Monday, May 07, 2012
Happy Birthday, Gary Cooper!!!
Happy 111th birthday to one of my "beloveds"---the sensational Gary Cooper. (May 7, 1901-May 13, 1961)
Born Frank James Cooper, the tall, lanky, mild-mannered (not to mention extremely handsome!) 2-time Academy Award-winning Coop is one of my absolute most favorite actors...my #3 guy of all-time (and not too far behind the #1's). From the moment I "discovered" him in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, I have been completely smitten and have been on a quest to see all of his films. So far, I'm over halfway there...I've seen 57 of the 96 films listed on his TCM filmography. (Just less than half if you go by the IMDB, which lists 115 titles, many of which are silent films.)
Interestingly, in addition to being one of my favorite actors, when it comes to favorite film characters, three of my five favorite male characters are those played by Gary Cooper. Far and away, he portrayed men of integrity, goodness, and honor, and since those are qualities I admire, it's natural that I am drawn to characters exhibiting those traits. My tied-for-#1 favorite film character is Will Kane, Coop's role in High Noon. After Kane, comes Thomas Thorn (They Came to Cordura) and Longfellow Deeds (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town). I also love Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees and Alvin York in Sergeant York; however, since those were both real men---not characters---I am not counting them. I readily admit that I have a hard time separating the man Gary Cooper from those honorable men he portrayed, so while I know Coop had his faults, I don't like to think about them; instead, I prefer to keep him on his pedestal.
My all-time favorite Gary Cooper film---by only the tiniest of margins over #2---is Ten North Frederick. This gorgeous tearjerker (reviewed HERE) is a May-December romance, also starring Suzy Parker. Coop displays a sensitivity and vulnerability I haven't seen him display in any other film. This little-known gem is right up there with Madame X as the "tearjerker of all tearjerkers" for me; plus, with one viewing, it displaced Mr. Deeds Goes to Town as my favorite Coop film. I hope you will read my review of this film, then watch it for yourself (it is on YouTube, at least as of today). It deserves to be better known than it is.
Rounding out my list of five favorite Gary Cooper films are:
2. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (with Jean Arthur, this is easily my favorite Frank Capra film---reviewed HERE)
3. The Pride of the Yankees (with Teresa Wright---reviewed HERE)
4. They Came to Cordura (with Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, and Richard Conte)
5. Good Sam (with Ann Sheridan---reviewed HERE)
It was nearly impossible to stop with just five films. I had to think long and hard before finalizing this list. In the end, Ball of Fire lost out to Good Sam...but only by the tiniest of margins.
So, my beloved Gary Cooper, here's to you on your 111th birthday! You will always, always, always be one of my "beloveds" and one of my absolute favorite actors. Even though you died the very year I was born, you live on through your wonderful films. And, in the words of George Eliot, "Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them." Since we have not forgotten you (nor will we ever!), you live on! Thanks for beautifying my life with so many incredible, cherished films!