Birthday: May 7, 1901
Died At Age: 60
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Frank James Cooper
Born in: Helena
Famous as: American film actor
political ideology: Republican
father: Charles Cooper
mother: Alice H.
children: Maria Cooper
Died on: May 13, 1961
education: Gallatin Valley High School, Bozeman, MT, Grinnell College
Frank James Cooper, popularly known as Gray Cooper, was an American actor. He was known for his phlegmatic, minimalist manner and found success in various film genres, including westerns, crime, comedy and drama and was considered as a versatile actor. His family emigrated from England and he was born in America but due to the quality of education being better in England he was sent back to Europe. He came back and after finishing school he tried his hand at various kinds of job, starting from contributing cartoons to a local newspaper, but nothing seemed to have worked for Cooper until he started working in the movies as a cowboy extra. Soon he started starring in silent movies but his big break came with the movie ‘Sergeant York’, in which he played the World War I veteran and war hero ‘Alvin York’. It was this movie that earned him his first Academy Award in the category of the Best Actor. The American Film Institute named him among the AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars, ranking 11th among males. His performances as ‘Will Kane’ in ‘High Noon’, ‘Lou Gehrig’ in ‘The Pride of the Yankees’, and ‘Alvin York’ in ‘Sergeant York’ made it to the AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains list. Cooper received five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, winning twice for ‘Sergeant York’ and ‘High Noon’. He also received an Honorary Award in 1961 from the Academy.
Childhood & Early Life
Gary Cooper was born in Helena, Montana, to Alice and Charles Henry Cooper. His father was an English immigrant farmer from Bedfordshire but after coming to the States he became a lawyer and Judge.
Cooper and his brother attended the Dunstable Grammar School in Bedfordshire, since their mother thought that the education was much better in England. But they were called back to Montana after the World War I broke out.
He was enrolled at the Gallatin Valley High School, Montana, and later studied at Grinnell College, Iowa but he did not finish the college and came back to the ranch and started contributing cartoons to a local newspaper.
When his father left the Montana Supreme Court to work in LA in 1924, Cooper too moved to LA with his parents. He took this decision as his career was not taking off in the desired manner in Montana.
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Cooper tried out his luck in LA by first working as a salesman of electric signs and theatrical curtains, then as a promoter and later by applying for newspaper job, but nothing seemed to work for him.
In 1925, he found some work in acting and worked as an extra - usually in the cowboy movies. He had an uncredited role as a cowboy extra in the Tom Mix Western ‘Dick Turpin’.
He appeared in ‘The Winning of Barbara Worth’ in 1926 and with this his career in films took off. The same year, he was cast in ‘Children of Divorce’ along with the silent movie star Clara Bow.
In 1927, Cooper did movies like ‘Wings’—the movie won an Academy Award, ‘Nevada’—co-starring with Thelma Todd and William Powell, ‘The Last Outlaw’, ‘Beau Sabreur’, ‘The Legion of the Condemned’ and ‘Doomsday’.
His position as an A-listed star established in Hollywood with his first sound picture, ‘The Virginian’ in 1929. He starred in the movie along with Walter Hudson and Richard Arlen – the movie was based on a novel by Owen Wister.
During the ‘30s, he did movies like: ‘The Spoilers (1930)’, ‘Morocco (1930)’, ‘His Woman (1931)’, ‘Devil and the Deep (1932)’, ‘Alice in Wonderland (1933)’, ‘The Plainsman (1936)’, ‘The Cowboy and the Lady (1938)’, ‘The Real Glory (1939)’, etc.
He was offered ‘Gone with the Wind (1939)’ but he turned it down by saying that ‘it is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history’. In the coming years, he also turned down Hitchcock’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ and ‘Saboteur’.
Cooper won the audience with his cowboy talents again in ‘The Westerner’ in 1940, starring alongside Walter Brennan. He also acted in ‘North West Mounted Police’, which cast Paulette Goddard opposite him and was directed by Cecil B. DeMile.
He won his first Academy Award in 1942 for his portrayal of ‘Alvin York’ in the movie ‘Sergeant York’. It is said that it was on York’s persuasion that producer Jesse L. Lasky cast Cooper in the movie.
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Cooper won his second Oscar for his role as ‘Marshal Will Kane’ in ‘High Noon (1952)’. He was not present to receive his Award and asked John Wayne to accept it on his behalf.
Some of his works from towards the end of his career are: ‘Friendly Persuasion (1956)’, ‘Love in the Afternoon (1957)’, ‘Man of the West (1958)’, ‘Alias Jesse James (1958)’, ‘They Came to Cordura (1959)’, ‘The Naked Edge (1961)’, etc.
‘High Noon’ in 1952 is one of the finest movies of Cooper. He was 50 at the time - almost 30 years older than his co-star Grace Kelly but despite the controversy, he won an Oscar for the movie.
Awards & Achievements
In his entire film career, Cooper received five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and bagged the same twice for ‘Sergeant York’ and ‘High Noon’. He also received an Honorary Award in 1961 from the Academy.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1933, Cooper got married to Veronica Balfe, a Roman Catholic socialite who appeared in movies like ‘No Other Woman’ and ‘King Kong’. The couple together had one girl named Maria.
Cooper and his wife separated in 1951 because of Cooper’s affair with Patricia Neal. The couple never got divorced as Cooper was scared that he might lose the respect of their daughter if he divorced his wife. They got back together in 1955.
In 1961, Cooper died at the age of 60 because his prostate cancer had spread to his lungs and bones. He was originally buried in California but his wife got his body reburied in Sacred Heart Cemetery, New York.
His honorary Oscar Award in 1961 was received on his behalf by his close friend and actor James Stewart as he was too ill to attend the ceremony.
He had affairs with many women of the time. Some of the prominent women with whom he had affairs were actresses Clara Bow, Lupe Velez, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Tallulah Bankhead, Patricia Neal, Countess Carla Dentice di Frasso, etc.
In 1950, he persuaded Patricia Neal to abort her pregnancy as he wanted to avoid the public scandal of having a child outside his marriage.