Gary Cooper was born Frank James Cooper on May 7, 1901 in Helena, Montana. However, his mother moved back to Dunstable, England and he lived with her and his older brother Arthur. His father remained in Montana to pursue a career as a cattle rancher. As a youth, he attended Dunstable School.
At the age of thirteen, he suffered an injury during an automobile collision. He decided to move back to Montana to live on his father's ranch for a while and recuperate from the injuries. There, his father helped him to learn how to ride a horse, which would be a requirement in many of his future films. He also developed a relationship with a local girl named Myrna Loy.
In 1923, Cooper decided to move to the city of Los Angeles to become an advertisement designer. However, his career pursuits in this area were not successful. Instead, he found his way into the budding motion picture industry by becoming an extra in several films. In 1924, he was given his first major role in a short film alongside Eileen Sedgewick.
After the short film, Paramount Studios offered him a long term film contract and he accepted. In 1925, he decided to change his name to Gary on the advice of his agent, who hoped to give a rough and tough image to the public. He began starring in a variety of silent films over the next few years, which helped to increase his fame.
In 1929, he appeared in "The Virginian", which was his first film with sound. The film starred Gary Cooper as the titular character, with Walter Huston an Richard Arlen in supporting roles. The film helped to make him a star and led to many other film roles.
In 1936, Cooper starred in Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town". The film follows a simple common man named Longfellow Deeds, who suddenly inherits a massive fortune from a deceased relative. He then tries to cope with the people that try to use him for their own purposes. Cooper's performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, but he did not win that year.
In 1941, Cooper received widespread recognition after starring in Howard Hawks' "Sergeant York". The film starred Cooper as the titular character, which was based on the real life soldier, Sergeant Alvin York, who was the most decorated American soldier that served in World War I. The film was the highest grossing film of 1941 and earned Cooper the Academy Award for Best Actor.
That year, Cooper also starred in the Frank Capra film "Meet John Doe". The film followed Cooper's character as Long John Willoughby, a common man that is recruited by a female reporter to fill the shoes of a fictional "John Doe" and create a political movement. The film also starred Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan, and James Gleason.
In 1943, Cooper starred in Sam Wood's film production of the Ernest Hemingway novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls". The film was the highest grossing film of 1943, earning over $11 million. Cooper was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, but did not win that year.
In 1952, Cooper starred in Fred Zinnermann's "High Noon". The film starred Cooper as Will Kane, a town marshal that has to face off against Frank Miller and his gang, who are released from prison and come to exact revenge. The film was a massive success and earned Cooper another Academy Award for Best Actor.
During his film career, Cooper dated a number of actresses, including Clara Bow and Lupe Velez. His first marriage was to a woman named Veronica Balfe, who was a New York socialite. During their marriage, he reportedly had affairs with a number of his film co-stars, including Grace Kelly, Patricia Neal, and Marlene Dietrich. He also managed to impregnate Patricia Neal, but convinced her to get an abortion to save their careers. In 1958, Cooper converted to Catholicism at the behest of his wife. They had a single daughter, Maria.
By 1961, Cooper was suffering from a variety of cancers that spread to his lungs and bones. That year, he was forced to have fellow actor James Stewart accept his honorary Academy Award while he lay in bed. On May 13, 1961, Gary Cooper died of prostate cancer and was buried in Southampton, New York. Over his lifetime, he had participated in over one hundred films.