearance of Edward Everett Horton as the Marquis, in Ernst Lubitsch’s Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, 1938, also starring Claudette Colbert.
Hanging Tree, The (1959) - Maybe Forever Vagrant Rune (Ben Piazza), seen stealing from a gold sluice in the new Montana mining town of Skull Creek, and shot by pursuing miners, meets Doc (Gary Cooper), who is new in town and whose background is so far unknown, early in Delmer Daves’ The Hanging Tree, 1959.
Design for Living (1933) - Immorality May Be Fun George (Gary Cooper) romancing Gilda (Miriam Hopkins) in her Paris apartment then bumping into her chivalrous employer Plunkett (Edward Everett Horton), who delivers the same speech he just made to Cooper's roommate, who's also fallen for her, in Ernst Lubitsch's Design for Living, 1933.
Design for Living (1933) - Bonjour! Snoozing on a French train, George (Gary Cooper) and Tom (Fredric March) can be forgiven for assuming Gilda (Miriam Hopkins) is French, in the first scene from Ernst Lubitsch's Design for Living, 1933, from a Noel Coward play and Ben Hecht screenplay.
Design for Living (1933) - Bassington Speaks! American Tom (Fredric March) at his Paris garret writing "un-produced plays" when Plunkett (Edward Everett Horton), visiting to discourage his pursuit of his employee Gilda (Constance Bennett), inadvertently inspires him, in Ernst Lubitsch's Design for Living, 1933.

Trailer

Wreck of the Mary Deare, The -- (Original Trailer) The skipper of a sunken ship (Gary Cooper) stands trial for The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959). Co-starring Charlton Heston.
Mr. Deeds Goes To Town - (Re-issue Trailer) When small-town poet Gary Cooper inherits a fortune, he has to deal with the corruption of city life in Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936).
Westerner, The (1940) -- (Original Trailer) A drifter (Gary Cooper) accused of horse stealing faces off against the notorious Judge Roy Bean (Walter Brennan).
Hanging Tree, The - (Original Trailer) A doctor (Gary Cooper) saves a man from hanging then tries to run his life in The Hanging Tree (1959).
Wings - (Re-issue Trailer) Wings (1927). the epic adventure of two American flyers in World War I, was the first Best Picture winner.
Friendly Persuasion - (British Trailer) Gary Cooper plays a Quaker whose pacifism is tested during the Civil War in Friendly Persuasion, 1956, directed by William Wyler.
For Whom the Bell Tolls -- (Original Trailer) Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman fight the good fight in Spain in the movie of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943).
Sergeant York - (Re-issue Trailer) Gary Cooper won his first Best Actor Oscar portraying Sergeant York (1941), the pacifist who becomes a war hero.
Morocco - (Original Trailer) Marlene Dietrich plays a nightclub singer who falls hard for a Foreign Legionnaire (Gary Cooper) in her first American film Morocco (1930).
Along Came Jones -- (Original Trailer) Gary Cooper spoofs his screen image playing a mild-mannered cowboy who is mistaken for a notorious outlaw in Along Came Jones (1945).
Alice in Wonderland (1933) - (Original Trailer) A trip through the looking glass and down a rabbit hole sends an English girl into a world of fantastic characters and strange potions in Alice in Wonderland (1933).
Saratoga Trunk - (Re-issue Trailer) A woman with a past returns to 19th-Century New Orleans for revenge in Saratoga Trunk (1945) starring Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper.

Promo

Family

Charles Henry Cooper
Father
Lawyer, rancher, judge. British-born; moved to the USA at age 19; settled in Montana; practiced law and eventually served on the Montana State Supreme Court; purchased the Seven-Bar-Nine ranch c. 1906; died in 1946.
Alice Cooper
Mother
British; returned to England with her two sons in 1910, purportedly for health reasons; returned to the USA after seven years during WWI; survived him.
Arthur Cooper
Brother
Born in 1895; survived him.
Maria Veronica Balfe Cooper
Daughter
Author. Married to composer Byron Janis c. 1966 and from whom she separated in 1996.

Companions

Clara Bow
Companion
Actor. Appeared together in "It" (1927) and three other movies; had relationship in the late 1920s.
Anderson Lawler
Companion
Actor. Contract player with Paramount; lived together in 1929.
Lupe Velez
Companion
Actor. Co-starred with Cooper in "Wolf Song" (1929) and shared a Laurel Canyon hideaway with him; his mother disapproved and came between the pair.
Evelyn Brent
Companion
Actor. Cooper's mother said, "Evelyn has been good to Gary; she has given him poise, she has taught him to think; her influence has been excellent, and I will always regard her with affection and gratitude"; the pair worked together on "Beau Sabreur" (1926) and "Paramount on Parade" (1930).
Countess Dorothy di Frasso
Companion
American-born daughter of multi-millionaire Bertrand L Taylor.
Veronica Balfe
Wife
Actor, socialite. Born c. 1912 introduced to society in 1931; met Cooper when she was a teenager living at the home of Cedric Gibbons and Dolores Del Rio; married on December 15, 1933; separated briefly in 1951; reconciled and remained together until his death in 1961; acted in only two films ("King Kong" and "Blood Money", both 1933); died on February 18, 2000.
Marlene Dietrich
Companion
Actor. Met during filming of "Morocco" (1930); Cooper's wife served Dietrich with a writ during divorce proceedings; writ later dropped.
Patricia Neal
Companion
Actor. Appeared in three films together in 1949-50, including "The Fountainhead"; had affair which led to Cooper's separation from his wife; relationship ended c. 1951.

Bibliography

"Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers"
Maria Cooper Janis, Harry N. Abrams Inc. (1999)
"Gary Cooper: American Hero"
Jeffrey Meyers, William Morrow (1998)
"The Last Hero: A Biography of Gary Cooper"
Larry Swindell (1980)
"Coop: The Life and Legend of Gary Cooper"
Stuart M Kaminsky (1979)
"Gary Cooper: An Intimate Biography"
David Brooks (1979)
"The Complete Films of Gary Cooper"
Homer Dickens, Citadel Press (1971)

Notes

"You're positive he's going to ruin your picture. I froze in my tracks the first time I directed him ("The Pride of the Yankees"). I thought something was wrong with him, and I saw a milion-dollar production go glimmering. I was amazed at the results on the screen. What I thought was underplaying turned out to be just the right approach. On the screen, he's perfect, yet on the set you'd swear it's the worst job of acting in the history of motion pictures." --Sam Wood (who directed Cooper four times) from "The Complete Films of Gary Cooper" by Homer Dickens (Citadel 1991)

"I knew it was a natural for me. My dad used to sit me on his knee and tell me stories about the sheriffs he dealt with in his days on the Montana Supreme Court bench, and all those episodes of the bygone years suddenly came back to me in full blossom right out of "High Noon" ... The sheriff I was asked to play was different than any I'd ever known or heard about because Sheriff Kane had to stand alone, literally, against the lawless. It was a challenging role--and I loved it." --Gary Cooper (reprinted in "The Motion Picture Guide", Volume IV)