Who was Wyatt Cooper?
Wyatt Cooper was an American author, screenwriter, and actor. Born into a humble family of a small town in Mississippi, he later graduated in theater arts from the ‘University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA). Initially, he moved to New York and performed in the ‘Broadway’ play ‘The Strong Are Lonely.’ Later, he worked as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and wrote the screenplay of the movie ‘The Chapman Report’ and the TV movie ‘The Glass House.’ As an actor, he appeared in a few TV series. Cooper also worked as an editor for magazines in New York. He was close to his roots and published a book named ‘Families: A Memoir and a Celebration.’ He was the fourth husband of the heiress and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt. The couple had two sons, but the elder one, Carter, died at 23 years of age. Cooper died during an open heart surgery at the age of 50.
Childhood & Early Life
Wyatt Emory Cooper was born on September 1, 1927, on a farm near Quitman, Clarke County, Mississippi, to Emmet Debro Cooper and Rixie Jane Annie (née Anderson). He grew up in a large family, with two brothers, Harry and Preston, and four sisters, Anna Laura Crawford, Grace Roby, Marie Graham, and Janice Featherstone. Members of his extended family and the family values ingrained by them were important for him. Years later, he published his memoirs in his book ‘Families: A Memoir and a Celebration,’ which was published in 1975. Though he spent most of his adult life in Los Angeles or New York, he always remained connected to his roots.
The Cooper family had modest means, and during his childhood, they moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. Later, he joined the ‘UCLA’ and obtained a degree in theater arts.
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At the age of 26, Cooper went to New York to pursue acting as a profession. He appeared in the ‘Broadway’ play ‘The Strong Are Lonely’ (1953) at the ‘Broadhurst Theater.’
Cooper moved to Los Angeles during his 30s and worked as a screenwriter. During this period he attended the ‘UCLA’ and the ‘University of California, Berkeley’ (UC Berkeley). As an actor, he appeared in TV series such as ‘Studio One in Hollywood’ (1954–1955), ‘Star Tonight’ (1955), ‘Robert Montgomery Presents’ (1955–1956), and ‘The Rebel’ (1960). In 1962, he wrote the screenplay of ‘The Chapman Report,’ which was based on a novel by Irving Wallace. The movie starred Jane Fonda.
Soon after the release of ‘The Chapman Report,’ Cooper moved to Manhattan, New York, and worked as an editor of a magazine. At one time, he was also the editor of ‘Status’ magazine. During his stay in Los Angeles, he had been a close friend of poet and screenwriter (later, a member of the ‘Communist Party’) Dorothy Parker and her husband, Alan Campbell. After her death in 1967, Cooper wrote a biographical article titled ‘Whatever You Think Dorothy Parker Was Like, She Wasn't’ about her in ‘Esquire’ magazine, which earned appreciation.
In 1972, Cooper wrote the award-winning script of the TV movie ‘The Glass House.’ He has also written a number of stories and plays.
Family & Personal Life
Cooper married famous railroad heiress, socialite, and designer Gloria Vanderbilt on December 24, 1963. It was her fourth marriage and Cooper’s first. The two were quite popular in the social circuit and were often featured on the national “best-dressed” list.
They had two sons, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper (January 27, 1965–July 22, 1988) and Anderson Hays Cooper (born on June 3, 1967). Besides, Cooper was also stepfather to Gloria’s two sons from her previous marriage to music conductor Leopold Stokowski. Their first-born child, Carter, ended his life at the age of 23, by jumping from the family’s 14th-floor apartment. The suicide was believed to be a result of his medication. Their second son, Anderson Cooper, is a well-known ‘CNN’ news anchor.
They were married for 15 years, till Copper’s death in 1978. Gloria did not marry again, and according to her, Cooper was an amazing father to their sons and the love of her life. They often spent their summers with their sons at their mansion in Southampton, Long Island.
Cooper died on January 5, 1978, during an open heart surgery. He had suffered a heart attack a month earlier and was 50 at the time of his death. He was interred in the ‘Vanderbilt Mausoleum’ in Moravian Cemetery, on Staten Island.