Monday, 17 January 2011
Top Ten Western Actors No 5 - Gary Cooper
"Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history. I’m glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling flat on his nose, not me" Gary Cooper
He also turned Alfred Hitchcock away when the director wanted to cast him in Foreign Correspondent and again for Saboteur.
Still it mattered not and in 1942 Coop won his first Oscar for best actor for his blistering performance in Sgt. York. And then in 1953 he won again for what must rate as one of the best ever westerns, the iconic High Noon. In fact High Noon remains a favourite among western fans even today and is the most requested film in the White House cinema.
High Noon is a damn effective film - it builds the drama and tension to breaking point as as Coop's Mashall Wil Kane prepares to face off against Frank Miller, a man he sent to jail many years previously, and his gang. The townsfolk don't hold much hope for Coop's chances and leave him to face off against the coming terror alone. The film is strong on character and yet doesn't skimp on the action and although Coop was too old for the part, and suffering with ill health all through shooting he carries it off with vigour and it is difficult to think of any other actor in the role.
Coop made another western that was almost as good in 1958 when he teamed up with Anthony Mann for Man of the West. Once again there were concerns about Cooper's health but he carried the entire film off with dignity and there is amazing strength in his performance. The following year Coop gave another great showing in the vastly underrated melodramatic western, The Hanging Tree.
Right from the beginning when Coop had an uncredited part in a 1925, Tom Mix western, Coop was never far away from the cinematic range. Even his lesser westerns, and there were several, are watchable and for some time he challenged John Wayne as the western's biggest box office draw.
Gary Cooper a true man of the west.