from Photoplay magazine, October 1961

Cooper and HemingwayThe Strange Story
of Gary Cooper's Friendship
with Ernest Hemingway

This is a story - in its way a love story - that many women will find hard to understand - at first.

Yet there are some women who will understand it immediately - a woman in Ketchum, Idaho, for instance, whose husband called her "Miss Mary." And another woman in Hollywood, California, whose husband called her "Rocky." And a few others here and there - to them this account of the friendship and love between two men will seem simple and beautiful. But if you are one of those to whom this story will seem confusing, think about it a little. And once you do, maybe you'll have a better understanding of the man in your own life. Maybe you'll understand why his friendships with other men mean so much to him - so much that he'll leave you home sometimes by yourself, to go talk man-talk...or play poker...or bowl...or hunt and fish. A woman wouldn't do that, you say - she'll only step out with the girls when she can't be with her husband. Then why...? This story answers that question.

This story answers the riddle of Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway, two rebels who fought all their lives against being what writer Richard Starnes once called "today's mama-ridden, wife-dominated, togetherness-cursed males." Their friendship blossomed late in life, indeed just in the last couple of years. But their lives and careers paralleled each other so closely as to be almost unbelievable.

"Papa" Hemingway was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, being treated for high blood pressure and "incipient diabetes" - the same illnesses which drove his father to commit suicide by shooting himself - when he learned that Gary Cooper was dying of cancer. Hemingway immediately put through a long-distance call to Hollywood and tried to cheer up his friend and hunting companion.

They talked about old times. Of how they'd first met in the fall of 1940 and had gone hunting in Sun Valley, Idaho, for ducks and pheasants. And of how, as soon as both were feeling better, they'd have to "get away from it all" - doctors and wives and work - to "get our butts wet" again. They'd already postponed one hunting trip because of Coop's illness, but like two schoolboys wanting to play hooky, they made new plans.

Their conversation sputtered to an end. Neither was much for telephones. Too mechanical, too artificial. A man could really talk to another man only out in the woods or by a trout stream. Hemingway promised to try to visit his friend soon and was about to hang up. But Coop had one thing more to say.

His slow, drawling voice came clearly over the wire, understated, unsentimental, in words that Hemingway himself might have written.

"Papa," he said, "I bet I beat you to the barn."

It was his way of telling his friend he knew he was dying. It was his way of saying good-bye to him.

In May of this year Gary Cooper, 60, died of cancer. Hemingway was too ill to attend the funeral, although he was an honorary pallbearer.

Less than two months later, 62-year-old "Papa," despondent and depressed by Coop's death, shot and killed himself. When Gary's wife, Rocky, heard that Hemingway had died, she said with tears in her eyes, "They're both in the barn now."

Even more striking than the similarities about the deaths of Ernest Hemingway and Gary Cooper are the facts about their lives. Both set courage and loyalty to friends at the very top of their personal codes - higher perhaps than love for women.

Both Coop and Papa rebelled against their parents' notions of what they should do and what they should be. And their rebellions started pretty early.


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