Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Taking the Long Way To...Gary Cooper

Yup, I've been a real chump about appreciating Gary Cooper. It took me long enough, but, finally, here I am - just loving the man.

It's really not my fault. My first introduction to Gary was his work during the 1950s, the time when Hollywood starred its aging leading men with young female stars and didn't think the world would think it was icky. First up was 1957's "Love in the Afternoon." Now, I just adored Audrey Hepburn as the romantic young heroine, but the creepy-crawly factor of an aging Cooper chasing her around his Paris apartment bordered on gross. He did not age in a debonair way like his old Paramount rival, Cary Grant, and was just too old for her!!
Sir, please send a younger model to my room!
He was wonderful in "High Noon," but, again, way too old for Grace Kelly. Plus, I'm not a big western fan and I only thought of him as a cowboy star. I next saw a younger version of him in "Saratoga Trunk," with Ingrid Bergman, but it was so bad that I just could not get the appeal. However, I knew I had to be missing something because of all the things I had read about him. In his early days in Hollywood he was famous for his physical beauty and his appeal to a bevy of sexy hot women. Really? That tired looking old guy half-heartedly pursing Audrey with all of the sophisticated charm of Donald Trump? Really? 

His first big Hollywood affair was with Clara Bow. Clara was a mega-star at the time and she knew a good thing when she saw it (she famously praised him for not only his physical endowments, but for the fact that he allowed her dogs to join them in the  bath). Gary shared the screen with her in "Children of Divorce," "It," and, more impressively, "Wings."

Clara and Gary in 1927's "Children of Divorce"

Gary's other conquests - pre and post marriage - included Lupe Velez, Countess Carla Dentice di Frasso, Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich and Patricia Neal.  His love affair with Lupe Velez was apparently a volatile one (she was, after all, the Mexican Spitfire) and she and Dietrich went toe to toe over Gary during the filming of "Morocco." Another famously hot lady, Tallulah Bankhead, said that she went to Hollywood to film 1932's "Devil and the Deep" only to "fuck that divine Gary Cooper." It seems she achieved her goal. So, what made Gary so hot? I had to find out! And, so I did.

Desire: 1936
As the decent guy who falls for jewel thief Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper's appeal is on full display. He is American to the core, shy and forthright, but never simple. He the American hero who is just complicated enough to have a sophisticated appeal. All I can say is - sigh!

Ball of Fire - 1941
He's so shy
As the nerdy professor who is bewitched by street smart Barbara Stanwyck, Cooper is a hunky delight. While it's just a teensy bit hard to believe that he doesn't know how hot he is compared to his fellow bookworm professors, he just melts my heart. Plus, he sure is a good kisser for a guy whose nose was always in the books.

Meet John Doe - 1941
Isn't he kissable?

Could any other actor portray this uncommon common man with such humility, honesty and humanity? And dig that stray hair that falls across his forehead.

The Pride of the Yankees - 1942 
The luckiest man in the world

Anyone not moved by the story of Lou Gehrig can't have a heart. A perfect part for Cooper, for he is the 20th century American hero ideal. 

So, okay, Gary, I am on board now. Your stardom lasted from the late 20s until your death in 1961. You were the real deal, a genuine Hollywood star. Irving Berlin got it just right in his song "Puttin' on the Ritz":

Dressed up like a million dollar trooper

Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper (super duper)

Super Duper Gary Cooper ♥


Unknown said...

I love/love Gary Cooper. If you have not yet seen his performance in one of my favorite films,The Fountainhead(1948). You are in for a treat..:)

FlickChick said...

Dawn - The Fountainhead is on my list of must-see films, so I am on the look out for it for sure!

knobgobbler said...

The Fountainhead is a fun/bad movie.
Almost embarrassing because of its overwrought Randian melodrama and philosophy... but those bits of stale gravy are happily overpowered by the meat of great design elements and the wonderful performers.

I think Cooper is one of those who pops to mind when I hear 'star' vs. 'actor'. I'm not sure what I think of him as an actor, but as a personality/celebrity I adore him.


I had to take the long way to Gary, too, but I actually started with Mr. Deeds Comes to Town. I actually was a bit slow to know more about him! Besides Mr. Deeds, I think he is great at Sergeant York, almost a war super-hero! And Cloak and Dagger is a nice crime film, too.

FlickChick said...

knobgobbler - I have read mixed reviews of The Fountainhead, so I guess I need to give it a try to see for myself. Actually, the fact that you can't decide if he's a good actor or not probably means he is!

FlickChick said...

Le - thank you, dear. I'm glad I'm not alone in having some trouble figuring out the appeal.

Page said...

No apologies necessary in loving Cooper. We all feel the same way. (Well, I hope we all do!)

Laughed at your comment about Gary being too old for Grace. I thought that too. ha ha

I loved your look back at his career and the high points then the gorgeous photos.

It makes me a bit sad that I've not gotten around to doing his write up. I'm so far behind. But anyway, this was a really enjoyable post. You just continue to love Gary and be proud of it! Ya have great taste!

I hope you had a great holiday, filled with joy and great food.

FlickChick said...

Thanks so much, Page. Gary was sure worth waiting for.

Rick29 said...

I agree that Coop seems too old for Audrey in LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, but the age difference with Grace didn't bother me in HIGH NOON (perhaps because marrying old guys was more common in the Old West). Ironically, one of my favorite Cooper movies, the under-appreciated TEN NORTH FREDERICK, is about a May-December romance!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Rick - that is one I've never seen, but will be on the lookout for.

Silver Screenings said...

Loved your description of the aging Gary Cooper pursuing the much-too-young Audrey Hepburn. Icky, indeed!

Great post and a good tribute to the Coop. Thanks for posting!

FlickChick said...

Thank you, SS - yes, too bad my first impression was icky and that it took me so long to get past it!