Legendary actor, Gary Cooper, was born Frank James Cooper on May 7, 1901 in Helena, MT. Cooper appeared in 115 film roles. His best known films include A Farewell to Arms, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, The General Died at Dawn, The Cowboy and the Lady, Beau Geste, Meet John Doe, Sergeant York, The Pride of the Yankees, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Fountainhead, High Noon and Love in the Afternoon. Early on in his career, Cooper appeared uncredited in some silent films including Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (as an uncredited Roman Guard) and The Johnstown Flood (as an uncredited Flood Survivor). Cooper died at the age of 60 on May 13, 1961 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and was laid to rest in Sacred Hearts Cemetery in Southhampton, NY.
Gary Cooper's stoic demeanor and quiet authority made him the very symbol of what is now known as everyday exceptionalism. He was born Frank James Copper on May 7th 1901, in Helena, Montana. Both his parent came from wealthy British families and thus sent their children away to the Dunstable Grammar School in England to receive a classic education. At age 13, Cooper was injured in car accident and upon the recommendation of his doctor, took to horse backing riding as a means of physical theory. These riding skills would prove evaluable in career as westerns film actor. He later attended Iowa's Grinnell College, where he developed a passion for drawing. He later left school and returned to Montana, with hopes of starting a career as a political cartoonist. Unable to find work in Montana, Cooper would soon relocated to Los Angeles with his parents. After a series of failed jobs he was able to find work as a film extra in 1925. He appeared in the background of several westerns before receiving screen credit in the short Lightin' Wins. After the film's release, he was offered a long-term contract with Paramount Studios.
Rising to Star
It was casting director, Nan Collins, who suggest Cooper change his first name to Gary and take on a more rugged persona. Collins was also able to secure him better roles, starting with a supporting role in 1926'sThe Winning of Barbara Worth. He then caught the eye of actress Clara Bow, who insisted he have a small par in her next film It. The next year, with the help from Clara Bow, Cooper scored his breakthrough role as Cadet White in the 1927 wartime romance, Wings. The film became the first to receive the Best Picture Academy Award. Although his next film, The Last Outlaw, was met with the little fanfare, he did see more success with the 1927 John Waters picture Nevada, opposite Thelma Todd and William Powell. For the next couple of he years he continued to find steady work, his popularity only growing with each film appearance. By the time of his first talkie, 1929's The Virginian, Copper was already considered a major star.
Because of his private European education coupled with his rural American home, Cooper was able to play both wealth sophisticates as well as rugged adventurers, appealing to both men and women in equal measure. He kept his cowboy image by starring in films such as 1931's Fighting Caravans, and continued to demonstrate his skill as an action star, playing a French officer opposite Marlene Dietrich in Morocco. He starred opposite infamous theatre star/personality Tallulah Bankhead in the 1932 film The Devil and the Deep. At this point in his career, Cooper had developed his solemnly stoic hero persona, further perpetuating that screen image in films such as the adaptation of Ernest Hemmingway's A Farwell to Arms. In 1933, he was second lead in the early screwball-comedy prototype, Design for Living. Although the film received mixed criticism for its departure from the original play, audiences flocked to it. In 1936, Cooper collaborated with director Frank Capra for the film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The film follows Longfellow Deeds (Cooper), a simple natured, small-town man who must navigate the treacherous world of big city greed after inheriting 20 million dollars from a distant relative. The film was a massive and Cooper was nominated for his first of five Academy Award nominations. The film made the already massively popular Gary Cooper an even bigger star, placing him at the top of the Hollywood hierarchy. There was not a director in Hollywood who didn't want to film him and starlet who would not star opposite him. He was said to be Producer David O. Selznik's first choice to play Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind but refused it. He continued to star in a series of successful action/adventure films in through out the late 1930's, including 1938's The Adventure of Marco Polo and the 1939 William Wellmen film Beau Geste.
