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Gary Cooper (1901-1961) was one of the biggest stars of the classic American movie era, with a career that started at the tail-end of silent films and ended near the end of the studio system. After making an impression in a number of bit parts in films like Wings (1927), Cooper graduated to leading roles with a major turn in The Winning of Barbara Worth (1928), one of the last big hits of the silent era. This lead to his being cast in The Virginian (1929), his first sound film, and he became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Throughout the 1930's he starred in many hit films, mainly for Paramount Pictures, and in a variety of genres, including westerns, comedies, romances, and war pictures. His broad appeal helped make him one of the most bankable of stars, as women (and some men) swooned over his tall, dark and handsome looks,  while at the same time men (and some women) accepted him as a manly outdoorsman of few words and strong principles. His stardom lasted until his early death in 1961, and he remains one of the few classic-era film stars still recognized by modern audiences, mainly due to his appearance in a handful of all-time favorite classic films.

 

When there is a discussion about Gary Cooper, people tend to fall into two camps, One group sees Coop as the strong, silent type, biting back his words and letting his fists and guns do the talking when necessary. The other camp sees Coop as hopelessly wooden, not so much stoic as colorless and dull. I personally fall somewhere in between. I feel, depending on the movie, either group is right. When the script fit Cooper's narrow range, true screen magic could occur. He could do much with the slightest facial movement or minor body language. However, if the script and/or direction was lacking, Cooper could be boring and even clumsy in his line deliveries. I'll even go so far as to say that his actual acting talent was very limited. But he possessed something else, in greater doses than many performers with ten times his talent, and that was genuine screen magnetism. Something about his look kept your eyes on him, and most of the time you couldn't help but root for him. He was one of the screen's greatest heroes because of this, and he will always remain one of cinema's iconic "good guys", sitting tall in the saddle, ready to save the damsel in distress.

 

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My 10 favorite Gary Cooper films:

 

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

The Westerner

Ball of Fire

High Noon

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer

Sergeant York

The Pride of the Yankees

Man of the West

Beau Geste

The General Died at Dawn

 

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My 10 favorite Cooper films are:

 

City Streets

Design for Living

Peter Ibbetson

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

The Westerner

Meet John Doe

Ball of Fire

Pride of the Yankees

Along Came Jones

High Noon

 

But I also enjoy Sergeant York,  Beau Geste, Man of the West,  and The General Died at Dawn.

 

PS:  Oh and who can forget The Fountainhead.   This and Bright Leaf with Patricia Neal are borderline camp classics. 

Edited by jamesjazzguitar
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I think the two Capra movies are the best things Coop ever did, along with High Noon and the General Died at Dawn.

 

 

But this lady's choice are 2 movies where Coop knows how to romance the ladies:

 

Bright Leaf-- the two ladies there are Patricia Neal and Lauren Bacall

 

And

 

Saratoga Trunk opposite Ingrid Bergman.

 

Honorable mention goes to Garden of Evil with Susan Hayward.

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Lawrence, I think you summarize my own feelings about Cooper's work very well. To put it another way, I'm not a fan of his work except when I am.

 

The young Cooper is wooden in MOROCCO, but very good-looking. He learns something about screen acting along the way. Cooper is a decade too old to play SERGEANT YORK, and let's not even talk about LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, where he should be playing Audrey Hepburn's grandfather rather than her lover. It's funny, but in MAN OF THE WEST, he's older than the man playing his father (Lee J. Cobb), but that doesn't bother me.

 

But then there's BALL OF FIRE, where everything works, and he and Stanwyck are so good together. No one has yet mentioned THEY CAME TO CORDURA, one of the late Cooper films I like quite a bit.

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Gary Cooper had a 37 year career in the movies, still top billed in "A" productions at the very end of it. A recipient of two Oscars, with three other nominations, with his easy going persona and minimalist acting style he had earned the respect of the Motion Picture Academy. Listed by Quigley's poll of motion picture exhibitors as one of the top ten stars 18 times in his career, Cooper's popularity still distinguishes him as one of the great box office champs of the movies.

 

He was also a very wealthy man because of this success, listed, in 1939, as, if memory serves me correctly, the top salaried American in the country. With his first Oscar win in Sergeant York, the top grossing film of 1941, Cooper's popularity was probably at the peak of his career. He became, to many, the personification of the best qualities of the American everyman. And since the real life Cooper was anything but a "typical" American in many respects, it goes to show the power of his screen image and performances.

 

In summary, Gary Cooper remains one of the most spectacularly successful individuals to ever enter the movies. His career, even with the inevitable lulls within it regarding good films, is, as Bogart said in one of his most famous roles, "the stuff that dreams are made of."

