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Gary Cooper = American

August 10, 2009

by John Farr

If you enjoyed Meet John Doe, you might also enjoy these great films featuring Gary Cooper:


Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Simple country boy Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) inherits an immense fortune from a wealthy distant relative he doesn’t even know, and must then navigate a sea of handlers and hand-out requests to make sense of his new life as multi-millionaire. But those who think they can manipulate this tuba-playing rube are soon in for a rude awakening.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Quintessential Capra charmer is one of Cooper’s most appealing comic forays, as his plain-talking homespun personification of rural America out-foxes all those smug and greedy city-slickers. Arthur is also terrific as Babe Bennett, the hard-nosed lady journalist who first ridicules, then falls for Longfellow, much to her own surprise. One of the screen’s authentic classics, this is pixilated comedy at its very best. Beware the Sandler re-make.


Sergeant York (1941)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Incredible but true story concerns wild, hard-drinking Tennessee country farmer and crack shot Alvin York (Gary Cooper), who finally gets religion through a freak accident. When called to serve in the First War, his faith tells him to become a conscientious objector, but ultimately Alvin is forced to go overseas to fight. There, his marksmanship and gallantry help him kill, wound or capture over 100 German soldiers virtually single-handedly, making him the most famous and decorated enlisted man in the army.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Hawks’s timely patriotic biopic of this virtually forgotten hero provided Cooper with another seminal role (he won the Oscar, beating out Orson Welles in “Citizen Kane”, among others), and helped to prepare our nation for the next impending world conflict. Prolific character actor Brennan (Oscar-nominated as well) excels as Alvin’s plain-spoken pastor, and ingénue Leslie makes an adorable love interest. A truly amazing story, unfolding on-screen with Hawks’s customary subtlety and skill. Don’t forget to salute this Sergeant.


Pride of the Yankees (1942)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Romanticized portrayal of Yankee Lou Gehrig’s life and career makes baseball a metaphor for our country’s noblest defining traits: determination, humility, and raw courage as Gehrig faces a rare and fatal disease (soon to be named after him), with the same grace and finesse he displayed as a ballplayer.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Potent inspiration for a country newly at war, the film still holds up with lots of patriotic flavoring. and the pungent, inspiring atmosphere of a simpler time and place. The magnetic Cooper was never better, and we even get a glimpse of Babe Ruth playing himself in this picture. A sentimental chestnut that never grows stale, reflecting a time when heroes were real.


Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

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