Cooper, Gary (1901–1961)

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Gary Cooper (1901–1961)

Beginning in the late 1920s, lanky, handsome Gary Cooper was one of the top box office stars in Hollywood (see entry under 1930s—Film and Theater in volume 2), making ninety-two movies over his thiry-five-year career. Although not a great actor in the classic sense, the Montana-born Cooper had a bashful grin and likable, awkward presence that made him a favorite with audiences.

Mostly associated with Westerns (see entry under 1930s—Film and Theater in volume 2), Cooper also appeared in comedies and adventures—and he was at his best playing brave, all-American heroes. He was perfectly cast as a lovable small-town innocent who inherits a fortune in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and was sweetly personable as the ill-fated New York Yankee Lou Gehrig (1903–1941) in The Pride of the Yankees (1942). He won his two Best Actor Academy Awards as characters he was born to play. In Sergeant York (1941), a film whose content was designed to prepare audiences for America's inevitable entry into World War II (1939–45), he was Alvin York (1887–1964), the real-life backwoods pacifist-turned-hero of World War I (1914–18). In High Noon (1952), he was Will Kane, a solitary sheriff who had cleaned up a western town by standing up to a vengeance-seeking gang. In April 1961, one month before he died, Cooper received a well-earned Special Academy Award "for his many memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, had gained for the motion picture industry."

—Rob Edelman

For More Information

Dickens, Homer. The Complete Films of Gary Cooper. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1983.

Janis, Maria Cooper. Gary Cooper Off-Camera: A Daughter Remembers. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

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Cooper, Gary (1901–1961)

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