COOP: The Life and Legend of Gary Cooper by Stuart Kaminsky

COOP: The Life and Legend of Gary Cooper

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No wonder Hector Arce's Gary Cooper (p. 1230) was rushed into print last month; two other Cooper bios are arriving in February (see also Swindell, below), neither of them much more of a book than Arce's gossip-fest but neither of them infected with the sloppiness, padding, and sheer vulgarity that make the Arce opus offensive. Kaminsky's approach is, in fact, virtually impersonal. He zips through Coop's early years (Montana, England, college, art ambitions) and soon is entrenched in a sloggingly relentless film-by-film analysis. (Chapter eight begins: ""Cooper's next feature film. . .""; Chapter ten begins: ""Cooper's next film. . ."") And though Kaminsky is too prone to praise, his backgrounding on the movie-making is sound, and he works hard at pinpointing the tricks, accidents, and half-conscious artistry that made Coop an ""inadvertent"" master of the medium. As for the notorious, perhaps-opportunistic affairs with Clara Bow, Lupe Velez, and the Countess DiFrasso, Kaminsky is clearly not interested. The May/November extramarital liaison with Patricia Neal gets a bit more attention, with some new, diplomatic quotes from Neal (""I know I was very important in his life even though he had a lovely marriage. . . . He was a lovely man""). And, re Coop's friendly witnessing for the HUAC, Kaminsky stresses that he didn't ""turn over to the committee anything they could use."" Otherwise, it's movie after movie, with time out for marriage, fatherhood, illnesses, friendships, hunting with Hemingway--a bland and fairly adoring rundown with one odd page: Kaminsky's insistence on the femininity in Coop's persona. Dull as the dullest of Cooper's movies--but unobjectionable, and probably the Cooper bio of choice for intense film buffs.

Publisher: St. Martin's