Jimmy Stewart’s emotional speech for fatally ill Gary Cooper: ‘So proud of you, Coop’

Jimmy Stewart’s emotional speech for fatally ill Gary Cooper: ‘So proud of you, Coop’

The actor reportedly held back tears as he accepted his friend’s Academy Award on his behalf, admitting how proud he was of the Hollywood star.

James ‘Jimmy’ Stewart stars on Friday alongside the likes of Richard Conte in the 1948 reality-based newspaper drama Call Northside 777, which airs from 3.50pm on Talking Pictures TV. The real-life crime thriller sees Stewart star as cynical journalist P.J. McNeal, who interviews a mother offering a vast fortune to anyone that can help prove her son’s innocence in a murder case. Though cynical at first, McNeal soon becomes engrossed with the tale and investigates the case, soon having a change of heart as to who the murderer actually was.

The film earned rave reviews, and was described in 2004 by Onion AV Club Review as having “outstanding location shooting and Stewart’s driven performance turn a sober film into a vibrant, exciting one, even though the hero and the jailbird he champions are really too noble for noir”.

Stewart was already an Oscar winner by the time Call Northside 777, having won the Best Actor gong for his role in The Philadelphia Story. His relationship with the Academy Awards saw him clinch the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1985, as well as a further four nominations, for films including Mr Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life.

While Stewart enjoyed a healthy relationship with the Academy, he also endured a traumatic episode on stage, when he was asked to collect his good friend Gary Cooper’s Oscar in 1961.

At the time, Cooper was known to be in really poor health, and, with Stewart among his close legion of friends, he was asked to go along to the ceremony to pick up his Honorary Award from the Academy.

.Their friendship was demonstrated in previous Oscar moments, including when Stewart presented Cooper with his first Academy Award for Sergeant York in 1941. At the time he said: “It was Sergeant Alvin York who won this award.

“Shucks, I’ve been in the business 16 years and sometimes dreamed I might get one of these. That’s all I can say… Funny when I was dreaming I always made a better speech.”

Cooper and Stewart both helped the World War Two effort, the former helping entertain troops while the latter served for the US military. They bonded over this, and cemented a friendship that would last a life time.
So it made Stewart’s emotional appearance to collect Cooper’s gong even more difficult, particularly given his friend’s poor health. Writing for Grunge magazine this year writer and critic William Kennedy noted that the appearance from Stewart was because his friend “was not just sick, but dying from cancer”.

In clips of the ceremony, Stewart is seen telling the audience: “We’re very, very proud of you, Coop. All of us are tremendously proud,” before concluding, “Aw, Coop”.

Kennedy added: “At that moment the audience knew Coop’s situation was serious. After the news broke that Gary Cooper had cancer, President Kennedy and Ernest Hemingway paid their respects. Cooper died on May 13, 1961. Stewart, Frank Sinatra, and John Wayne, among other stars, attended the funeral.”

Among Stewart’s other notable Hollywood friendships was with fellow Oscar winner Henry Fonda. Their fondness lasted more than 50 years, and began when Fonda asked Stewart to be his third roommate in a Manhattan apartment, so he could pay rent.

Some time after in 1935, Stewart left the Big Apple and headed for Tinsel Town, and was reunited again with Fonda, as they shared an apartment once again. Reports from their time together showed how both gained a reputation for their “playboy” lifestyles.

Following Fonda’s death in 1982, Stewart was again left in emotional turmoil for a friend he had enjoyed for much of his life. He passed away surrounded by his family in Los Angeles as a result of heart disease.

According to Scott Eyman’s 2017 biography Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart, Stewart simply said “I’ve just lost my best friend” when asked about his close companion’s death.

Throughout Fonda and Stewart’s career, they starred in a further three films together, including On Our Merry Way, Firecreek and finally The Cheyenne Social Club in 1970.


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