In the mid-1900s, Gary Cooper was the man to cast in Hollywood films. However, while the man might have been a skilled actor, he got up to plenty behind the scenes too.
What’s In A Name?
The actor started life as Frank Cooper, a man intent on studying agriculture. However, when his parents moved to Los Angeles, everything changed for the young farmer. He looked to become an actor, and that’s when the name alteration came about. His agent warned him against using the name Frank and suggested he go for Gary instead. At the time, no one else had that as a first name, though it was a different story once Cooper became famous.
His Big Break
As with most actors, things started out relatively quietly for Gary Cooper. Of course, it was the era of silent films, so that perhaps wasn’t surprising. He appeared in a selection of movies as an extra, waiting for the opportunity to get his big break. It eventually came about in 1926, though not in the way he’d expected. He landed one of the male leads in The Winning of Barbara Worth when the intended actor never showed up.
A Star Is Born
The roles started racking up from there. He was cast in many more films, primarily playing romantic heroes for movies like Wings and The Wolf Song. Clara Bow, an actress who epitomized the status of being an “it girl” in the twenties, was so enamored by Cooper she demanded he appear alongside her in a film. Her insistence bagged the actor the lead role and likely started off his alleged love for getting closer than close to his co-stars.
Eyes On The Prize
It’s no shock that Gary Cooper was so successful as a romantic hero given he had quite a way with the ladies. The man apparently couldn’t help himself when he was around an attractive woman, and he knew exactly what to say to charm them. It helped that he was regularly cast as the protagonist alongside some of Hollywood’s most glamorous leading ladies. Nearly everyone that caught his eye said yes to Cooper, although this wasn’t always without issue.
Having His Cake
Gary Cooper was such a ladies man that he allegedly had no qualms about seeing multiple women at the same time. Nearly every time he had a new co-star, he was tempted to get her in his bed. However, that didn’t always mean he wanted to break things off with the other women he was seeing. Of course, having relations with so many leading ladies at the same time was bound to come back to bite him, especially when he met Lupe Vélez.
A Blossoming Romance
Cooper and Vélez met on the set of The Wolf Song, and once again on-screen passion turned into something behind the scenes. At the time their romance was blossoming, the actor was finding success in movies that weren’t silent, helping him become an even bigger star. The onset of the Great Depression changed the landscape of Hollywood films, and Cooper used that to his advantage to cement himself as a cinematic icon. It had consequences, though.
Fighting For Love
Smitten with Cooper, Dietrich wanted a piece of the actor. However, Vélez was not interested in sharing her man, and a bitter rivalry allegedly developed between the two women. While Dietrich remained a professional, her adversary was reportedly not so dignified. In the eyes of the media, she was a loose cannon who couldn’t control herself where Gary was involved. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to keep hold of her man, even if he ended up getting hurt.
Stealing The Show
At the same time as this drama went on, Cooper was having his own problems in front of the camera. He took issue with the way the director, Josef von Sternberg, was portraying Dietrich as superior to him. Many shots of Cooper were passive compared to the German actress, and the actor was so upset he went over Sternberg’s head to the bigwigs at Paramount. Soon enough, the man got his way and stopped the director in his tracks.
I Take This Woman
Another actress who Cary Cooper was rumored to have had an affair with during this time period was Carole Lombard, who he start alongside in the 1931 movie I Take This Woman. Apparently, during her marriage with fellow Golden Age star Clark Gable, Lombard claimed to have much better intimate experiences with Cooper than with husband Gable. In fact, the Gone With The Wind star ended up buying a Duesenberg car that was a whole foot longer than Cooper’s car.
Romantic Getaway With The Countess
Another reported affair Cooper had during this uncertain time period was in 1932, when he spent a year away from home. It is believed that the actor spent plenty of time at Villa Madama, close to Rome. This was the home of Countess Dorothy di Frasso, who was the American wife of an important Italian figure. According to Tallulah Bankhead, who also had a soft spot for Cooper, she claimed that the Countess had “worn Cooper to a frasso.”
The Green-Eyed Monster
While Cooper might have turned things in his favor in front of the camera, things were far from great behind the scenes. Vélez had become so fiercely possessive of the actor that she apparently lost it at just the slightest indication of Cooper’s infidelity. She was so paranoid that she even suspected her partner of carrying on with another man. Vélez believed he was behaving inappropriately with his friend Anderson Lawler and went to extreme lengths to prove it.