 

Coop also appeared in a lot of good films, most of them up to 1943. He was the star of, in my opinion, three of the best adventure movies of the '30s, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, The General Died at Dawn and Beau Geste. He also delivered one of his most charming performances in a romantic comedy supervised by Lubitsch, Desire, co-starring Marlene Dietrich.

 

But his most famous and popular film of the '30s, and the production of that decade with which most people identify him today was Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the first of two films made with Frank Capra. As opposed to the larger-than-life heroics of his adventure films, Deeds showed a softer, more sensitive side to Cooper's screen image, and played a strong role in the creation of his "everyman" screen persona.

 

The early '40s was a remarkable period in Cooper's career, both critically and at the box office, with Meet John Doe, Sergeant York, Ball of Fire, Pride of the Yankees and For Whom the Bell Tolls representing the strongest period of his career, in many respects, with Coop at the peak of his minimalist acting powers (netting three Academy Awards nominations in the process here).

 

He would then enter into a doldrum period in his career as far as quality films were concerned, though he would still be a box office champ in a number of those years. High Noon in 1952 would bring him his second Oscar, as well as return him to the top of the box office again for the next few years. Cooper made this film despite a lot of political pressure placed upon him by some Hollywood power brokers to drop out.

 

His post-High Noon films are, unfortunately, a largely mixed bag. Coop once expressed disappointment in the quality of them. There were, however, at least two nuggets of gold to be found. Friendly Persuasion is  a gentle pacifist tale of Quakers during the Civil War (and a film which allowed the "little boy" in Coop to return to the screen once again in a few of the scenes of gentle comedy) and, in stark contrast to that, The Hanging Tree, a somber, moody western with Coop very effective as a gun slinging doctor with a mysterious past.

 

He remains one of the giants of the movies, even if his reputation today (along with that of so many other stars of the Golden Era) is not quite what it once was.

 

20121021_High_Noon_gary_cooper.jpg

 

Coop in High Noon, a truly iconic screen image.

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Really nicely put, Tom. I hope each week when I make these actor spotlight threads, and write those initial bio sketches, that others will jump in and elaborate on some aspect of the performer, either about their lives or careers. 

 

Here's the Cooper films I haven't seen from 1940-1961. There are 25+ from before 1940 I have yet to see. Feel free to comment on any of them:

 

North West Mounted Police (1940)

The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944)

Cloak and Dagger (1946)

You're in the Navy Now (1951)

Distant Drums (1951)

Blowing Wild (1953)

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)

The Naked Edge (1961)

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I think the two Capra movies are the best things Coop ever did, along with High Noon and the General Died at Dawn.

 

 

But this lady's choice are 2 movies where Coop knows how to romance the ladies:

 

Bright Leaf-- the two ladies there are Patricia Neal and Lauren Bacall

 

And

 

Saratoga Trunk opposite Ingrid Bergman.

 

Honorable mention goes to Garden of Evil with Susan Hayward.

 

I also mentioned Bright Leaf but I go back and forth in how I feel about this film.   Patricia Neal is so over the top here that it makes her performance in The Fountainhead (also with Cooper of course),  look restrained.     But when Neal and Cooper are on the screen (in either of these films), it is like a car wreak.   Yea, you know you shouldn't be looking but you just can't help it!

 

Bright Leaf is drama on steroids but if one is in the right mood it can be a fun ride.

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I also mentioned Bright Leaf but I go back and forth in how I feel about this film.   Patricia Neal is so over the top here that it makes her performance in The Fountainhead (also with Cooper of course),  look restrained.     But when Neal and Cooper are on the screen (in either of these films), it is like a car wreak.   Yea, you know you shouldn't be looking but you just can't help it!

 

Bright Leaf is drama on steroids but if one is in the right mood it can be a fun ride.

 

I can't quite agree with your car wreck assessment, James, at least in regard to The Fountainhead. I think that the sparks that Cooper and Neal felt for one another off screen (their affair, I believe, began after the completion of the film) are reflected in some scenes of considerable heat between them on screen, as well, in that bizarre adaption of Ayn Rand. In fact, I quite like Neal's performance in The Fountainhead.

 

I also rather like Bright Leaf in a guilty pleasure sort of way, but certainly not for Neal's wide eyed over-the-top performance. She is ludicrously out of control here, at times, I completely agree.

 

By the way, Patricia Neal had wanted the role of the "prostitute" that eventually went to an appealing Lauren Bacall in this film. She knew it was a far better role but was disappointed that Coop didn't step in with the film's producers to try to influence the casting decisions. Cooper was an easy going, passive man, in many respects, a man who hated an argument and, even though he and Neal were, I believe, living together when Bright Leaf was made he didn't try to speak up for her in the casting decisions.

