A Tribute to Gary Cooper
(Originally written in 2001 to celebrate what would have been Gary Cooper’s 100th birthday.)
Without seeming to try very hard, Gary Cooper captured something in the American spirit that few others have equalled.
Perhaps only Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne can be placed in the same category — not as actors, but as men. And few other actors have appeared in five films in a row of the quality and variety of Meet John Doe (1941), Sergeant York (1941),Ball of Fire (1941), Pride of the Yankees (1942), and For Whom the Bell Tolls(1943). And for those who count such things, that’s three Best Actor Oscar nominations in a row, with one win.
The debate continues to rage over the question of Gary Cooper’s acting ability. Some feel he was one of the worst actors who ever lived, while others argue that his talent was such that he never really appeared to be acting when he was at his best. Whatever the truth may be, the fact is that the former silent movie extra and Western star was once the highest-paid person in America — not the highest-paid actor, but the highest-paid person — and he just missed being chosen by the AFI as one of the top ten classic actors in history, finishing at #11. So popular was he that when the studio wanted a new name for a fellow named Archie Leach, they just reversed Gary Cooper’s initials and came up with something that sounded similar: Cary Grant.
On May 7, 2001, we celebrated what would have been Gary Cooper’s 100th birthday, had he not died of cancer at the age of 60, one month after receiving a special Oscar for his life’s work. Thanks to Julie Stowe for the use of her special 100th anniversary graphic, and to all the people whose work contributed to this four-part article, updated two years after it was originally written.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Gary Cooper Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters