This was widely famed when new in 1929, so much
so that Paramount
brought it back in 1934, then did aremake in 1946. Outdoors never sounded so good,
opening titles scored by mooing cows. This is where Yup/Nope got hung on Gary
Cooper for keeps. He'd live with, sometimes spoof, that image all the way
to the end. It's so pervasive as to obscure the performance he gives as The
Virginian, so halting, so naturalistic, as to seem almost like "bad"
orinexperienced acting. But Cooper was experienced by this time, for that
matter understood new rules of screen talk better than vets that played
opposite him to their peril (John Barrymore said Cooper was the best bar none,
including himself). I think Coop based his Virginian on genuine articles he'd
met growing up in Montana.
No talking cowboys had so far registered like this. Compare Cooper with Warner
Baxter overreach as the Cisco Kid the previous year (Fox's In Old Arizona). Cooper's
so raw here as to be without even mannerisms he'd develop as stardom was consolidated.
Compare The Virginian with later The Plainsman, Along Came Jones, or Dallas,
and see him apply tricks to point of being mechanical. Problem for Coop was his
knowing it had come to that, freshness of The Virginian not to be fullyhad again.
Not to say he'd ever be less than great. I
looked at him recent in Garden
Of Evil and ...
monumental. In fact, monument was the word to describe this star by 1954.
Cooper knew he was relying on repeated effects by then, and sat in on acting
classes (with coach Jeff Corey) to improve. His efforts to learn went
right through the career. It wasn't insecurity, buta genuine humility. Did greats
like Cooper fully realize that it was cumulative effect of all their roles that
moved us so, redoubled each time we saw a new one? I'd grow up with his on
syndicated TV, one week Vera Cruz, then The Hanging Tree, backward to Sergeant
York or High Noon. Each built upon the last, as brick was laid by Cooper
to his screen persona. I missed that initial impact, am sorry for it, can
but imagine going to each of his when new, as well with Bogart, Gable, Flynn,
Cagney, the rest, were unfurling at a same time. These were method actors in far
truer sense than would be case after it became a self-conscious, if not
Everything Cooper and peers experienced in for
large part turbulent lives was reflected by performances, not an affect, but
genuine and even unconscious for a most part. We saw what smoking and alcohol
did to these faces. Almost all of them would die comparatively young. Whatever
disturb went on in private lives translated right to the screen in expression
if not interpretation of roles. Authenticity rather than affect. While
Method-ers plowed childhood for emotional guideline, these had but to
recall last night's assignation or unwelcome flap at Ciro's to create
mood for a working day. Cooper and peers were pros, but they hauled rocks from personal
life and habits, all shared, if unknowingly, with ones of us (especially now
with benefit of candid bios) thatknew what went on back of scenes. Cooper was
especially colorful, if unwise in some of indulgences, but each were plasma to
feed unimpeachable authority of his screen self. Anthony Perkins once recalled
telling Cooper how great it was to work with such a living legend in Friendly
Persuasion, to which Coop replied, "How about we leave off that legend
s--t." Cooper knew that to analyze his gift was to jeopardize it, and hardly
needed to be told he was a legend.