 

The interesting aspect of Bright Leaf, to me, is the casting against type of Cooper as the ambitious Brant Royal. I think he's pretty good in the part, if hardly at his best. Brant Royal is probably the most dislikable character of the actor's career. Note, though, how rapidly he was aging, as opposed to his appearance in The Fountainhead, filmed just two years earlier. The stress of his personal life (the separation from his wife and daughter over Neal) was etching itself into his features. Cooper did not age well.

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Here's the Cooper films I haven't seen from 1940-1961. There are 25+ from before 1940 I have yet to see. Feel free to comment on any of them:

 

North West Mounted Police (1940)

 

I've never understood why North West Mounted Police is the only DeMille epic that never got a Region One home video release of any kind (though it can be found on Region Two discs).

 

It's DeMille's take on the Riel rebellion in Canada, with Technicolor, a big cast of stars and a lot more talk than action. Still, it's fun in that over-the-top De Mille way, with Robert Preston as a rebellious Mountie and Paulette Goddard as a tempting half breed chewing up their love scenes together. "You're the sweetest poison that ever got in a man's blood," he tells her. Coop plays a Texas Ranger who comes to Canada looking for a killer (George Bancroft) who gets mixed up with Louis Riel (the one real historical name used in this film's screenplay).

 

North West Mounted Police is a fun film, if one that nobody is going to take too seriously. It also has some of the most unreal, awkward dialogue, over-the-top howlers even by De Mille standards. My very favourite line of dialogue occurs when Akim Tamiroff, growling and chewing up all scenery around him as a half breed fur trapper, gets fatally shot. As he lies dying in the ground, his head being craddled by pal Lynne Overman, Tamiroff says in that broken Russian accent of his, "The Big Trapper got me by the neck."

 

The Big Trapper got me by the neck! Amazing, isn't it, that someone (De Mille?) actually okayed that line of dialogue. Of course, I'm glad that he did, surely providing the film with a "I can't believe I heard that line right" award of some kind.

 

NWMP3.png

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Really nicely put, Tom. I hope each week when I make these actor spotlight threads, and write those initial bio sketches, that others will jump in and elaborate on some aspect of the performer, either about their lives or careers. 

 

Here's the Cooper films I haven't seen from 1940-1961. There are 25+ from before 1940 I have yet to see. Feel free to comment on any of them:

 

North West Mounted Police (1940)

The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944)

Cloak and Dagger (1946)

You're in the Navy Now (1951)

Distant Drums (1951)

Blowing Wild (1953)

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)

The Naked Edge (1961)

I went through the list of movies I have seen of Cooper and some of them I have seen you have not.

 

Regarding the list of films you have not seen:

 

I love the Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell.  It is one of my favourite Peter Graves movies.  It is absolutely fabulous.  I recorded it off the television one year on VHS and I have it somewhere. 

 

You will love that movie.

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I am a Gary Cooper fan who prefers his westerns.  I do watch other genres, though

 

My favourite Cooper movies are;

 

High Noon

Garden of Evil

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell

Man in the West

Alias Jesse James where he makes a cameo as himself

Pride of the Yankees

Ball of Fire

Design for living

A Farewell to Arms

Love in the Afternoon

 

 

 

Tops of My To-see list are:

 

Wings

The General Died at Dawn

North West Mounted Police

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife

Dallas

Starlift

Springfield Rifle

The Real Glory

 

 

I'm not exactly sure how many of his silent I have not seen.

 

Great thread, Lawrence.

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I think the two Capra movies are the best things Coop ever did, along with High Noon and the General Died at Dawn.

 

 

But this lady's choice are 2 movies where Coop knows how to romance the ladies:

 

Bright Leaf-- the two ladies there are Patricia Neal and Lauren Bacall

 

And

 

Saratoga Trunk opposite Ingrid Bergman.

 

Honorable mention goes to Garden of Evil with Susan Hayward.

 

Richard Widmark, Coop, and Hayward make a great team in Garden of Evil.

 

I have not seen Bright leaf for ages.

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I liked Gary Cooper in THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE (1959) as the ship captain with a checkered seafaring past. I think 'Mary Deare' was his 2nd-to-last film.  (I'd like to see his last movie THE NAKED EDGE some time).  

 

     I'd have to disagree with Cooper being old enough to play Audrey Hepburn's grandfather in LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (1957).  Coop was born in 1901; Hepburn in 1929.  The Younger Woman/Older Man romance angle is not uncommon in Hollywood films, but GC was not old enough to be her granddad. 

