Gary Cooper: Enduring Style is the title of Maria Janis Cooper and G. Bruce Boyer’s latest coffee table book.
The publisher, PowerHouse books, provided us with a preview copy which I’d like to share with you today.
Last year, we reviewed Take Ivy, another book from the very same publisher, though interestingly, today’s book, Enduring Style, bears no resemblance to Take Ivy, but much rather with the Anderson & Sheppard book A Style is Born from Quercus! Both have the identical brown woven cover and sleeve and the paper also seems to be the same. Apart from that, the Gary Cooper book is considerably smaller than its A&S counterpart. Nevertheless, I find it to be equally exciting, although many of Enduring Style’s photographs are considerably smaller.
Don’t expect a full-fledged biography about Gary Cooper from this book, as it is intended to be a pictorial exploration of the side of Gary Cooper never revealed to the public. The book is based on an excellent selection of never-published, initimate photographs from the Cooper family albums. Many of them were taken by Veronica “Rocky” Cooper, who married Gary almost 88 years ago on December 15th, 1933. Now, Maria Janis Cooper, the couple’s only daughter, made some of these personal pictures accessible to the public. Maria teamed up with famous men’s style writer G. Bruce Boyer, who contributed an essay, and Ralph Lauren, who wrote the foreword.
Gary Cooper & The Book
Roughly the first 160 pages are filled with mostly black and white photographs of Gary Cooper and his family traveling, fishing, relaxing in nature, in his car, horseback riding, and playing tennis. Interspersed among these seemingly everyday photos are shots that capture the extraordinary company that Gary kept: Sammy Davis Jr. sings in the Cooper’s living room; Frank Sinatra relaxes on their sofa; Gary perches nonchalantly in white tie at a bar between Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart. One photograph capturing Gary smoking on a soundstage was taken by Cecil Beaton. The remarkable juxtaposition of photos of all kinds maintains the aura of fame while opening a door to his intimate personal life. The photos are followed by an assortment of drawings from his personal sketchbook, and some insight into Gary himself. He grew up in Helena, Montana riding horses, and his continued passion for horses is evidenced throughout the book. Gary and his brother spent three years at a boarding school in Britain, where he got in touch with the British style and sensibility. After graduating from college in Iowa, he wanted to become a landscape artist, but since the job opportunities were more than scarce in this area, he decided to go to Hollywood. The pay there was good, especially for someone like Gary Cooper who knew how to ride a horse.
In the early 1930’s, he decided to take a break from acting, and so he traveled to Europe, where he met the Count and Countess di Frasso. They introduced him to continental Europe’s who’s who of the time, including the famous bespoke tailor, Domenico Caraceni. In the 40’s, Gary specialized in Western movies, though he was also capable of playing other roles with great authenticity. In the 50’s, he had a number of affairs, which led to a temporary separation with his wife. During the filming of The Fountainhead (1949), Cooper supposedly had an affair with Patricia Neal. By 1950, Rocky knew about their affair and demanded Neal end the relationship with her husband. Eventually, she complied, but not before Maria Cooper Janis spat at Neal publicly. After Rocky and Gary got back together, he was diagnosed with cancer and died on May 13, 1961 – just six days after his 60th birthday. Apparently, years after Gary Cooper died, Maria and Rocky reconciled with Neal.
Surprisingly to me, the pictures within the book were printed rather small and since the format of the book is already tiny for a coffee table book, the photos are often too small in my opinion.
Gary Cooper’s Clothes & Style
G. Bruce Boyer elaborates a little bit on Cooper’s tailors and purveyors of sartorial pleasures. Other than the aforementioned Caraceni and Anderson & Sheppard, he also acquired his clothes from Turnbull & Asser, Huntsman, Dunhill and Lesley Roberts in London, Shep Miller in Southampton, Brioni in Rome, Knize and Brooks Brothers in NYC and Battaglia, Dick Carroll and Eddie Schmidt in Beverly Hills. Cooper was well-known for his properly cut suits and his affinity to color. For example, he would sometimes wear a red coat with a colorful, nonchalantly folded pocket square and green or sky blue trousers. Fit and balance were always his virtues, and if he went with a boldly patterned shirt, his tie remained simple. His passion for vivid colors and patterns derived from the Indian culture, which he got in touch with as a child. Other than his proper suits, coats, slacks and even white tie ensembles, he also loved casual shirts in pink, blue, yellow and orange, which often featured a pajama style collar, short sleeves and a square bottom worn untucked. In the book, you will find pictures of this kind of relaxed outfit, in addition to more quirky choices, such as Gary posing in Africa wearing a proper topcoat and bowler hat with a monkey in his arm. Moreover, according to famous designer, Bill Blass, Cooper invented the stone wash by literally beating denim on the rocks and leaving them in the sun all day.
That aside, I was most impressed by Gary Cooper’s widely spread interests which, over the years, resulted in close friendships with various likeminded people ranging from actor colleagues to artists like Pablo Picasso, writer Ernest Hemingway to designers Bill Blass and Hubert de Givenchy. It seems like he truly lived an interesting and through-and-through stylish life. His authenticity, his looks and his outfits earned him a status as everybody’s darling and America’s style icon – despite his affairs. The book does an excellent job humanizing Gary Cooper and creating a unique perspective on the life of this true gentleman of style, although the photographs are a little small. Gary Cooper experts may find that some of the set pictures should have been researched more closely in order to include a date or movie but I can live with that. The same people may probably not learn a lot of new things about Gary Cooper and his life but most persons will find the short essay sufficient.
You can currently buy this book on amazon.Gary Cooper : Enduring Style
Hardcover: 200 pages
Publisher: powerHouse Books (November 29, 2011)