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Why Wayne Over Cooper?


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The Fountainhead has always had its share of critics who consider Cooper miscast as architect Howard Roarke. Certainly the Ayn Rand philosophy of individualism and greed (an architect performing a criminal act, blowing up a building that he designed because others had changed his original work) is fairly bizarre, to my thinking, and certainly a contrast to the populist message of Cooper's Capra films.

 

What I do find interesting about this film, though, are those scenes of sexual tension and desire that it feverishly portrays, in particular the scene in the rock quarry, with Patricia Neal irresistibly drawn to Coop working that mine with, yes, a pneumatic drill in his hand. The other eye opening scene, overwrought as it may be, but still compelling, is when Cooper barges into Neal's bedroom, ready to force himself upon her. This is not a Coop that we're used to seeing. This is a Cooper that had not been seen on screen since he had played a character who was an object of desire as much as Dietrich in Von Sternberg's Morocco. If Coop seems a bit awkward and stilted in his prolonged address to the jury at the film's end, in these early scenes with Neal I find him to be totally convincing.

 

Director King Vidor also creates some terrific set pieces. In particular, for me, is the film's final sequence, with Neal in a makeshift elevator slowly ascending the side of Roarke's building now under construction, the city below gradually dwindling in size as she then turns her gaze upward to see Cooper, legs astride, standing triumphantly on the top of his building. All this accompanied by the sweeping strings of Max Steiner's musical score. It's a great moment in an uneven but, for me, often compelling film.

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Certainly the Ayn Rand philosophy of individualism and greed (an architect performing a criminal act, blowing up a building that he designed because others had changed his original work) is fairly bizarre, to my thinking, and certainly a contrast to the populist message of Cooper's Capra films.

 

King Vidor had his own reservations about the message also. So in discussing just how ridiculous a premise it contained, he said to Jack Warner "Well, suppose I toss the film in the fire, do you think the court would forgive me?"

 

Warner replied, "The court might, but I won't."

 

To me this is one of the great train wrecks of Hollywood. I just can't help but watch it, even though I know it's ridiculous beyond belief. I thought that about the novel also.

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Now clore! What are ya tryin' to do here with all these asperions you're casting at "The Fountainhead", huh?!

 

Are tryin' to incite all of our "rugged individualists" around here or somethin'???!!!

 

(...you know, all those "rugged individualists" around here who are either currently receiving their monthly Social Security checks or within a few years are about to start receiving 'em!!!) ;)

 

LOL!

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Those kind of rugged individualists are my kind of people. They paid into the system for years and have a right to what's their due, Ayn Rand calling it socialism or not.

 

But hey, my mother tells me that her father spoke against FDR every chance that he could, even though the public works programs that he initiated were what saved her family during the depression as my gramps was in the building trade.

 

Ironically, my grandmother looked amazingly like Eleanor Roosevelt - maybe that was Grandpa's real grudge.

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"Ironically, my grandmother looked amazingly like Eleanor Roosevelt - maybe that was Grandpa's real grudge."

 

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

 

LOL!!!

 

 

Yeah, I suppose that COULD'VE been it, alright!

 

 

(...well, I hope for your Grandpa's sake, that just like that old Rock&Roll hit novelty song of yore, "If You Want To Be Happy For the Rest of Your Life", your Grandma could AT LEAST cook pretty well!!!) ;)

 

 

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I have no idea as to granny's cooking skills, but she had three children and there were eight years between the first and second as well as between the second and third.

 

That sorta hints to me that if she cooked well at all, it was only in the kitchen.

 

She was fairly nasty to my brother and I - not so much anything that we did, we just weren't girls, that's all. She doted on my sister though.

 

Maenwhile, granny had a sister, my Aunt Bess who was the complete opposite, a real fun loving woman who treated us all nicely and once went down the slide in the playground when she was in her 70s. My grandmother couldn't even be bothered to take us to a playground, she just wanted us in the house and quiet.

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> However, I believe Cooper is the superior actor. Cooper could say volumes without a line of dialogue and underplay a scene brilliantly. Watch the scene in "Mr. Deeds" after desperate man accuses Deeds of using his money frivolously while others are starving -- Cooper is absolutely silent, and yet we know everything that's going on in his head. Or the scene where he starts eating a sandwich in front of the hungry people he's giving a handout to, and then stops mid-bite. His expressions in Meet John Doe could move one to tears. High Noon is a portrait of both nobility and desperation. I always tear up at the end of Love in the Afternoon -- Cooper's age only adds to the desperation and vulnerability of a mature playboy grasping at real love.