Taking Things Too Far
It’s believed that the actress pulled down Cooper’s pants zipper at a party and smelled him, claiming she caught a whiff of Lawler’s cologne. This wasn’t the only outrageous behavior she supposedly exhibited as a result of her infatuation. Vélez also allegedly shot her partner during a passionate moment too. Understandably, things between her and Cooper didn’t last much longer after that. Thankfully for the actor, there were plenty of other fish waiting in the sea.
Bruising His Ego
Determined to get the last word, Vélez made claims about Cooper’s performance in the bedroom that likely bruised his ego. She suggested he had the best equipment in Hollywood, but he had no idea how to use it. Given the actor’s many other partners never showed any disappointment with his performance, it’s hard to say if there was any truth in Vélez’s statement. Women wanted to be with Cooper so badly that it became the sole reason they moved to Hollywood.
Behind His Wife’s Back
The actor’s relationship with Vélez might have been packed with drama, but at least their union wasn’t going behind anyone’s back. The same can’t be said for Cooper’s affair with Patricia Neal, which he embarked on after marrying Veronica Balfe. Gary had tried to calm things down after getting married, but he found himself enamored with the actress after starring alongside her in Fountainhead. This was a rollercoaster relationship that wasn’t destined to have a happy ending.
A Bad Audition
Funnily enough, Cooper didn’t actually think much of Neal when he first met her. During her audition, her performance wasn’t up to par, leaving the actor incredibly disappointed. Director King Vidor had been excited about her potential, but Cooper was desperate for him to let her go. However, his opinion soon changed when she returned for a second audition the following day. The pair ended up working together, and sparks quickly flew between them, prompting the affair.
Exposing The Affair
For months, the two saw one another behind his wife’s back. It wasn’t until Neal and Balfe were in the same room together that Cooper’s wife realized something was going on. She discovered the truth later that day, prompting her and her daughter to launch a vicious campaign against her husband’s mistress. All the while, Balfe continued to play the doting wife in public, even though she couldn’t stand what Cooper had done behind closed doors.
No Turning Back Now
Everything came to a head after Neal revealed that she was pregnant with Cooper’s child. Realizing they couldn’t raise it together, the actor booked her an appointment at the doctor’s to have it terminated. There was no going back for the pair after that. Patricia ended things, and Cooper worked on building bridges with his family. When Neal later tried to reunite with him, she was rejected, leading her to apparently nearly suffer from a breakdown.
Here’s Looking At You, Ingrid
Another high-profile star who Cooper ended up having an affair with was Ingrid Bergman, who is, of course, best known for her role in Casablanca. The star duo hit it off while working on the production of the movie For Whom the Bell Tolls during the summer of 1942. For a whole year, Cooper and Bergman managed to keep their “forbidden love” under wraps, before bringing things to an end when Saratoga Trunk wrapped up in 1943.
A Friend In Me
Following the breakdown of Cooper’s affair, the man’s health took a turn for the worst. It’s unknown whether the stress of what he went through with Neal contributed, but it likely didn’t help. As his condition deteriorated and he faced the prospect of losing his life, the actor was at least grateful to have one man by his side – Ernest Hemingway. Despite their conflicting political affiliations, the pair were firm friends, regularly shooting and fishing together.