In 1940 Cooper starred in two westerns, the first being aptly named The Westerner opposite Walter Brennan and the other, West Mounted Police. The next year he starred in the biographical picture, Sergeant York. The film follows the exceptional wartime exploits of Alvin York during WWI. Its rumored York refused to offer his support unless it was Cooper who play him. The film was a hit and Cooper received his first Best Actor Academy Award. In 1941 he reteamed with Frank Capra to star in Meet John Doe opposite Barbara Stanwyck. The same year, Cooper again starred with Barbara Stanwyck in the Howard Hawks fish-out-of-water comedy Ball of Fire. In 1942 he starred as Lou Gehrig in the bio-pic Pride of the Yankees. His performance the baseball all star whose life was tragically cut short by disease is one of his most fondly remembered, with the line "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth," remaining one of the more memorable quotes in film history.
In 1943, Cooper scored another huge hit, once again starring in an Ernst Hemmingway adaption, For Whom the Bell Tolls, this time opposite Ingrid Bergman. Although a bloated wondering story, the film was huge hit at the box office, with many flocking to see it's anti-fascist wartime message. In the late forties he starred in series of profitable but forgettable films such as 1944's Casanova Brown and 1945's Saratoga Trunk. Soon, however, he grew tired of the roles offered to him by Paramount and did not renew his contract when it lapsed. His went to produce and star in his first post-studio picture, Along Came Jones, parodying his own serious western-centric image. In 1947, he worked with famed director Cecil B. Demille in the frontier drama Unconquered. In 1949 he starred opposite Patricia O'Neil in the adaptation of the Ayn Rand fictions novel The Fountainhead. The film faced multiple production dilemmas, scandals and was ultimately unsuccessful in the papers and at the box-office.
Later Career and Declining Health
Although Cooper began the new decade with his trusted western, his first film of the, Dallas, did only moderately well at the box-office. His next film, 1951's It's a Big Country, shared the same fate. In 1952, however, Cooper would star in what has become his signature role as Marshal Will Kane in Fred Zimmermann's High Noon. His portrayal of the stoic Marshall who must face death after being abandoned by those he swore to protect is considered to be his finest performance. Cooper was awarded his second Oscar for the performance. He continued to primarily star in westerns for the rest of the decade, with some notable highlights being Vera Cruz opposite Burt Lancaster, Friendly Persuasion opposite Anthony Perkins, and Man of the West directed by Anthony Mann.
During this time, however, Coopers health was in decline. Although he was always regarded as the highly professional and always prepared, he was plagued with reoccurring illnesses and was eventual diagnosed with lung cancer. His final project was the narration of the NBC TV documentary The Real West. In the documentary, Cooper helped audiences to discern the reality of the American frontier to the mythos created by Hollywood representation. In 1960 he was forced to go under the knife when it spread to his colon but soon it spread to his bones and was determined to be terminal. He was able to attend the 1961 Academy Awards Ceremony where he was to be award an honorary Lifetime Achievement Award. A teary-eyed Jimmy Stewart accepted the awards on his behalf and mentioned in Cooper's diminishing health in his speech.
One month after the Awards Ceremony, on May 13th, 1961, Gary Cooper passed away. It was only six days after his birthday. He was 60 when he died.
HONORS and AWARDS:.
Gary Cooper was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two for Best Actor for Sergeant York (as Alvin C. York) and High Noon (as Will Kane) in 1941 and 1952 respectively. He also won one Honorary Award in 1960 for his many memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, has gained for the motion picture industry .
|1936||Best Actor||Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)||Longfellow Deeds||Nominated|
|1941||Best Actor||Sergeant York (1941)||Alvin C. York||Won|
|1942||Best Actor||The Pride of the Yankees (1942)||Lou Gehrig||Nominated|
|1943||Best Actor||For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)||Robert Jordan||Nominated|
|1952||Best Actor||High Noon (1952)||Will Kane||Won|
Academy Awards (Honorary Oscars)
|1960||Honorary Award||for his many memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, has gained for the motion picture industry|
He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Gary Cooper's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #70 on Aug 13, 1943. In addition, Cooper was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 1990, 2009.
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