In 1935 two Cooper films were released within weeks of each other. In a rousing adventure, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Coop sported a Gable-esque mustache (which didn't do for him what it did for Clark). Lancers was a huge hit, and one of many directed by Coop's good friend Henry Hathaway.

The Wedding Night introduced Samuel Goldwyn's answer to Greta Garbo, Russian beauty Anna Sten. Although lovely and a competent actress, Ms. Sten failed to fascinate audiences. The Wedding Night did not do well at the box office, although viewed today, it is a haunting, well-done story.

The Coopers moved into a new home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, an estate that covered 4 acres. It sported a sunken living room, a wood-paneled library with leather-bound books and paintings by Georgia O'Keefe and Max Weber, and a showroom for assorted trophies and Western artifacts.

The couple was seldom in Hollywood if Gary was not making a movie. They did the society scene in New York, or camping trips in the Western wilds. Rocky, although a crack skeet-shooter, refused to kill an animal - "I don't hunt. I just go along."

She introduced Coop to tennis, golf and skiing, and he in turn took her fishing. News reporters had to face the loss of what they'd so happily dubbed "Paramount's paramount skirt-chaser" - if Coop was at all still a 'threat' to his leading ladies, he became discreet about it.

The second half of the 1930's gave Cooper a wide diversity of roles, some enduring classics, some almost forgotten now. Of the latter, Peter Ibbetson stands out as perhaps the least characteristic of all Cooper's films - his strong points were never introspection nor the ethereal. But as the star-crossed lover condemned to life in prison for the murder of his childhood sweetheart's cruel husband he gave an understated yet emotional performance. His costar was the elegant Ann Harding, and the exquisite cinematography by Lee Garmes contributed greatly to the mood of the film.

Desire (1936) teamed Coop once again with exotic Marlene Dietrich in a delightful story of a smooth jewel thief who fails to manipulate a vacationing American in Spain. 

Coop proved himself deft at sophisticated comedy and more than held his own opposite his ultra-glamorous leading lady. His role as the (initially) naive Tom Bradley was one of the first of a type that Coop would make uniquely his own,
"a character", as the New York Sun put it, "that Americans like to think typically American."

Nothing could be more typically American for that time than the films of director Frank Capra - and Cooper's first film with Capra remains one of his all-time greats:
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.

Capra was determined to get Cooper for the role of Longfellow Deeds: "It just had to be Cooper - every line in his face spelled honesty.  Deeds had to symbolize incorruptibility, and in my mind Gary Cooper already was that symbol."

Coop was sufficiently impressed with Capra's earlier work (especially It Happened One Night, which had swept the Oscars two years before) that he didn't need much convincing.

The best of Capra's "triumph of the common man" films, Mr. Deeds costarred Gary with the delicious Jean Arthur, as the husky-voiced skeptic whose jaded views are knocked for a loop by Longfellow Deeds' sincerity in the face of persecution. A social commentary laced with fast-paced wit, Deeds was a huge success for all involved. Among its Oscar nominees was Cooper for Best Actor; although he lost to Paul Muni (as Louis Pasteur), his position as a major star was firmly cemented.

Following the release of Mr. Deeds, Cooper signed a new contract with Samuel Goldwyn; its terms were quite extraordinary for the time - six films in six years for $150,000 each, plus the option for Cooper to take work at other studios. His 'home' studio, Paramount, tried to sue for exclusive 'use' of the star, but lost - the court decided that Cooper could retain his contract with Goldwyn and still work for Paramount. Another upshot was that Paramount was now obligated to match that $150,000-per-film pricetag, so Cooper won all around.

An enduring joke about Coop's taciturn speech habits began as early as his 1938 appearance on the popular Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy radio program. The show had Coop asked every type of question and giving only "Yup" as a response - until asked if he couldn't say anything but "Yup" - then his answer was, "Nope." The yup-nope business would grow into a legend, and Coop would often resort to it for comic effect in everyday conversation. It remains associated with him even today.


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