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Gary Cooper: American Life, American Legend (1989)

A retrospective on the life and career of actor Gary Cooper, includes memorial scenes from his best films. Narrated by Clint Eastwood.


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Cast overview:
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Herself (archive footage) (as Rocky Cooper)
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)


A retrospective on the life and career of actor Gary Cooper, includes memorial scenes from his best films. Narrated by Clint Eastwood.

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5 November 1989 (USA)  »

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Included in Warner Home Video's 2006 2-disc special edition DVD of Sergeant York (1941). See more »

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Good documentary on one of our greats
19 October 2007 | by See all my reviews

Richard Schickel's 1991 documentary about Gary Cooper - "Gary Cooper: American Life, American Legend" gives us a look at the tremendous, all-American star through his films and his life. Narrated by Clint Eastwood, the theme is definitely "Gary Coooper, American" as we are taken through fast clips of his many appearances in westerns, and scenes from "Meet John Doe," "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and "Sgt. York." The best part of the documentary is the home movies of Cooper and his family as well as his childhood photos, showing him as a beautiful blonde kid with the sunny smile he would have his entire life. There is also a hilarious clip of Cooper on "The Jack Benny Show" doing the comeback on the number "Bird Dog" - and Benny loses it. The documentary also takes us briefly through his tumultuous affair with Patricia Neal, which nearly ruined both their lives.

There's a certain cohesiveness missing from this bio/retrospective - it jumps around a lot and has no footage of Cooper being interviewed, which would have added a lot. Also, Clint Eastwood's narration was described as unobtrusive. What it was, was boring and monotone. Given that Cooper himself tended to be the strong, silent type on screen, we could have used a little animation.

On a personal note, Gary Cooper was one of the handsomest men who ever lived - there were some looks at him in his early films, but not nearly enough for this fan. That smile, those lips, that bone structure - he was handsome throughout his life, but in films like "Morocco" and "Desire," he is devastating. Instead of sitting through a scene from one of his worst performances, as Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead," giving a speech that he admitted to the author he did not understand - a young, suave Cooper in a tux would have been a nice touch. This documentary, alas, was definitely produced by a man.

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