Like Father, Like Daughter
Another major part of Cooper’s life during this time was his daughter, Maria Veronica Cooper. While he had so many complicated relationships over the years, Maria was one woman who Gary Cooper had a straightforward dynamic with. He was her father, and taught her valuable skills such as riding horses, riding a bicycle and being a good person. It seems like she also had an artistic side to her like her father too. On face value, Gary, Veronica, and Maria were a happy family…
If you were an outsider looking in, it appeared that Gary Cooper and his family were like peas and carrots. A lot of the time, the trio were inseparable, with the family going away together on many occasions. They went on getaways to holiday homes in Southampton, New York, as well as going on vacations in Sun Vallery, Idaho. They even went to Europe from time to time. However, this was only scratching the surface of what was going on underneath…
With so many affairs and scandals, it was virtually impossible for Gary Cooper to maintain a stable family life. On May 16, 1951, he separated from Veronica and moved out of the family home. This drew a wedge between Maria and her two parents as she was often forced to choose a side and on many occasions, would side with neither. It seemed like there was no way of coming back from this. However, this certainly was not the end of this rollercoaster ride of a family saga…
Putting The Pieces Back Together
It seemed like all hope was lost in terms Gary Cooper have any chance of bringing his family back together. Two years later though, the actor eventually moved back into the family home. Amazingly, after everything they had been through, Gary and Veronica formally reconciled the year after that. A truly remarkable turn of events. Nevertheless more and more rumors just kept on coming about affairs that Cooper had with other women over the years…
Even though Veronica was married to Gary Cooper for the rest of his life, this did not stop the Hollywood superstar staying stuck in his philandering ways. As time went on, more and more rumors started to crop up about affairs he was having with other women, especially during his three years apart from Veronica. These included the likes of Lorraine Chanel, Grace Kelly, and Gisele Pascal, to name a few. Make no mistake about it though, romance was not the only fascinating detail about Cooper during this time…
Getting Their Wires Crossed
Cooper’s interest in politics was something that followed him throughout his life, though he never imagined it would get him in trouble with the FBI. It wasn’t his actual political beliefs that got him investigated, though, but rather those of a character he played. His portrayal of Robert Jordan was apparently so convincing, South American communists used it to help with their cause. This led to reports of Cooper holding communist rallies, hence why the FBI got involved.
The Show Must Go On
While the actor was certainly never involved with any communist rallies, the mix up was a testament to Cooper’s skill on screen. His talent came so naturally, and it charmed millions of people across America. However, even his adoring public didn’t realize just how much Cooper put into his acting. He was so devoted to his job that he lifted up his co-star Grace Kelly numerous times while filming High Noon, despite the fact his back was in severe agony.
His One Regret
Even though he couldn’t even bend down to pick up a pencil, Cooper was determined to keep filming. That’s how much he loved his job. There wasn’t a movie he didn’t give his all for, although there’s perhaps one he regretted not doing. When asked to play the lead in Gone with the Wind, Cooper refused, stating it was going to be the biggest flop in cinematic history. Evidently, he got things wrong and looked like a complete fool afterward.
Whatever you think about the man, there is no denying that Gary Cooper was a prolific actor, both from a commercial and a critical standpoint. Whenever awards season came around, you could rest assured that Cooper would be in with a chance of winning something. He ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his roles in both High Noon and Sergeant York. Then, in 1961, the year he passed away, Cooper received an Academy Honorary Award, honoring everything he had achieved in his career.
His Last Lady
One of the last women who Gary Cooper was linked with before he passed away in 1961 was a woman by the name of Irene. She was a costume designer and she had gone on the record saying that Cooper was “the only man she ever loved.” Sadly though, Irene ended up making the headlines for the wrong reasons. Just a year after Cooper passed away, Irene died in tragic circumstances, falling out of a window. Apparently, she told Doris Day that she was devastated about his passing.
The Name On Everyone’s Lips
Gary Cooper was a man who knew how to succeed in film. He took on roles that appealed to all manner of audiences, and never lost the charm that made him so likable. That’s why he had such an illustrious career, even if it was filled with scandal…
The Big Cheese
In many people’s eyes, Gary Cooper was an American hero. That’s because so many of the characters he played fit this persona. In all but one of his roles, Cooper was the protagonist who came out on top and got the girl in the process. He featured in successful releases like Meet John Doe and High Noon, among 80 other feature films. Men wanted to be him while women wanted to be with him – life was great. Or was it?
Feelings Of Jealousy
Cooper’s popularity meant he was cast in bigger and better films, all of which had successful actresses as the female lead. That wasn’t something that appealed to Vélez, with the woman’s intense jealousy made her determined to try and derail Cooper’s career. Things were particularly dramatic in the early ‘30s when the actor starred alongside Marlene Dietrich in Morocco. It was Dietrich’s first American picture, and her arrival brought plenty of drama into Cooper’s life both on and off set…
A True Icon
While Cooper ate his words after Gone with the Wind’s success, he probably wasn’t kicking himself too hard over passing up on the film. After all, one look at his career makes it clear he did incredibly well for himself. Cooper is an icon of Hollywood cinema, and for several decades he was the man of the moment. He’ll always be remembered for his contributions to the film industry, though his backstage antics will be pretty hard to forget too.