 

I would agree to the extent that Cooper acted in a far broader range of films than Wayne, and also would agree that Cooper was for a time a better actor than Wayne.

 

> I think Wayne's range was far more limited than Cooper's. There is often a sense of underlying moral struggle in Cooper's work -- Seargeant York (how can a pacifist become a war hero?) and High Noon are both good examples of this. The Searchers is the closest that Wayne comes to that kind of depth.

 

Well here is where I think you have misjudged Wayne's acting abilities. He shows much skill in many of his films. The Searchers is not the only film where he was able to stretch his abilities. You should check out the following films:

Stagecoach, Red River, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, Rio Bravo, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, McLintock!, In Harms Way, El Dorado, True Grit, The Cowboys, The Shootist.

 

Are most of these westerns? Sure, and what is wrong with that. Not every actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood was an expert in every genre. Wayne's specialties were westerns and war films. He also showed a great sense of comedic skills, especially in The Quiet Man, Hatari! and McLintock!

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Wayne's appeal is actually very straightforward, and always has been: both the characters he played, and the man, himself, projected a simple message "If you want to be my friend, I'll be your steadfast friend, but if you're not my friend, watch out."

 

That kind of unspoken declaration fashions a universe of simple and unambiguous morality and interpersonal relationships, the kind that many people yearn for, but never really find for obvious reasons. Wayne is a comforting presence in all his films, and that cannot be discounted. I think it is, in fact, the very foundation of his success as a movie star.

 

 

Cooper's screen persona, on the other hand, was somewhat ambiguous and sometimes even inscrutable; to his great credit he was able to tread a fine line -- not between hero and villain, then certainly between hero and someone whose shyness and natural reticence tells him not to get involved, even as he plunges into conflict anyway.

 

In real life, the conservative Cooper had real misgivings about appearing as a "friendly" witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee in their witch-hunts for suspected Communists in the film industry, while Wayne was a gleeful and unapologetic red-baiter. The two men's politics probably weren't very far apart, but if one watches Cooper's testimony, there's genuine sorrow in his face and voice. In the end, I think Cooper was a man first, and a movie star second, whereas Wayne often seemed the reverse.

 

 

Because of this I believe Cooper was much the better actor, because he was a much more ambitious actor. The moral universe in which Cooper's characters moved was not nearly as clear-cut as in Wayne's. Cooper's often had doubts, while Wayne's seldom did, making the former, in my mind, more truly heroic.

 

 

As such, it's somewhat like comparing, say, William Holden to Gregory Peck. You always knew where you stood with the latter, and almost never with the former. It's why each was great in his own way, and on his own terms, but I think, in the end, that it also meant that Holden could have played any number of Peck's roles (perhaps not as well in many of them, but creditably), while Peck could've succeeded in few, if any, of Holden's. Holden is a difficult actor to appreciate when one is young; the simple heroics of the Pecks and Hestons and Lancasters are much easier to grasp, but there comes a time in most lives when one finally realizes that the world is a complicated place, and that little that goes on in it can be categorized as simply good or bad. Holden was, perhaps even more than Humphrey Bogart, then, the exemplar of that modern, challenging (and largely urban) world and the moral ambiguity forced on most of us, either as the sender or the receiver. I've often maintained that, had CASABLANCA been made a decade later, Holden would have been the perfect Rick, and no one would have mused "Gee, I wish this film had been done ten years ago with Bogart."

 

So it is with Cooper: he just demands more of the audience than Wayne does (with the exception of THE SEARCHERS; whatever one says about Wayne, there's always THE SEARCHERS...a film that may be even greater than its greatest admirers think it is). Cooper is, in the end, an actor very much for grown-up, while Wayne is best appreciated by kids (and what is movie-making meant to do, at its most basic, if not transform the oldest, most jaded viewer into a child?).

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Wow, Sprocket! Now THAT was VERY well stated there.

 

And so, and NOT to put words into your mouth here so to speak, the abridged version of all that is...

