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Movie Fact #145 - February 1st, 2021


It's amazing how often actors are bound by contract than actual desire to do a project. Gary Cooper's participation in the 1940 film The Westerner is a prime example of this. Despite playing the lead character Cole Harden, upon learning that Walter Brennan would be playing the part of Judge Roy Bean, he tried to back out of the film. This was because, despite producer Samuel Goldwyn's assurance, Cooper remained unconvinced his part wouldn't be reduced, writing to Goldwyn "I couldn't see that it needed Gary Cooper for the part." Despite this, Goldwyn insisted he star in the film, reminding Cooper of his contractual obligations to the project. Cooper agreed to fulfill his contract and to "perform my the fullest of my ability, with the express understanding that I am doing so under protest." He actually planned to sever his relationship with the studio after the film.

In irony though, Cooper and Brennan made such an effective team that they did a total of six films together, one before The Westerner titled The Cowboy and the Lady (1938), followed by four other projects including Meet John Doe (1941), Sergeant York (1941), Pride of the Yankees (1942), and Task Force (1949). They also had previously appeared in the films The Wedding Night (1935) and Watch Your Wife (1926). In short, Cooper's protest wasn't out of ego, but actually having worked with Brennan before and after, essentially commending the actor's star power. Stay tuned!

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