Yes, Indeed! Melville Cooper is Quite a Character!
Pompous snobs, disdainful servants, cowards, bunglers, confidence men and thieves… yes, that would be Melville Cooper, and he is quite the character! I can still remember the first time I ‘encountered’ him — as Miss Elizabeth’s hopeful suitor in Pride and Prejudice — with all of his clumsy and clueless attempts to make amends to the family whose fortune he was destined to inherit…
“As you are aware Madame, when a certain melancholy event occurs, I shall be the involuntary means of disinheriting your daughters. I have long felt it my duty to make such reparation as within my power.”
And what a delivery — with the snobbiest of voices and the most condescending of mannerisms! But that is just the first of many Melville Cooper performances that I’ve enjoyed throughout the years…
Born in Birmingham, England (1896), Cooper made his acting debut at age 18 in a stage production at Stratford-upon-Avon. His budding career was soon interrupted by World War I during which he served in a Scottish Regiment, was captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war for a brief time. After the war, Cooper returned to the British stage, earned good reviews, and made his London stage debut in 1924. He transitioned to films in the early 1930’s, and, after appearing in the popular films, The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), he made his way to America, where he appeared on both Broadway and, all told, in over 90 films and television shows (1935 – 1961).
So to pay tribute to the wonderful Melville Cooper, I will share quotes from three of my personal favorite Cooper films…
The bumbling, and quite pompous, Mr. Collins (Melville Cooper), asks for poor Miss Elizabeth’s (Greer Garson) hand in marriage…
Mr. Collins: But my dear Miss Elizabeth, I think you ought to take into consideration, that in spite of your loveliness and amiable qualifications, you are practically penniless and it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you.
Elizabeth: Well by all means!
Mr. Collins: So I must therefore attribute your refusal of me to your wish of increasing my love by suspense — which is, I’m told, the usual practice of elegant females.
Conman sidekick Gerald (Melville Cooper) and card sharp Colonel Harrington (Charles Coburn) prepare to fleece ‘poor’ rich Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) (along with Harrington’s con artist daughter Jean, played by Barbara Stanwyck of course!)…
Colonel Harrington: I can take this boy with a deck of visiting cards.
Gerald: Just to be on the safe side… High card cuts on the outside, cold hands in the middle.
Colonel Harrington (singing): Cold hands I love…
Gerald: Blue readers on the outside, red nearest the heart.
Colonel Harrington: I could play the whole ship with these…
The cowardly High Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper) with the treacherous Prince John (Claude Rains) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) plotting to weed out and arrest Robin Hood (Errol Flynn)…
High Sheriff of Nottingham: I hope our little golden hook will catch the fish.
Prince John: You hope?
High Sheriff of Nottingham: Oh it will… if he’s here.
Prince John: If he’s not we’ll stick your head upon the target and shoot at that.
A big Thank You to the fabulous Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen for hosting this fun What a Character Blogathon event! There are so many more wonderful Classic Bloggers participating in this event so please be sure to check out the other entries.
–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub