Gary Cooper was in 117 movies, but High Noon is the one most people remember him for. In that movie, he played Marshal Will Kane, the only good person in a small town willing and able to stand up to evil.
Cooper had such a unique personality that years later, he was often held up as the perfect example of lost manliness on the TV show The Sopranos. Tony Soprano frequently asked, “What ever happened to Gary Cooper, the strong, silent type?”
When Cooper died of cancer on May 13, 1961, at 60, some people saw it as the end of an era.
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera was quoted in the May 26, 1961 issue of LIFE as saying, “Perhaps with him there is ended a certain America…that of the frontier and of innocence which had or was believed to have an exact sense of the dividing line between good and evil.”
Cooper’s funeral, held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, was attended by many famous people from Hollywood. In its report on the funeral, LIFE called John Wayne “Coop’s successor as dean of cowboys.”
John Wayne and his wife were there. Some pallbearers, like Jimmy Stewart and Jack Benny, were good friends.
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A few weeks earlier, Stewart had taken Cooper’s place at the Academy Awards to accept a lifetime achievement award on his behalf. Stewart was so emotional at one point in his acceptance speech that he almost lost it.
He said, “Coop, I’ll get this to you right away. And Coop, I want you to know this that with this goes all the warm friendship and the affection and the admiration and the deep, the deep respect of all of us. We’re very, very proud of you, Coop. All of us are tremendously proud.”
Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were also at the memorial for Cooper. In January 1961, these stars of the Rat Pack had a dinner for Cooper at the Friar’s Club.
Bob Hope and Marlene Dietrich, who had worked with Cooper in the 1930 movies Morocco and Desire, went to the church to pay their respects.
Alec Guinness, Karl Malden, Dinah Shore, Rosalind Russell, and many other famous people were there, too.
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