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Vintage Coop

August 10, 2010

by John Farr

This week, Reel 13 airs the Gary Cooper classic, Meet John Doe. To mark the occasion, John Farr suggests a trio of classic Cooper vehicles.


Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

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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)

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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.


Friendly Persuasion (1956)

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Jess Birdwell (Gary Cooper) and his minister wife Eliza (Dorothy McGuire) are happily raising their three children in the pacifist, hospitable ways of the Quaker faith. But as the Civil War looms close to home, their eldest son, Josh (Anthony Perkins), joins the Home Guard to defend their community against Rebel raiders, forcing them to examine their faith and conscience.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Based on the popular novel by Jessamyn West, “Persuasion” is a sensitive portrayal of Quaker lifeways with flashes of merry humor, especially around Jess, who can’t resist racing a neighbor’s buggy or the allure of a new pump organ – both frowned upon by his stoic religion. Blacklister Michael Wilson’s progressive-minded script doesn’t shy from weighing militarism against Christian love, and Wyler’s solid direction of stars Cooper and McGuire makes their love for each other seem unfailingly genuine. Future “Psycho” star Perkins is also excellent as the gangly, intense teen who joins the Union defenders against his parents’ wishes. For a quaint, incisive look at old-time Quaker life, try a bit of “Friendly Persuasion.”


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  • comments (0)
  • rayban

    I like Gary Cooper in “Morocco” with Marlene Dietrich, I also like him in “High Noon” with Grace Kelly and I think very highly of him in “Friendly Persuasion”.

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