Gladys Cooper Poster


Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trivia (21)  | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (3)

Born in Lewisham, London, England, UK
Died in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, UK  (pneumonia)
Birth NameGladys Constance Cooper

Mini Bio (1)

Gladys Cooper was the daughter of journalist William Frederick Cooper and his wife Mabel Barnett. As a child she was very striking and was used as a photographic model beginning at six years old. She wanted to become an actress and started on that road in 1905 after being discovered by Seymour Hicks to tour with his company in "Bluebell in Fairyland". She came to the London stage in 1906 in "The Belle of Mayfair", and in 1907 took a departure from the legitimate stage to become a member of Frank Curzon's famous Gaiety Girls chorus entertainments at The Gaiety theater. Her more concerted stage work began in 1911 in a production of Oscar Wilde's comedy "The Importance of Being Ernest" which was followed quickly with other roles. From the craze for post cards with photos of actors - that ensued between about 1890 and 1914 - Cooper became a popular subject of maidenly beauty with scenes as Juliet and many others. During World War I her popularity grew into something of pin-up fad for the British military.

In the meantime she sampled the early British silent film industry starting in 1913 with The Eleventh Commandment (1913). She had roles in a few other movies in 1916 and 1917. But in the latter year she joined Frank Curzon to co-manage the Playhouse Theatre. This was a decidedly new direction for a woman of the period. She took sole control from 1927 until other stage commitments in 1933. She was also doing plays, some producing of her own, and a few more films in the early 1920s. It was actually about this time that she achieved major stage actress success. She appeared in W. Somerset Maugham's "Home and Beauty" in London in 1919 and triumphed in her 1922 appearance in Arthur Wing Pinero's "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray". It was ironic that writer Aldous Huxley criticized her performance in "Home and Beauty" as "too impassive, too statuesque, playing all the time as if she were Galatea, newly unpetrified and still unused to the ways of the living world." On the other hand, Maugham himself applauded her for "turning herself from an indifferent actress (at the start of her career) to an extremely competent one". She also debuted the role of Leslie Crosbie (the Bette Davis role in the 1940 film) in Maugham's "The Letter" in 1927.

In 1934 Cooper made her first sound picture in the UK and came to Broadway with "The Shining Hour" which she had been doing in London. She and it were a success, and she followed it with several plays through 1938, including "MacBeth". About this time Hollywood scouts caught wind of her, and she began her 30 odd years in American film. That first film was also Alfred Hitchcock's first Hollywood directorial effort, Rebecca (1940). Her's was a small and light role as Laurence Olivier's gregarious sister, but she stood out all the same. Two years later she bit into the much more substantial role as Bette Davis' domineering and repressive mother in the classic Now, Voyager (1942) for which she received a well deserved Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress - the first of three. Though aristocratic elderly ladies was a role she revisited in various guises, Cooper was very busy through 1940s Hollywood.

She returned to London stage work from 1947 and stayed for some early episodic British TV into 1950 before once again returning to the US, but was busy on both sides of the Atlantic until her passing. Through the 1950s and into the 1960s Cooper did a few films but was an especially familiar face on American TV in teleplays, a wide range of prime time episodic shows, and popular weird/sci-fi series: several Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone, and Outer Limits. When Enid Bagnold's "The Chalk Garden" opened in London in 1955, Cooper debuted as Mrs. St. Maugham and brought it to Broadway in October of that year where it ran through March of 1956. Her last major film was My Fair Lady (1964) as Henry Higgins' mother. The year before she had played the part on TV. In the film, the portrait prop of a fine lady over Higgins' fireplace is that of Cooper painted in 1922. She wrote an autobiography (1931) followed by two biographies (1953 and 1979). In 1967 she was honored as a Dame Commander of the Order of British Empire (DBE) for her great accomplishments in furthering acting.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak

Family (3)

