Cooper took off for Europe and became the international playboy in Paris, Madrid, and Stockholm. He was presented
to Queen Elizabeth II in London, and then in Italy he was joined by Rocky and Maria.

In the spring of 1954 Coop returned home. That summer he and Rocky had a new home built in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles. Their reconcilation was a lasting one; they seemed happier together than they had been in the past.

 

Amidst the turmoil in his personal life, Cooper's films had reached a plateau - never box office failures, but not of the caliber his work had reached a decade earlier.

Then in 1952 came Fred Zinnemann's High Noon.

As Sheriff Will Kane, abandoned by townspeople he had helped and left to face his enemies alone, Coop gave a taut, controlled performance that would win him his second Best Actor Oscar.
High Noon was exactly the boost Coop's career needed - he was back on top to stay.


A string of films made in Mexico came next, culminating in the superb Vera Cruz, where Burt Lancaster's relished flamboyance was perfectly tempered by Cooper's taciturn strength.

High Noon: Will Kane faces his destiny alone


The Coopers at home

The Coopers enjoyed a great life in their ultra-modern home in Holmby Hills.  Designed by architect Quincy Jones, the house was full of push-button 'gadgets' and special accommodations for a man of Cooper's height.

Coop lost his reticence with the press, and talked frequently about his profession. "I learned very early that whatever you say never gets quoted verbatim, so for years I clammed up. I guess I've reached an age where I don't particularly care." He cited Mr. Deeds Goes to Town as his personal favorite, saying,"Naturalness is hard to talk about, but I guess it boils down to this: You find out what people expect of your type of character and then you give them what they want. That way an actor never seems unnatural or affected no matter what role he plays."


He called the new school of method actors "a bunch of goofballs", (although the founder of the Actor's Studio, Lee Strasberg, proclaimed Cooper a natural method actor, he just didn't know it). Spencer Tracy and Fredric March were the finest film actors in Cooper's opinion, and Clark Gable the biggest star.

Often asked who he considered his best friend, Coop's reply was, "James Stewart."

Another friend said at the time: "Early in their marriage I didn't think Coop and Rocky were right for each other. Eventually I think they had to split to get reoriented. After they got back together they found they had much to share. It was nice to see that while he had always adored Maria, in the the end he adored Rocky just as much." In 1959, Cooper became a convert to his wife's faith, Roman Catholicism.

In 1956, the wonderful Friendly Persuasion was released. Sensitively directed by the incomparable William Wyler, the story (from the Jessamyn West book) told of a Quaker family whose adherence to their ideals is tested by the coming of the Civil War.

continue


Friendly Persuasion: with Dorothy McGuire
and Anthony Perkins

 
   
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