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Legends of Hollywood event

Legends of Hollywood event

By Lisa Carroll

Legendary actor Gary Cooper (“High Noon”) was also a heroic figure of another kind, as revealed at a dedication ceremony for the U.S. Postal Service’s Legends of Hollywood collectible stamp series.
At the event, which took place on September 10 at the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles, Autry National Center President and CEO John Gray related that Cooper’s image was used to defeat communism in Poland.

“As Polish people knew, Cooper represented the individual,” said Gray to attendees, including Maria Cooper Janis (Cooper’s daughter), “High Noon” producer Stanley Kramer’s wife Karen and daughter, A.C. Lyles (producer) and Nancy Sinatra.

Film critic Leonard Maltin, who acted as Master of Ceremonies, added that beyond the western genre, Cooper was a very versatile actor, acting out roles from Marco Polo to U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin York to baseball great Lou Gehrig. However, Cooper’s biggest fame undoubtedly came from one main film.
“If you said Gary Cooper, people would say ‘High Noon,’ and ‘High Noon’ has a wider audience today than when it first came out,” said Maltin.

Janis was then introduced and the audience was informed of her own prolific career – painting, collaborating on three television specials about her father and writing a book, “Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers.” She also has a new project in the works – a documentary called “The True Gen,” about the 20-year friendship between her famous father and Ernest Hemingway.
According to Janis, her father had a humble beginning in the entertainment world.

“My father always says his career got started when he fell off a horse,” said Janis to laughter from the audience.

She related that Cooper’s life was rich in material things, but equally he savored the little things. She had an early sketchbook of Cooper’s, “but what stood out is the circling and underlining of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ – it tells best who Gary Cooper was.”

“And he was a symbol of freedom and democracy in Poland. There was an image of him outside the polling stations there, his gun replaced with a voting ballot,” added Janis.

Lyles, a long-time friend of Cooper’s and a man who is still going strong at 91 (with an “81-year career at Paramount Studios”) had a few words to say as well.

“Maria, your pop – Jimmy Cagney taught me a Yiddish word, ‘mensch.’ When I asked him what the word meant, Jimmy said, ‘Think of Gary Cooper,’” explained Lyles.

“Coop,” (as Lyles used to call him) would have highly enjoyed the ceremony; a film clip montage, a presentation of colors by youngsters from the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America, the pledge of allegiance and the U.S. National Anthem. A recipient of the Gary Cooper Scholarship, Sonya Oberly, was also there. The scholarship is awarded to Native American students enrolled in the study of film and television at the University of Southern California. (for purchasing stamps)

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