Spouse Philip Merivale (30 April 1937 - 12 March 1946)  (his death)
Sir Neville Pearson (15 June 1928 - 16 October 1936)  (divorced)  (1 child)
Capt. Herbert John Buckmaster (12 December 1908 - 12 December 1921)  (divorced)  (2 children)
Children Buckmaster, Joan
John Buckmaster
Sally Pearson
Parents Cooper, William Frederick
Barnett, Mabel

Trivia (21)

She was awarded the DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1967 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to drama.
Stepmother of John Merivale.
Mother, with Herbert Buckmaster, of actors Joan Buckmaster and John Buckmaster.
Mother, with Sir Neville Pearson, of costume designer Sally Pearson.
Mother-in-law of Robert Morley.
Twice nominated for Broadway's Tony Award as Best Actress (Dramatic) for her performances in Enid Bagnold's "The Chalk Garden" (1956) and in "A Passage to India" (1962).
Grandmother of the author/critic/entertainer Sheridan Morley, Annabel Morley, Wilton Morley, Emma Hardy and Justine Hardy.
Ex-mother-in-law of Robert Hardy.
In Italy, most of her films were dubbed by either Giovanna Scotto or Tina Lattanzi. She was occasionally dubbed by Rosetta Calavetta, Lola Braccini and Wanda Tettoni in the much-loved My Fair Lady (1964).
Played the mother of Professor Henry Higgins in a Hallmark Hall of Fame (1951) television version of Pygmalion and the movie version of the musical My Fair Lady (1964).
Famed British novelist and poet Stevie Smith was the secretary of Gladys' second husband Sir Neville Pearson.
"Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties" by Axel Nissen has a short biography of her, focusing on her movie career as a character actress.
She appeared in two Best Picture Academy Award winners: Rebecca (1940) and My Fair Lady (1964).
Is one of 27 actresses to have received an Academy Award nomination for their performance in a musical; hers being My Fair Lady (1964). The others, in chronological order, are: Bessie Love (The Broadway Melody (1929)), Grace Moore (One Night of Love (1934)), Jean Hagen (Singin' in the Rain (1952)), Marjorie Rambeau (Torch Song (1953)), Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones (1954)), Deborah Kerr (The King and I (1956)), Rita Moreno (West Side Story (1961)), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) and Victor/Victoria (1982)), Debbie Reynolds (The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)), Peggy Wood (The Sound of Music (1965)), Carol Channing (Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)), Kay Medford (Funny Girl (1968)), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl (1968)), Liza Minnelli (Cabaret (1972)), Ronee Blakley (Nashville (1975)), Lily Tomlin (Nashville (1975)), Ann-Margret (Tommy (1975)), Lesley Ann Warren (Victor/Victoria (1982)), Amy Irving (Yentl (1983)), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge! (2001)), Queen Latifah (Chicago (2002)), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago (2002)), Renée Zellweger (Chicago (2002)), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls (2006)), Penélope Cruz (Nine (2009)), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables (2012)), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods (2014)), and Emma Stone (La La Land (2016)).
She played Laurence Olivier's sister in Rebecca (1940) and his wife in That Hamilton Woman (1941).
Appeared in five films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Rebecca (1940), Kitty Foyle (1940), The Song of Bernadette (1943), Separate Tables (1958), and My Fair Lady (1964). Of those, Rebecca (1940) and My Fair Lady (1964) are winners in the category.
Wrote autobiography - 'Without Veils'.
Daughter of Charles (1844-1939) and Mabel (née Barnett) Cooper (1861-1944).
She has appeared in three films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Rebecca (1940), Now, Voyager (1942) and My Fair Lady (1964).
Appeared with Jennifer Jones in three films: "The song of Bernadette" (1943), "Love letters" (1945), and "Madame Bovary" (1949).
A memorial service was held for her at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden on 18th December 1971.

Personal Quotes (1)

[on looking into a mirror, on her deathbed]: If this is what virus pneumonia does to one, I really don't think I shall bother to have it again.

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