Who was Jeanne Cooper?
Wilma Jeanne Cooper was an American actress who gained fame for portraying Katherine Chancellor in the CBS soap opera ‘The Young and the Restless’ from 1973 to 2003. A native Californian, Cooper dropped her first name ‘Wilma’ when she was in the fifth grade. She made her screen debut in the 1953 action-drama film ‘The Redhead from Wyoming’. Distinguished by her husky voice and rhytidectomy appearance, she was a starlet for Universal-International in the 1950s. Over the course of her six-decade-long career, she accumulated over 130 acting credits, many of which were for soap operas. Cooper was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards and ten Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She won one Daytime Emmy as well as the 2004 Daytime Emmy for Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1993, she received a television Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on October 25, 1928, in Taft, California, USA, Jeanne Copper was the youngest of the three children of oil-field worker Albert Troy Cooper, Sr. and homemaker Sildeth Evelyn Moore Cooper.
She had an older brother named Albert Troy Cooper, Jr., who was also employed in the oil fields. She lost her mother on August 21, 1944, and her father on April 11, 1986.
Cooper briefly studied at Taft Union High School in Taft, California. She later enrolled at College of the Pacific before graduating from Pasadena Playhouse with degrees in theatre arts and history.
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Jeanne Copper started her career in the local theatre productions before landing the role of Myra in the Maureen O'Hara-starrer ‘The Redhead from Wyoming’ in 1953. She subsequently appeared in the western-drama ‘The Man from the Alamo’ before being cast in her first TV role, in a season two episode of ‘Chevron Theatre’.
In 1953, she played the recurring character Joyce Hadley in three episodes of the western show ‘The Adventures of Kit Carson’. She received her first Primetime Emmy nomination for her performance in the 1961 episode ‘But Linda Only Smiled’ of ABC’s medical drama ‘Ben Casey’.
Cooper’s prominent cinematic performances in the 1960s include Mrs Horton in ‘Unwed Mother’ (1958), Fran in ‘Let No Man Write My Epitaph’ (1960), Mrs Quinn in ‘13 West Street’ (1962), Helen Jennings in ‘’House of Women’ (1962), Edna Conrad in ‘’Black Zoo’ (1963), and Mrs. Rachael McCabe in ‘The Glory Guys’ (1965).
She earned her second Emmy nomination for portraying Gladys Becker in NBC’s legal drama ‘L.A. Law’ in 1987. In the show, she co-starred with her son Corbin and played the mother of his character.
In her later film career, she played Clerk in ‘Lethal Justice’ (1991), and Mrs Lunsford in ‘Carpool Guy’ (2005). Her final big-screen appearance was in the 2009 horror science fiction ‘Dead Air’.
Copper had authored several books, including the popular memoir, ‘Not Young, Still Restless’, which was put out on July 31, 2012, through It Books publishers.
In ‘The Young and the Restless’, Jeanne Cooper began portraying Katherine Chancellor in the episode that aired on November 25, 1973, and continued to do so until her death. Her final appearance on the show aired about four months after her death, on September 4, 2013.
With the portrayal of Chancellor, Copper wrote new rules in daytime television. In 1984, Cooper’s facelift surgery was incorporated into the story and was broadcast live. In 2008, she won the Daytime Emmy Award for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series after being previously nominated eight times.
Family & Personal Life
Jeanne Copper was married to television producer Harry Bernsen, Jr. for 23 years. They got married in 1954 and divorced on July 19, 1977. They had three children together, actors Corbin Bernsen (born September 7, 1954) and Collin Bernsen (born March 30, 1958), and actress Caren Bernsen (born August 17, 1960).
On May 8, 2013, Copper passed away in a Los Angeles hospital after becoming ill due to an infection. She was 84 years old at the time. Besides the infection, Cooper, who had been smoking for the most part of her adult life, also had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Announcing her death, her oldest son, Corbin, wrote the following on Twitter, “Mom Passed this morning. She was in peace and without fear.”