Frank James Cooper, better known by his stage name Gary Cooper, was an American motion picture actor who was best known for playing simple-minded characters. He was born on May 7, 1901, in Helena, Montana, and died on May 13, 1961, in Los Angeles. He was one of the most enduringly well-liked and adored actors in Hollywood.

Portrait of American actor Gary Cooper (1901 – 1961), dressed in a cowboy hat and a short-sleeved shirt, 1950s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Cooper, the son of a Montana Supreme Court justice, graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa in 1924 and moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a stunt rider and cowboy extra. His name was changed by his agency, and he progressed to starring roles in low-budget westerns that frequently became box office successes. The fact that he was cast in The Winning of Barbara Worth was a great stroke of luck (1926).

One of his first talking movies, The Virginian (1929), propelled him to stardom, and with roles in movies like Morocco (1930), A Farewell to Arms (1932), Design for Living (1933), The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), Desire (1936), The Plainsman (1937), Beau Geste (1939), and The Westerner, he went on to establish himself as one of Hollywood’s top male actors (1940).

Cooper frequently portrayed a brave, laconic, and reserved guy whose honor leads him to carry out great deeds that he does not deliberately pursue. In the two films Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Meet John Doe, both directed by Frank Capra, he embodied the simple man standing up for what he believed to be right (1941). Sergeant York (1941), Ball of Fire (1941), The Pride of the Yankees (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), and The Fountainhead (1943) are a few of Cooper’s other notable productions (1949). Cooper is revered for his portrayal of the elderly town marshal in High Noon (1952), which is regarded as one of the best western movies ever made. Among his final productions are Friendly Persuasion (1956) and Love in the Afternoon (1957).