One of the real characters I use in my Roaring Twenties mysteries is Gary Cooper, because I learned that he was in Hollywood during my time period, 1925. He was new to the business, having come south from his hometown of Helena, Montana at the age of 24. (Here’s what he looked like at that age.) Coincidentally, he grew up across the street from Myrna Loy, although she was several years younger so they didn’t play together as children. In later years, he and Myrna liked to joke that they had grown up on Fifth Avenue—then add that it was Fifth Avenue in Helena, not New York’s famous street.

“Coop,” as he was called even then, had some artistic talent and tried to make a living as an editorial cartoonist, to no avail. Reasoning that he “would rather starve where it was warm than to starve and freeze too,” he moved to Hollywood to try his luck in newspapers there. Instead, he went into “pictures.”

His good looks and ability to ride a horse landed him roles as an extra in a couple Westerns. At the time of my story, he has just changed his name from Frank Cooper to Gary Cooper, on the advice of an agent who felt that Gary had a rough, tough sound to it, like Gary, Indiana.

Here’s Coop in one of those 1925 silent roles—don’t blink, or you’ll miss it! He’s the man who meets the young lady at the train station, and again a minute later driving the car.

Published in: on September 18, 2010 at 9:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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