Nationality: American. Born: Frank James Cooper in Helena, Montana, 7 May 1901. Education: Dunstable College, England, until WWI; Wesleyan College, Bozeman, Montana; Grinnell College, Iowa. Family: Married Veronica Balfe, 1933, daughter: Maria. Career: 1924—worked as political cartoonist for newspapers in Los Angeles; began working as extra and stunt rider in Westerns; 1925—appeared as villain in Marilyn Mills's Western shorts; 1926—first major featured role in The Winning of Barbara Worth ; contract with Paramount; 1928—first appearance in sound film, The Shopworn Angel ; 1937—named by New York Times as highest paid entertainer; contract with Samuel Goldwyn; 1944—formed own production company, International Pictures; 1947—testified before House Un-American Activities Committee, but named no names; contract with Warners; 1952—critical comeback in High Noon after several unsuccessful films; formed production company, Baroda Productions; 1961—narrated "The Real West" episode of Project 20 for television, his last media appearance. Awards: Best Actor Academy Award, and Best Actor, New York Film Critics, for Sergeant York , 1941; Best
(also appeared as extra in about 30 films during 1925–26 including: 1925–26 Dick Turpin ; The Thundering Herd ; Wild Horse Mesa ; The Lucky Horseshoe ; The Vanishing American ; The Eagle ; The Enchanted Hill ; Watch Your Wife )
Tricks (Mitchell); Three Pals (Mitchell); Lightnin' Wins (Tiesler); The Winning of Barbara Worth (King) (as Abe Lee)
It (Badger) (as reporter); Children of Divorce (Lloyd) (as Ted Larrabee); Arizona Bound (Waters) (as the Cowboy); Wings (Wellman) (as Cadet White); Nevada (Waters) (as Jim Lacy); The Last Outlaw (Rossen) (as Sheriff Buddy Hale)
Beau Sabreur (Waters) (as Major Henri de Beaujolais); Legion of the Condemned (Wellman) (as Gale Price); Doomsday (Rowland V. Lee) (as Arnold Furze); Half a Bride (La Cava) (as Captain Edmunds); Lilac Time (Fitzmaurice) (as Captain Philip Blythe); The First Kiss (Rowland V. Lee) (as Mulligan Talbot); The Shopworn Angel (Wallace) (as William Tyler)
Wolf Song (Fleming) (as Sam Lash); Betrayal (Milestone) (as Andre Frey); The Virginian (Fleming) (title role)
Only the Brave (Tuttle) (as Captain James Braydon); Paramount on Parade (Arzner and others) (as himself); The Texan (Cromwell) (as Enrique "Quico"); Seven Days Leave (Wallace) (as Kenneth Dowey); The Man from Wyoming (Rowland V. Lee) (as Jim Baker); The Spoilers (Carewe) (as Glenister); Morocco (von Sternberg) (as Tom Brown)
Fighting Caravans (Brower and Burton) (as Clint Belmet); City Streets (Mamoulian) (as The Kid); I Take This Woman (Gering) (as Tom McNair); His Woman (Sloman) (as Captain Sam Whalan)
Make Me a Star (Beaudine) (as himself); The Devil and the Deep (Gering) (as Lieutenant Sempter); If I Had a Million (Lubitsch and others) (as Gallagher); A Farewell to Arms (Borzage) (as Frederic Henry); The Slippery Pearls (short); Voice of Hollywood (short) (as himself)
Today We Live (Hawks) (as Bogard); One Sunday Afternoon (Roberts) (as Biff Grimes); Design for Living (Lubitsch) (as George Curtis); Alice in Wonderland (McLeod) (as The White Knight); Operator Thirteen (Boleslawsky) (as Captain Jack Gailliard)
Now and Forever (Hathaway) (as Jerry Day)
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (Hathaway) (as Lieutenant McGregor); The Wedding Night (Vidor) (as Tony Barrett); Peter Ibbetson (Hathaway) (title role); Star Night at the Coconut Grove (short) (as himself)
Desire (Borzage) (as Tom Bradley); Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Capra) (as Longfellow Deeds); Hollywood Boulevard (Florey) (as guest at bar); The General Died at Dawn (Milestone) (as O'Hara); The Plainsman (DeMille) (as Wild Bill Hickok); La Fiesta De Santa Barbara (short)
Souls at Sea (Hathaway) (as "Nuggin" Taylor); Lest We Forget (short) (as himself)
The Adventures of Marco Polo (Mayo) (as Marco Polo); Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (Lubitsch) (as Michael Brandon); The Cowboy and the Lady (Potter) (as Stretch)