 

     Think about Clark Gable's (born 1901) movie IT STARTED IN NAPLES (1960) with Sophia Loren (born 1934).  Coop was 'only' 28 years older than his leading lady in 'AFTERNOON'.     

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Believe it or not, I'm not a particular fan of westerns. But I follow the actor or actress, so I've seen a great many Gary Cooper westerns.

 

There were two that were kind of rough to watch-- but they were good.

I'm talking about Vera Cruz and The Hanging Tree. If it's ugly, it was probably in one of these two movies.

 

I was wondering what people thought of Coop's characters in these movies - - particularly his character in The Hanging Tree--also in terms of his character's character.

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Believe it or not, I'm not a particular fan of westerns. But I follow the actor or actress, so I've seen a great many Gary Cooper westerns.

 

There were two that were kind of rough to watch-- but they were good.

I'm talking about Vera Cruz and The Hanging Tree. If it's ugly, it was probably in one of these two movies.

 

I was wondering what people thought of Coop's characters in these movies - - particularly his character in The Hanging Tree--also in terms of his character's character.

The Hanging Tree is a great example of how Cooper and fellow Western favourites Joel MccCrea and Randolph Scott could play complicated characters in westerns.

 

The Hanging Tree was more enjoyable for me than Vera cruz.

 

 

*editing note.  In re-reading this I see that spell check allowed me to have McCrea's first name as Jowl. :)

Edited by GregoryPeckfan
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I was wondering what people thought of Coop's characters in these movies - - particularly his character in The Hanging Tree--also in terms of his character's character.

 

I'm a big fan of The Hanging Tree. Coop was experimenting with his screen image in a number of his later films and I think that Doc Joe Frail in this film is the most successful of his darker portrayals. The totally ruthless manner in which he kicks one man's body off the edge of a cliff is completely unlike the Gary Cooper we know from any other film. And Cooper is wonderfully convincing in portraying the hatred that he feels for that man.

 

Coop didn't age well, but his almost tortured looking face is perfect for this role.

 

In addition to Cooper, this film has sensitive work by Maria Schell, a great lusty turn at larger-than-life villainy (with some rough humour thrown in) by Karl Malden, and a memorable turn by a young George C. Scott as a religious fanatic. "Hang him, hang the butcher!" he screams at a crowd of drunken rowdies, urging them to drag Cooper to the hanging tree.

 

And the film's Hanging Tree ballad played over the film's soundtrack at both the film's beginning and ending is memorable, as well.

 

Yes, it's a dark, moody tale but it's one that crackles with authority and conviction. That small Montana mining town (the film was actually filmed in Washington state, I believe) is most convincing.

 

hangingtree-13.jpg?t=1297034185

 

This is my favourite Cooper western of the '50s. I'd pick it in a minute over High Noon, the most legendary film of his career.

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Hey Fellow Coop fans! I used to post here regularly until I started my own Gary site in 2009 and that took a lot of my time. Last Fall I set up a completely new site and it's chock full of Gary pics, articles, audio files, etc...

 

http://www.garycoopercollection.com/

 

The Hanging Tree is definitely a great film. Gary's costar Maria Schell later said Gary was her favorite Hollywood star she worked with and she loved his calm demeanor and how he always seem to be in control and it made her feel calm and centered as well.

 

 

 

 

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Hey Fellow Coop fans! I used to post here regularly until I started my own Gary site in 2009 and that took a lot of my time. Last Fall I set up a completely new site and it's chock full of Gary pics, articles, audio files, etc...

 

http://www.garycoopercollection.com/

 

The Hanging Tree is definitely a great film. Gary's costar Maria Schell later said Gary was her favorite Hollywood star she worked with and she loved his calm demeanor and how he always seem to be in control and it made her feel calm and centered as well.

 

You also initiated one of the most successful star threads ever here on the boards. I'm quite sure it is still extant, buried somewhere in the archives.

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Hi Laffite!

 

I didn't start that old Coop thread but I was very active on it along with a few others. It was a lot of fun! I started my own Gary site in 2009 (then last year I upgraded it) and that has kept me busy so I haven't posted as much here but this is a great community.

 

About They Came to Cordura, it was edited to Heck and back and that apparently did a lot of damage to the story. I like the message of that one though that one cowardly act does not necessarily make you a coward forever and one heroic act doesn't mean your always a hero. The part that bothers me though is near the end where Gary is dragged along the tracks because for most of that (if not all, I forget) it was actually him. Audiences also did not like to see Gary mistreated as he was usually the hero and I can imagine that parts of this film (like the part I just described) didn't sit well with fans. In hindsight you can see it's a pretty good film and Gary and Rita Hayworth give good performances.

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