A Biography
Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper One Of The Best Actors Of The Silver Screen

                                   American actor Gary Cooper was born on the Montana
                                   ranch of his wealthy father, and educated in a
                                   prestigious school in England--a dichotomy that may
                                   explain how the adult Cooper was able to combine the
                                   ruggedness of the frontiersman with the poise of a
                                   cultured gentleman. Injured in an auto accident while
                                   attending Wesleyan College, he convalesced on his
                                   dad's ranch, perfecting the riding skills that would see
                                   him through many a future western film. Unable to
                                   make a living at his chosen avocation of political
                                   cartoonist, Cooper was encouraged by two of his
                                   friends to seek employment as a cowboy extra in
                                   movies. Actor's agent Nan Collins felt she could get
                                   more prestigious work for the handsome, gangling
                                   Cooper, and in 1926 she was instrumental in obtaining
                                   the actor an important role in The Winning of Barbara
                                   Worth. Movie star Clara Bow also took an interest in
                                   Cooper, seeing to it that he was cast in a couple of
                                   her films. Cooper really couldn't act at this point, but
                                   he applied himself to his work in a brief series of silent
                                   westerns for his home studio, Paramount Pictures, and
                                   by 1929 both his acting expertise and his popularity
                                   had soared. Cooper's first talking-picture success was
                                   The Virginian (1929), in which he developed the
                                   taciturn, laconic speech patterns that became fodder
                                   for every impressionist on radio, nightclubs and TV.
                                   Cooper alternated between tie-and-tails parts in
                                   Design for Living (1933) and he-man adventurer roles in
                                   Lives of the Bengal Lancers (1935) for most of the
                                   1930s, and in 1941 was honored with an Academy
                                   Award for Sergeant York (1941), a part for which he
                                   was World War I hero Alvin York's personal choice. One
                                   year later, Cooper scored in another film biography,
                                   Pride of the Yankees. As baseball great Lou Gehrig, the
                                   actor was utterly convincing (despite the fact that
                                   he'd never played baseball and wasn't a southpaw like
                                   Gehrig), and left few dry eyes in the audiences with his
                                   fade-out "luckiest man on the face of the Earth"
                                   soliloquy. In 1933 Cooper married socialite Veronica
                                   Balfe, who, billed as Sandra Shaw, enjoyed a
                                   short-lived acting career. Too old for World War II
                                   service, Cooper gave tirelessly of his time in hazardous
                                   South Pacific personal appearance tours. Ignoring the
                                   actor's indirect participation in the communist
                                   witch-hunt of the 1940s, Hollywood held Cooper in the
                                   highest regard as an actor and a man. Even those
                                   coworkers who thought that Cooper wasn't exerting
                                   himself at all when filming were amazed to see how, in
                                   the final product, Cooper was actually out-acting
                                   everyone else in a subtle, unobtrusive manner.
                                   Consigned mostly to westerns by the 1950s (including
                                   the classic High Noon [1952]), Cooper retained his
                                   box-office stature. Privately he was plagued with
                                   painful recurring illnesses, one of these developing into
                                   cancer.

                                   Discovering the extent of his illness, Cooper kept the
                                   news a secret, though hints of his condition were
                                   accidentally blurted out by his close friend Jimmy
                                   Stewart during the 1961 Academy Awards ceremony,
                                   wherein Cooper was being given an honorary Oscar.
                                   Less than two months after his final public appearance
                                   as narrator of a TV documentary on the "Real West,"
                                   Cooper died; to fans still reeling from the death of Clark
                                   Gable six months earlier, it seemed that Hollywood's
                                   Golden Era had suddenly died as well. Cooper married
                                   Veronica "Rocky" Balfe in 1933.