Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stars Of The Early Sound Era, No. 6: Gary Cooper


Mythical Monkey said...

Question for lupner, if you happen to be reading: Gary Cooper, yes or no?

Lupner said...

I have to say that he is somehow neither a yes or a no. He has never appealed greatly to me, and yet I can understand his appeal as the strong, silent type, the John Doe Everyman, etc. But although I don't dislike GC, his characters always seem somewhat bland to me . . . perhaps I need to see more of his films. I've always meant to see The Fountainhead, b/c I figured that would be a more passionate character and give me a better sense of his range. If you have suggestions, suggest away --

I did enjoy 'Pride of the Yankees' right much -- saw it for the first time several months ago.

Planning to do some serious Mythical Monkey reading and commenting this weekend; looking forward to getting properly caught up!

Mythical Monkey said...

I'm not sure I am the right person to lead you to the land of Gary Cooper. My reaction to him has always been pretty much the same as yours.

Only as I've been watching movies more or less chronologically have I begun to understand why he developed such an ardent following: in the early sound era, most actors followed the English stage model, very Ronald Colman-esque (although I am a big fan of Ronald Colman). There were very few who sounded to audiences authentically American: James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, a little later, Humphrey Bogart. But they reflected the New York street smart background, or in the case of Robinson, who was born in Romania, the quintessential immigrant experience.

Gary Cooper, born in Montana, was really the first actor who sounded like the rest of America. And audiences ate him up.

I do think he gave some good performances in Mr. Deeds Goes To Town and Meet John Doe, and his three minute part in Wings was a revelation, but overall, he's not really my cup of tea. I hated him in his first Oscar winner, Sgt. York, but maybe as a Tennessean by birth, and being the grandson of farmers, I resent his portrayal of Tennessee farmers as being brain-damaged simpletons. And as for his other Oscar winner, High Noon, I think he was fine but maybe ten other actors could have done it better.

I don't know. My feelings on the matter are in a state of flux ...