Beau Geste (Wellman) (title role); The Real Glory (Hathaway) (as Dr. Bill Canavan)
The Westerner (Wyler) (as Cole Hardin); Northwest Mounted Police (DeMille) (as Dusty Rivers); Meet John Doe (Capra) (as John Doe or Long John Willoughby)
Sergeant York (Hawks) (title role); Ball of Fire (Hawks) (as Prof. Bertram Potts)
The Pride of the Yankees (Wood) (as Lou Gehrig)
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Wood) (as Robert Jordan)
Memo for Joe (Richard Fleischer) (as himself); The Story of Dr. Wassell (DeMille) (as Dr. Corydon M. Wassell); Casanova Brown (Wood) (title role)
Along Came Jones (Heisler) (as Melody Jones, + pr); Saratoga Trunk (Wood) (as Col. Clint Maroon)
Cloak and Dagger (Fritz Lang) (as Prof. Alvah Jesper)
Unconquered (DeMille) (as Captain Christopher Holden); Variety Girl (Marshall) (as himself)
Good Sam (McCarey) (as Sam Clayton); The Fountainhead (King Vidor) (as Howard Roark)
It's a Great Feeling (Butler) (as himself); Task Force (Daves) (as Jonathon L. Scott); Snow Carnival (short) (as narrator, + pr); Bright Leaf (Curtiz) (as Brant Royle); Dallas (Heisler) (as Blayde "Reb" Hollister)
You're in the Navy Now (Hathaway) (as Lt. John Harkness); Starlift (Del Ruth) (as guest star); It's a Big Country (Thorpe and others) (as Texas); Distant Drums (Walsh) (as Capt. Quincy Wyatt)
High Noon (Zinnemann) (as Will Kane); Springfield Rifle (deToth) (as Major Alex Kearney)
Return to Paradise (Robson) (as Mr. Morgan); Blowing Wild (Fregonese) (as Jeff Dawson)
Garden of Evil (Hathaway) (as Hooker); Vera Cruz (Aldrich) (as Benjamin Trane)
The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (Preminger) (as Billy Mitchell)
Friendly Persuasion (Wyler) (as Jess Birdwell)
Love in the Afternoon (Wilder) (as Frank Flanagan)
Ten North Frederick (Dunne) (as Joe Chapin); Man of the West (Anthony Mann) (as Link Jones)
The Hanging Tree (Daves) (as Doc Joseph Frail); Alias Jesse James (McLeod) (as himself); The Wreck of the Mary Deare (Anderson) (as Gideon Patch); They Came to Cordura (Rossen) (as Major Thomas Thorn)
The Naked Edge (Anderson) (as George Ratcliffe)
"The Big Boy Tells His Story," in Photoplay (New York), April and May 1929.
"The Role I Liked Best," in the Saturday Evening Post (Philadel-phia), 6 May 1950.
"Well It Was This Way," in the Saturday Evening Post (Philadel-phia), 18 and 25 February, 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 March, and 7 April 1956.
Schickel, Richard, The Stars , New York, 1962.
Fenin, George, and William K. Everson, The Western, From Silents to Cinerama , New York, 1962.
Gehman, Richard, The Tall American: The Story of Gary Cooper , New York, 1963.
Escoubé, Lucienne, Gary Cooper: Le Cavalier de l'ouest , Paris, 1965.
Dickens, Homer, The Films of Gary Cooper , New York, 1970.
Carpozi, George Jr., The Gary Cooper Story , New Rochelle, N.Y., 1970.
Jordan, René, Gary Cooper , New York, 1974.
Arce, Hectore, Gary Cooper, An Intimate Biography , New York, 1979.
Kaminsky, Stuart, Coop: The Life and Legend of Gary Cooper , New York, 1980.
Swindell, Larry, The Last Hero: A Biography of Gary Cooper , New York, 1980.
Chardair, N., Gary Cooper , Paris, 1981.
Ortega, Josette. Gary Cooper , Paris, 1984.
McDonald, Archie P., editor, Shooting Stars: Heroes and Heroines of Western Film , Bloomington, Indiana, 1987.
Wayne, Jane Ellen, Cooper's Women , New York, 1988.
Meyers, Jeffrey, Gary Cooper: American Hero , New York, 1998.
Janis, Maria Cooper, Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers , introduction by Tom Hanks, New York, 1999.
Busby, Marquis, "The New Two-Gun Man," in Photoplay (New York), April 1930.
Wood, Tom, "Gary Cooper," in Look (New York), 16 May 1944.
Goodman, Ezra, "Average Guy: Gary Cooper Reflects on Twenty Years in Film," in the New York Times , 19 December 1948.
Clarens, Carlos, "Gary Cooper," in Films in Review (New York), December 1959.
Guy, Rory, "Gary Cooper Was a Great Actor, No, He Was Not! He Was. . . ," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), October-November 1964.
Carle, Teet, "Gary Cooper: The Man Who Seemed Eternal," in Hollywood Studio , May 1972.