 

People who idolize John Wayne should grow the h*ll up and come to the realization that the world ISN'T just black and white, but IS in fact a thousand shades of grey.

 

(...so, is THAT about IT???...and if it IS, then ol' buddy, I couldn't agree with ya MORE!!!)

 

LOL!

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OH! Btw Sprocket, I thought what you said about Holden was very interesting. I never really thought about that whole "Casablanca 10 years hence" thing before, but I think you're right!

 

What I always liked about Holden was that he, more often than not, played complex characters that exemplified the "modern American male who is often cynically torn between doing what was "right",per se, and what is "expedient"...which, as you suggest, was a similar style to Cooper's.

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{font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}What I always liked about Holden was that he, more often than not, played complex characters that exemplified the "modern American male who is often cynically torn between doing what was "right",per se, and what is "expedient"...which, as you suggest, was a similar style to Cooper's.{font}

 

 

 

Yes, and a lot of movies revolve around just that basic story (only most don't have the advantage of having a Cooper or Holden or Bogart starring in them).

 

It's even more common in TV shows: every series that runs long enough usually has several episodes in which a character from the protagonist's past turns up and that protagonist has to choose between helping his or her old friend (who's usually got some dark secret or scheme he or she wants to pursue) and doing what's right. But, then, television shows always were simple morality plays.

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Thanks very much, Sprocket Man, for your well written and very insightful analysis of the appeal of the Duke vs. Coop. I really appreciate your intelligent contribution to this thread.

 

Essentially, then, Wayne's appeal is broader with the **** because it appeals to a simpler more black-and-white perception of the world than the more morally conflicted heroes played by Cooper. Will Kane in High Noon, in my opinion, is a truly heroic figure because he remains in the town to face the killers in spite of the fact that he is afraid, even placing his head down on his desk, at one moment when his despair is at its greatest, and cries.

 

That's a moment that a larger-than-life screen hero like Wayne would never had. (Of note, though, the ONE time Wayne touchingly conveyed vulnerability on screen was in his last film appearance, as the dying gunfighter in The Shootist - the Duke went out with one of the best performances that he ever gave).

 

I like both actors very much but my preference has always been for Cooper, because of the greater variety in his films and the fact that Coop could bring more complexity to his roles. One more thing, Gary Cooper at his best was a beautiful acting exponent of "less is more." His performances in Meet John Doe and Sergeant York are two of my favourites. I've never been a particularly big fan of the blatant sentimentality and simple mindedness of The Pride of the Yankees. Having said that, Coop's stoic nobility in the film's final chapter has moved me to tears on more than a few occasions.

 

I haven't taken a count, but is it my imagination that, more often than not, contributors to this thread who have expressed a preference for one actor over the other have gone with Cooper? It does seem so. Then, again, many of us do so after analyzing their appeal, rather than others who respond by going for a more simple gut reaction.

 

Edited by: TomJH on Jun 19, 2012 5:41 PM

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That's just it, Tom. Each Cooper film you listed is a diverse roster of subject matter, and bound to find more people whio aren't interested. I'M not saying they're bad, but some of them didn't hold my interest. This has nothing to do with Cooper's acting. And I might not be alone in the "not holding my interest" camp.

 

 

To others:

 

 

No, Wayne couldn't have done *The Fountainhead ,* either. My feeling Cooper was miscast was based on how I percieved his character, based solely on author character description. I can't think of ANY actor from those times that would have fit the bill. And clore, I agree with you about the book.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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TomJH wrote: "I haven't taken a count, but is it my imagination that, more often than not, contributors to this thread who have expressed a preference for one actor over the other have gone with Cooper? It does seem so. Then, again, many of us do so after analyzing their appeal, rather than others who respond by going for a more simple gut reaction."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nope Tom, it ain't your "imagination" here, ol' buddy. Look at the overall demographic of this website's membership, and I think you'll also notice that most of its members are a bit older and more contemplative in nature than is the general public. And so, naturally there would be more of a tendency here to appreciate the more complex and mature acting style of Cooper's than of Wayne's.

 

(...OR, as I noted right down below here with my "suggestion" of what I think people who idolize The Duke just a little too much should do in order to be able to fully appreciate the more subtlely drawn, and the more REALISTIC style of Cooper's...grow the hell up and GET WISE to how the freakin' world REALLY is...it AIN'T black & white!!!)

