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Friday, November 08, 2013

Back On The Subject Of Drawing ...

Left To Right: Walter Lantz, Gary Cooper, Walter Winchell, and Walt Disney
at the Paramount Commissary in 1932

The Artist That Was Gary Cooper

Could Gary Cooper have gotten a job at Disney's? The 20's timing seems right. Walt was doing his Alice series and needed artists. Cooper was lately in from Helena, Montana roots to seek newspaper work as a political cartoonist, his going into movies not a first career choice. Talent was indicated from youth, with art classes taken, and potential shown. At least one of "Frank" Cooper's political jibes had been published in a hometown Helena sheet (see fine further research by Cliff Aleperti). Frank might have made a fine animator under Disney training, with no need for name change to Gary in that event, his accumulated portfolio putting Cooper on track toward Mickey Mouse and eventual Snow White participation. Disney was known for recognizing germs of talent and developing same to a height his hires never imagined for themselves. But for extra work taken in a pinch and discovery by Paramount creatives (including Bill Wellman), could Cooper have made his career at an animator's desk?

Cooper Drew This During a Break in Filming The Plainsman (1936)

Enough with the speculation, however. What we do know is that Gary Cooper became a star for Paramount and continued drawing in hobbyist capacity. He liked to sketch and was increasingly good at it. This became colorful background for studio publicity --- the young man who embraced art before marquees claimed him. Bios told of creative beginning at Grinnell College in Iowa, where Cooper did posters for campus theatricals, including Mister Antonio, by Booth Tarkington (might any of his student posters survive?). Paramount issued stills of Cooper at his easel, and casual drawing on the set. If nothing else, this would differentiate him from other contract players. On one occasion, he film-portrayed an artist, in Ernst Lubitsch's Design For Living (1933), but opportunity was missed by not showing the Cooper character at work with paints. A best onscreen glimpse of the actor-artist remains The Fountainhead (below), where he's shown with pencil/pad, and even does a lightning sketch house plan for Raymond Massey. In this respect, at least, Gary Cooper was well cast as architect Howard Roark.


MORE FROM MILT: The quest for Milt Kahl ad art continues. I found one more last night, from Night After Night, with George Raft (his presence at Greenbriar seems ongoing, if not insistent --- there's another Raft film among a coming week posts). Kahl's distinctive "K" is visible here, as was case with previous Dancers In The Dark, and as identified by commenter Galen Fott, on Chandu The Magician and Island Of Lost Souls. Fott's eagle eye caught the "K" in Chandu and "Milt Kahl" spelled out on Souls. I wonder how many movie ads the future Disney animator contributed to, and what of these survived in scrapbooks he kept. It's an obscure chapter in Kahl's career, but one that fascinates me, as his are certainly some of the most arresting ads I've come across.







UPDATE --- 11/8 --- 12:50 PM --- Another Initialled Ad By Milt Kahl
For Paramount's 1931 Clara Bow Vehicle, No Limit

 

7 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

Kahl's artwork is great, but what eventually caught my eye, as these things always do, were the taglines. What the women "needed" was "a sock on the chin"? I'm not sure this would go over well these days. And I can only speculate what the "slightly Hebrew Chinaman" in the vaudeville act was like. It makes me think of Hugh Herbert's role in Wheeler & Woolsey's "Diplomaniacs."

10:02 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Check this page:

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/imageservice/nla.news-page4997292/print

10:47 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

And you'll like this too:

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/imageservice/nla.news-page10205783/print

10:56 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

I have found online an original version of that Gary Cooper drawing:

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/printArticlePdf/47489148/3?print=n

11:10 AM  
Blogger Cliff Aliperti said...

John,

Thanks very much for the link over to my Gary Cooper Helena post.

I really thought I had a score when I found that cartoon of his, but it wound up making for a frustrating evening of deep searches and page-by-page previews of the Helena newspapers archived online that yielded no further results. Still, the Independent wound up providing an interesting and unique peek at the evolution into Gary Cooper, movie star.

Thanks again,
Cliff

1:35 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer reflects on overlooked aspects of Gary Cooper:


That was a fascinating glimpse you provided of a Gary Cooper other than the one ordinarily thought of. What I've found so distressing about movie actors in general or movie stars, in particular, is that they seem to disappear off the screen. They don't have lives so much as appetites and nothing really to commend them as personalities, other than what we see of them on screen. That's why stars like Barrymore or Gilbert, or John Wayne or Burt Lancaster, who were intelligent and did have interests and accomplishments apart from their work, are so interesting.

Now Cooper becomes more interesting beyond the aspects of his life that the publicity departments of his studios seized upon, or magazines like "Confidential." Riding herd in Montana or having an English public school education, buying his clothes from Saville Row, hunting with Hemingway, or having affairs with beautiful women: of course these can fascinate, but no more so than what one might read of the various narcissistic personalities paraded across the supermarket tabloids today. That he would pick up pen or brush, however, to give expression to what he saw of the world, provides a glimpse of another man. Someone who would draw or write, as a way of understanding what he saw and reflecting it through the prism of his personality, suggests a depth of character greater than he may be credited with.

Certainly that must be so for Cooper. The few examples provided in your essay are tantalizing. The painting of what was perhaps a pirate, playing up the almost demonic aspects of the character, or the sketch of a stage coach and horses, deftly picking out just those details that suggest them in action, indicate a modest but real talent.

What I should like to read one day is a biography of him that blends the superficial details of his life, which are so well known, and the qualities that obtained stardom for him, when displayed on the screen, with those others which led him to the Church at the end of his life or placed a pencil in his hand and a sketchbook before him all through his life and stardom. There is always an inner man, however he is given expression, and I should like to better know Gary Cooper's. I believe that it would be worthwhile.

Daniel

9:32 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer reflects on overlooked aspects of Gary Cooper:


That was a fascinating glimpse you provided of a Gary Cooper other than the one ordinarily thought of. What I've found so distressing about movie actors in general or movie stars, in particular, is that they seem to disappear off the screen. They don't have lives so much as appetites and nothing really to commend them as personalities, other than what we see of them on screen. That's why stars like Barrymore or Gilbert, or John Wayne or Burt Lancaster, who were intelligent and did have interests and accomplishments apart from their work, are so interesting.

Now Cooper becomes more interesting beyond the aspects of his life that the publicity departments of his studios seized upon, or magazines like "Confidential." Riding herd in Montana or having an English public school education, buying his clothes from Saville Row, hunting with Hemingway, or having affairs with beautiful women: of course these can fascinate, but no more so than what one might read of the various narcissistic personalities paraded across the supermarket tabloids today. That he would pick up pen or brush, however, to give expression to what he saw of the world, provides a glimpse of another man. Someone who would draw or write, as a way of understanding what he saw and reflecting it through the prism of his personality, suggests a depth of character greater than he may be credited with.

Certainly that must be so for Cooper. The few examples provided in your essay are tantalizing. The painting of what was perhaps a pirate, playing up the almost demonic aspects of the character, or the sketch of a stage coach and horses, deftly picking out just those details that suggest them in action, indicate a modest but real talent.

What I should like to read one day is a biography of him that blends the superficial details of his life, which are so well known, and the qualities that obtained stardom for him, when displayed on the screen, with those others which led him to the Church at the end of his life or placed a pencil in his hand and a sketchbook before him all through his life and stardom. There is always an inner man, however he is given expression, and I should like to better know Gary Cooper's. I believe that it would be worthwhile.

Daniel

9:32 AM  

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