Do you have any classic film fans in your family? Just in time for the Christmas season, Warner Brothers has released a five-film box set featuring one of the biggest stars of the silver screen, Gary Cooper. Cooper appeared in 107 films, starring in eighty-two over a career that spanned more than thirty years, and became one of the most popular actors of his generation. Tall and slender with piercing blue eyes, he made a name for himself as the strong, silent hero and helped define the western genre.
This collection spans the latter half of Cooper's career, starting with 1941's Sergeant York and ending with 1959's The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Not all the films in this collection would be considered “classics,” but they are all entertaining and a nice sampling of Cooper's varied career.
Sergeant York (1941), the centerpiece of the collection, tells the story of Alvin York. Based on true events, York was a farmer from Tennessee who won the medal of honor in WWI for leading an attack that overran a hill controlled by the Germans, killing 32 and capturing 132 others. Cooper's depiction of the reluctant hero won him his first Academy Award. He does a magnificent job making the transition from goofy hell-raiser to a reformed religious man, and shows the struggle between being true to both his God and his country. The true beauty of his performance and the film is that it manages not to be too heavy-handed. Laced with fabulous performances by Walter Brennan, Margaret Wycherly, and Joan Leslie under the legendary director Howard Hawks, this is truly a classic film.
The two-disc DVD includes a commentary track by film historian Jeannine Basinger, the classic Warner Brothers cartoon Porky's Preview, short film Lions for Sale, several Gary Cooper film trailers, a documentary on the making of Sergeant York, and a documentary on the life Gary Cooper.
Based on the best-selling novel by Ayn Rand and adapted for the screen by Rand herself, The Fountainhead (1949) follows the ascent of architect and stubborn individualist Howard Roark, played by Cooper. The film, like the book, follows Roark's struggle against those who would keep him from building his creations as he designs them. Along the way he encounters a select few who share his vision and admire his courage to stand up to the status quo no matter what the cost.