 

LOL!

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Absolutely agree with you, Sepia.

 

The problem I see with "The Fountainhead" and the casting of Cooper is that the character of Howard Roark is so freakin' full of himself and lacks the ablily to work well with others. And so, there was NO way that Cooper, who was usually VERY good at fleshing out characters who might have at least an ONCE of humilty and self-doubt, could play that role effectively.

 

Nope, it wasn't in his nature.

 

(...I mean, ANY actor can ONLY "stretch" SO FAR, ya know!)

 

LOL!!!

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Hey Dargo, as well as Sepiatone and clore, none of you have made reference to the aspect of The Fountainhead that I consider to be successful, those scenes of heat between Cooper and Patricia Neal. They're quite potent, I feel, both the rock quarry scene, as well as that in the bedroom. This, again, is not the Cooper that people expect to see on screen, and maybe it makes a few Coop fans a little uncomfortable playing a man who is sure of himself sexually. (I think the actor was giving us a slight insight into his off screen character, out of the norm for the image-conscious Cooper).

 

As far as Cooper playing a selfish character like Roark is concerned, I agree, of course, that it is not ideal casting. I'm not a fan of any of the Ayn Rand "message" this film has to offer. I do, however, thanks to King Vidor, combined with the art direction, editing and Steiner score, very much enjoy certain sequences in the production. The perfect illustration of that being the closing sequence, as Neal ascends the side of the building under construction as Cooper stands triumphantly at the top ot it.

 

Edited by: TomJH on Jun 19, 2012 12:37 PM

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No, I didn't mention it, but it was deliberate, as I didn't want to encourage a series of puns about Cooper's legendary bedroom prowess. Even that Molly Haskell promo bit makes a mention of the image of Neal admiring Cooper's drill.

 

Nor did I mention that Ayn Rand claimed that she preferred Bogart for the part, but I think that might have been acceptable a decade earlier, but if one of the complaints about Cooper is that he looks too old, then the even more rapidly aging Bogart would have been ridiculous.

 

One of my favorite scenes is when Toohey (could Rand have been any more obvious in picking a name for this character) confronts Roark:

 

Toohey: "Mr. Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me in any words you wish."

Roark: "But I don't think of you!"

 

But I laugh like Hell in scenes such as the ambulance one with Henry Hull's ranting, or the cocktail party with the message-laden napkins and the old dowager claiming she fired her cook for reading the Banner.

 

Another anecdote about the shooting of the film:

 

According to Vidor, at one point Cooper wanted to rephrase a line in the script as he felt uncomfortable saying it. Vidor reminded his star that Rand wrote the script and that the deal made with the studio was that not one word of it could be changed (a parallel to the film's plot).

 

Vidor did suggest that he could call Rand and have her come down for a conference and Cooper said "I'll read the line as written."

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*According to Vidor, at one point Cooper wanted to rephrase a line in the script as he felt uncomfortable saying it. Vidor reminded his star that Rand wrote the script and that the deal made with the studio was that not one word of it could be changed (a parallel to the film's plot).*

 

 

 

*Vidor did suggest that he could call Rand and have her come down for a conference and Cooper said "I'll read the line as written."*

 

 

Thanks for the anecdote, clore. Smart move on Coop's part. He was a man who disliked to argue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Thanks for the anecdote, clore. Smart move on Coop's part. He was a man who disliked to argue."

--------------------------------------------------------------

 

Yeah Tom, and ironically the ONE thing I never liked about the guy!!!

 

(...those "men-of-few-words" types can REALLY get on my freakin' nerves sometimes, ya know...as maybe you might've picked up on about me after all this time, eh?!)

 

LOL! ;)

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*Dargo wrote: Yeah Tom, and ironically the ONE thing I never liked about the guy!!!*

 

*(...those "men-of-few-words" types can REALLY get on my freakin' nerves sometimes, ya know...as maybe you might've picked up about me after all this time, eh?!)*

 

Well, Cooper was a man-of-few-words type but even if he had been a talkaholic it wouldn't have made any difference, I'm sure, when he came to a disagreement with someone (particularly someone as type "A" as Ayn Rand was, I suspect). Cooper hated confrontation, and tried to avoid it as best he could.