Schwartz, W., "Gary Cooper," in Films in Review (New York), January 1973, + filmo added to 1959 article.
Corey, Jeff, "Gary Cooper: Natural Talent" in Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book , edited by Danny Peary, New York, 1978.
Schickel, Richard, "Gary Cooper" in The Movie Star , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Brown, J.A. "Putting on the Ritz: Masculinity and the Young Gary Cooper," Screen (Oxford), vol. 36, no. 3, 1995.
* * *
The film career of Gary Cooper seems to fall into six distinct periods:
1926–30: The Naive Young Hero . In this four-year period Cooper made 23 films, an average of five a year from The Winning of Barbara Worth to The Spoilers . More than half of them are Westerns or military pictures, films in which Cooper appeared as the tentative, shy young man, loose and limber of body, sure of the moral position he shared with the world. In this pre-Depression era, Cooper represented the young American who believed in the triumph of simple virtues and his commitment to them. In his own life, Cooper was, in fact, developing more and more confidence, was at the peak of his physical appearance and health, and was by the conclusion of this period not a tentative, shy man at all.
1930–36: Cynicism and Disillusion . In this six-year period Cooper made 19 films, an average of about three a year, from Morocco to Desire . Only one of these films is a Western. The Western image of affirmation was submerged by the Depression. In these films Cooper emerges as a tense and cautious figure, one who distrusts others or is loath to commit himself to others, though he can be touched.
1936–41: Altruism and Dedication . In this four-year period Cooper made 14 films, from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town to Sergeant York . Cooper's character is now that of a determined man, a man who sees hope in the future and is willing to sacrifice himself for the future of mankind. Many of these films are set in the past.
1942–47: Intellect and Purpose . In this five-year period Cooper made eight films, from Ball of Fire through Unconquered . In these films made during and immediately after World War II Cooper is a man out of his natural environment, a man who must deal with the riddles of an unfamiliar world and triumph by his native wit and determination, even when others distrust him. The only exceptions to this pattern are the two films his production company or Cooper himself produced, Casanova Brown and Along Came Jones , both of which represent an earlier Cooper image, an attempt to create a variation on what he had done before. It seems that the public image of Cooper changed slowly, even though he himself wanted to try broader variations on that image. It was surely a source of unhappiness to him that whenever he strayed from his accepted image in a particular period, the public failed to respond.
1948–56: The Man Alone . In this eight-year period Cooper made 16 films, from The Fountainhead to The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell . It is significant that half of the films he made in this period are Westerns, often harking back to the period of his tentative shyness. Now however, Cooper was a rapidly aging man who stood resolutely against the world. That The Virginian should be the culmination of his earlier Western period and High Noon the peak of his second Western period is not a coincidence. Cooper as well as others saw the similarity of the two films. The differences between them are equally striking. Will Kane in High Noon seeks help from his society; the Virginian wanted to be on his own. Will Kane learns the bitter lesson of having to be alone; the Virginian never has to face this problem. Throughout this period, the Cooper character is faced with defeat and indecision—a character alone by choice, as in The Fountainhead , or because his society rejects him, as in The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell . It is the time of the Cold War, in which the Cooper character's old values were rejected.
1956–61: Questioning the Past . In this five-year period Cooper made eight films, from Love in the Afternoon through The Naked Edge . This period is ushered in by a transition film, Friendly Persuasion , a film in which Cooper's character discarded his guns and rejected the violence that characters in the other periods had accepted with little question. This questioning of the past continues to the end of Cooper's life. It is significant that this is the period in which Cooper had the most control of his parts, was producing his own films, but felt he had let his public down. He was now trying to extend his range as an actor and was willing to do so by questioning his image in the past. His role as the lover in Love in the Afternoon is an ironic comment on his past comedy images. In his Westerns of this period, he is a self-sufficient but highly reluctant, somber man. His final films constantly question his past. In They Came to Cordura the very essence of filmic courage that Cooper had represented is questioned, and in his final film, The Naked Edge , the possibility of Cooper being a vicious murderer is proposed. It is true that in all these films the Cooper character is ultimately heroic, but the films play with the image, toy with the possibilities of that image. Cooper's work is certainly no less good in this period. What was reacted to by critics and public was what Cooper now represented, the weary questioner of the American mythic past.
It is perhaps appropriate that Cooper's two Academy Awards (for Sergeant York and High Noon ) should be for two separate periods, one in which he was the optimistic hero of the past and the other in which he was the pessimistic retainer of the past. In fact, more than 60 of Cooper's films were set in the past. It may well have been that it was what he represented in American history and culture as well as his performances in these films for which he was honored.
As one critic said, Gary Cooper's face was the map of America. In it, we read our past. We liked it or did not like it, but we could not turn away from the compelling man who represented it.
—Stuart M. Kaminsky