with Ingrid Bergman

 

The film Saratoga Trunk was released in 1945 - even though it had been filmed almost 2 years before. Coop played Clint Maroon, a gambler whose life is considerably complicated by Creole vixen Clio Dulaine - feistily played by a black-haired Ingrid Bergman.          >>  

Then followed an espionage drama, Cloak and Dagger, and a DeMille colonial epic, Unconquered


Cooper was reportedly unhappy with the way his career was going, feeling that he was in a rut;  critics were starting to hint that he was "just walking through" his latest roles.


There was also considerable political unrest brewing in the
Hollywood community that would have far-reaching consequences.
In 1947 Cooper was one of many from the movie industry called upon to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (featuring a young Congressman named Richard Nixon, and Senator Joe McCarthy, among others.) Known as "witchhunts" to some, the HUAC was determined to ferret out what it considered "dangerous Communists" whose beliefs were thought to be infiltrating American
films and corrupting society.


Cooper in Washington at the 1947 HUAC hearings.


Many film careers were either seriously damaged or completely destroyed by the Committee's paranoid probing.
Always a staunch conservative politically, Cooper was called as a "friendly" witness by the Committee, - he wasn't being accused of Communistic sympathies himself, but could perhaps help identify those he thought might have. In newsreel footage of his appearance, Cooper appears more embarassed than anything, and gets a laugh when he says he doesn't recall hearing any inflammatory statements, although he may have overheard a few comments about "this might be a better country without a Congress...." Although Coop remained firmly right-wing, he withdrew as much as possible from the fray, and managed to keep the good will of both sides of the battle - unlike many of his colleagues.
Cooper's film Good Sam, released in 1948, might have fared better ten years earlier.   But times and tastes were changing in the postwar world, and this story of a generous-to-a-fault citizen seemed maudlin and banal.


Around this time, gossip-columnists reported that Cooper and Rocky might be "drifting" - observing that they often appeared to be rather formal for a married pair - although they and daughter Maria traveled everywhere together and made an agreeable family picture.

In October of 1947 Cooper signed a very flexible contract with Warner Brothers
allowing between six and ten films, negotiable in five years -and it carried a minimum 3-million-dollar guarantee.  After turning down Silver River (which
went to Errol Flynn), Coop decided on a project that carried an aura of importance - Ayn Rand's best-selling novel, 'The Fountainhead.' His costars would be Raymond Massey and a young actress Warners was grooming for stardom - by the name of Patricia Neal.

Warner Bros had broughtNeal to Hollywood from the Broadway stage two years before.  She had been in several films but was not having the impact the studio hadhoped for - they reasoned that an established leading man would put her in
the best possible light.  When they met, Neal was 22, Coop 47.

They fell in love, and for the next five years would be caught up in a romance about which both felt immense guilt but were powerless to stop.



Young Maria Cooper readies for the slopes.





Patricia Neal and Cooper on the set of The Fountainhead.

This time, Coop's attraction to his leading lady was serious indeed, and did not end when filming on The Fountainhead was completed.
By the fall of 1950, the Hollywood community knew that Patricia Neal and Cooper were "an item."
Cooper refused to discuss thesubject with the press, threatening to sue any who photographed him with
Pat.   In May of 1951 the Coopers separated - Coop moved to a hotel, Rocky and Maria went to Southampton.

When it was reported in early 1952 that Rocky was dating other men, and possibly considering divorce despite her
Catholicism, Pat Neal was described as "cautiously elated."

Eventually however, the romance came to an end.
A friend later said, "Coop was a mass of indecision, and Pat reached the point of having had enough." She saw no more of Gary Cooper, and in 1953 married British author Roald Dahl, with whom she would have five children.
(She also went on to become a highly respected Oscar-winning actress, despite suffering three strokes that
incapacitated her for several years in the 1960s.)

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