 

Somewhere I read that even during his affair with Patricia Neal, when they were casting the two female leads in Bright Leaf, and Neal made it known that she wanted to play the part of the hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold (which Lauren Bacall got), Cooper didn't try to use his influence with Warners executives on her behalf. Thus Neal got the part she didn't want, that of the spoiled neurotic southern belle. Obviously she was disappointed with him then but confrontation was just not his thing. As far as temperment was concerned, he was a quite passive man.

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True, and as somebody said earlier in this thread, why he was so effective in films such as "Sergeant York". His natural inclination toward passivity showed through in films such as that.

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Gary Cooper was a man who hated confrontation yet he showed considerable courage in 1951 in his support for Carl Foreman, screenwriter of High Noon who was then under fire from HUAC.

 

Foreman had been a Communist but had quit the party in 1942 out of disillusionment with it. (Cooper had been a "friendly witness" at the '47 HUAC meetings but, as we know, he had managed to play his role that day like an innocent and didn't provide the committee with any names). Four years later, however, HUAC was back with a vengeance and they had Carl Foreman, among others, in their sights.

 

In April '51, while he was associate producer of High Noon writing the film's screenplay, Foreman was subpoenaed by HUAC, where he took the "diminished Fifth." Unlike the Hollywood Ten, Foreman agreed to answer questions and said he was not currently a member of the Party. However, he wouldn't say if he had ever been a member and refused to give names.

 

Stanley Kramer, producer of High Noon who would release the film through Columbia, publicly disavowed Foreman a few days after his HUAC appearance, dropping Foreman as associate producer, though allowing him to keep screenwriter credit. By the time of the '51 HUAC meetings Cooper had a better idea of the careers that were being ruined that he had had four years before. Pat Neal, a liberal, pleaded with him that he mustn't let Foreman down.

 

Carl Foreman later wrote that in '51 when all of Hollywood was afraid of the right wingers looking to crush anyone associated with Communism (himself included) that Gary Cooper "put his whole career on the block in the face of the McCarthyite witch-hunters who were terrorizing Hollywood. Cooper was immediately subjected to a violent underground pressure campaign aimed at getting him to leave the film, and he was told that unless he agreed to do so he, too, would be blackmailed in Hollywood for the rest of his life. But Cooper believed in me. He saw it through."

 

After Foreman's committe appearance, and Kramer had largely turned his back on the High Noon screenwriter, Cooper called him at his home to ask if there was anything he could do to help. Foreman said he was going to form his own production company, to which the actor said he wanted to participate. Cooper then went public with the statement, "I like and admire Carl Foreman and am delighted to be in business with him"

 

Cooper received warnings from people like Louis B. Mayer that he might never get a decent role again if he did this. Foreman later wrote that the partnership didn't happen, "prevented by the pressure of the Hollywood blacklist. Cooper came under severe attack from John Wayne and Ward Bond, as well as others in the so-called Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, as well as Warner Bros. and various right-wing publications, and I released him from his commitment in order to avoid damage to his career."

 

Cooper backed down from the business venture, admitting defeat, but Foreman later wrote, "He was the only big one that tried. The only one."

 

Cooper was a Hollywood political conservative but this story also shows that there was a large streak of humanitarianism in him, as well. If this had been one of his Frank Capra screenplays, it would have ended with Cooper triumphant at the end. But this was real life and it took place in a scared town, Hollywood (just like Foreman's Hadleyville). Still, there's much for me to admire about Coop's attempt to help a friend at a time when the political knives were out.

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Yep Tom. This doesn't surprise me one bit about Coop.

 

Remember, you and I earlier said he was basically "passive". We DIDN'T say the guy lacked any guts and/or wouldn't stand up for his fellow Americans when their rights AS Americans were being systematically trampled upon by a bunch of frightened little freakin' BULLIES!

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As an advocate of Cooper over Wayne, I would say that the one part I think he was miscast in was The Fountainhead. I could see John Wayne in that role, and it certainly fits his political and screen persona. What I think audiences might not accept is Wayne in the "rape" scene; Cooper is believable in the scenes with Patricia Neal because of their natural chemistry. Yet, we did see Wayne exhibit a cruel side in some roles, such as Red River and The Searchers.

 

 

Cooper's actions with HUAC and Carl Foreman are more of "The Friendly Persuasion" variety than the Howard Roark type!

 

 

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