May 7, 1901
Deceased: May 14, 1961
Born Frank James Cooper on May 7, 1901, Gary Cooper spent much of his youth
on his parents' ranch outside Helena, Montana. He and his older brother
Arthur were sent to school in England for several years, returning to
America just before the outbreak of World War I.
Upon graduation from high school, young Frank journeyed to California with
hopes of becoming a political cartoonist, but he found that riding horses as
an extra in silent films was more lucrative. Stunt riding turned into bit
parts, and Cooper began to pursue a career as an actor. He changed his name
to Gary and eventually landed a leading role in the 1927 silent film "The
Winning of Barbara Worth."
His good looks and naturalness before the camera brought him notice from
critics and public alike, and soon he was starring opposite top actresses
of the day. His first sound film, "The Virginian," was released in 1929, and
in the decade of the 1930s, "Coop" would become one of Hollywood's biggest
stars in such films as "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer' (1935) and Frank
Capra's "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936).
In 1933, Cooper married New York socialite Veronica "Rocky" Balfe, and the
two would have a daughter, Maria, born in 1938.
During the 1940s Cooper hit his stride as an actor in classics like "The
Pride of the Yankees", "Meet John Doe" and "Ball of Fire". For his
performance as World War I hero Alvin York in "Sergeant York," Cooper won
his first Academy Award as Best Actor of 1941.
Cooper returned to his Western roots in 1952's "High Noon", thought by many
to be the finest Western ever filmed. Coop's performance as Marshall Will
Kane brought him his second Oscar as Best Actor, and "High Noon" remains the
film for which he is best remembered.
Cooper and his wife Rocky separated in 1951, but were reconciled five years
later and remained happily married until his death. Cooper was diagnosed
with cancer in 1960, and died at his home on May 14, 1961, just one week
after his 60th birthday. He left a legacy that lives on today: a Hollywood
legend and the last great American hero.
Photo © Corbis.com - Bio by Julie Stowe of The Ravin' Maven of Classic Film
Keep scrolling for more GARY info!