Gary Cooper – Hollywood Legend

September 8, 2009
as Will Kane in High Noon

as Will Kane in High Noon

I’ve often driven along I-15 and passed through Helena, Montana without a thought. Recently I discovered it was the birthplace and boyhood home of one of my Hollywood idols, Gary Cooper.

“Coop” as he was known to his peers was born Frank James Cooper May 7, 1901 in Helena. He lived there until he was in his early 20’s. His father was a judge on the Montana Supreme Court. In 1924 they moved to Los Angeles. He started in movies as an extra or stand-in for western stars. His first credited role came in 1925 in “Lightnin’ Wins”. Coop accepted a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures and changed his name to Gary.

veracruzHe won two Academy Awards for Best Actor. The first in 1942 for Sergeant York, and the second in 1953 for his role as Will Kane in High Noon. This is his best known role. In total he received five nominations for Best Actor in his career. Other movies and roles of note include The Pride of the Yankees (Lou Gehrig), and one of my faves Vera Cruz.

He died on May 13, 1961 at the age of 60 of cancer. Six months prior he was awarded an honorary Oscar by the Academy. He was too ill to attend so his close friend James Stewart accepted it on his behalf.


copyright USPS


Coop made over 100 movies from 1925 until just before his death in 1961.

On September 10, 2009 the USPS will issue a stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series honoring Gary Cooper. To the left is the image of the 44c commemorative stamp. First Day of Issue is Los Angeles, CA.


James Dean: Shooting Star of the Movies

January 29, 2008

dean_ts_3.jpgThe recent tragic death of up-and-coming movie star Heath Ledger reminded all of us how mortal we are. Over the years many actors have died before their time. The most notable to my memory being the death of James Dean, an immense talent, who’s life was like a shooting star, brilliant but short

James Dean starred in only three feature films:

East of Eden, 1955: played Cal Trask and film was based on the John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel of the same name. The book has recently been on Oprah’s book club list and is experiencing a revival.

Rebel Without a Cause, 1955: played a rebellious teenager. This film defined him. His co-star was Natalie Wood who also died before her time in later years.

Giant, 1956: played Jett and had to age himself for the role. Co-stars were Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.

Dean was killed in a car accident on September 30, 1955 while driving his Porsche at high speed. Alcohol and drugs were not factors, speed was. He was 25 years old.

He was the first person to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. This was for East of Eden. He received his second Academy Award nomination for Giant, also posthumously. He did not win on either occasion, but to be nominated two out of three starring roles is incredible.

jdeanstamp.gifJames Dean because of the rebellious characters he played in these films and his death in a fast car at a young age, has become a cult figure. At right is the postage stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in 1996 to honor Dean.

Like the song says, “only the good die young”, or so it seems at times.

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