Eyes of World
Man's a Man
Son of Father
Long Ago Told
To My Sons
I know Him
BSC no numb.
Hall Photo Co.
Matt's Cabn RP
Matt's Cabn tnt
Matt, Mollie, etc
Uncle Ike RP
Uncle Ike Tint
Bennett Sp. Tint
Bennett Spr RP
1925, Son Father
1925. Brian K
1926, Barb W
1935, When Man
1936, The Mine
1936, Wild Brian
1937, West Gold
1937, Out West
1937, Secret Vly
1959, Shep (TV)
Indiana U. Libr.
E Clampus Vitus
How Gary Cooper Was Discovered
1. Harold Bell Wright Found Him
Wright's youngest son, Norman, relates
how Cooper was chosen. "Well, you know, on one of the
pictures he picked out old Gary Cooper. Gary Cooper was an extra, and it was a western, and
they were trying to do casting with certain people. And my dad just said,
'That guy leaning against the fence over there looks like a cowboy.'
And it was old Gary Cooper." (Unpublished interview
by Kathryn A. Hinke, November 11, 1974).
2. Henry King Found Him (from the website of
Films on the Hill. They borrow my
photos, I borrow their text.)
In the following quote from Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, Henry King
talks about The Winning of Barbara Worth.
The Winning of Barbara Worth was another great experience. I found the location
up in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, on the edge of Nevada and Idaho. This was
an elevation of 6,000 feet and the most barren desert you have ever seen. But it
was just right for our picture. We built a whole town up there. A railroad
passed over by the mountain, and we had a railroad station put in. We had to
haul our drinking water from two hundred miles away, although we drilled a well
for showers and so on. Our camp could accommodate twelve hundred people, and
we'd bring in another twelve hundred by train.
Now, you generally do your exteriors first, and then the interiors in a studio.
We decided it was just as easy to reverse this. Carl Oscar Borg was my art
director. The picture was about the reclamation of the Imperial Valley, the
harnessing of the Colorado River into a huge irrigation project. Ronald Colman,
whom I had discovered for The White Sister played the Eastern engineer, Willard
Holmes. Vilma Banky had two parts--as a pioneer mother, who dies in a sand
storm, and as Barbara Worth, her daughter. The actor I'd cast to play Abe Lee
was over at Warner Brothers, working for Lubitsch. I was ready to start his
scenes, but Lubitsch was still shooting.
One morning, I arrived at the studio and noticed a man sitting outside the
office of Bob McIntyre, the casting director. He had his knees up and his arms
around them, and he looked at me as I went by. I asked Bob who he was.
"Oh, just a kid, a rider. He wants to get into the picture. He says he has a
"Send the test over to the projection room," I said. "I'll slip out the back
door and have a look at it. Meanwhile bring him in and introduce him."
So this fellow came in and said, after a long pause, "I'd like to play the part
of Abe Lee."
"I'm sorry," I said, "that part's taken." I excused myself from him and went
over to the projection room and looked at his test. He had paid to have it made
on Poverty Row. All he did was ride up on a horse, make a gallant dismount, look
at the camera, and walk into a saloon.
I came back and said to Bob McIntyre, "Well, anyway, he can ride a horse." I
made a deal with the boy. "I'm taking about ten riders up to the location." I
said, "I have nine of them, and I would like to take you. You get fifty dollars
a week and we keep you in the camp."
"All right," he said. "I'll take it--on the understanding that if you have a
little part you'll give it to me."
Well, we got ready to start the picture, and this other actor still hadn't shown
up. So I took this boy and put him in Abe Lee's costume.
"All you have to do," I said, "is to keep your eyes on Vilma Banky."
Do you know, that man stood there from eight in the morning until twelve? No
matter where Vilma Banky went, his eyes followed her--whether we were shooting
or not. I think he had done some extra work but that was all. He had come down
from Montana and was new to pictures. Well, he did some other scenes for me and
while he didn't have much to do, he did it well. So I thought to myself, if he
can do the scene at the hotel--where he rides across the desert for twenty-four
hours to bring the news to Mr. Worth--then I'm not going to wait on the man from
Warner Brothers. I didn't say anything to anyone. I didn't want any
arguments--how do you know how good he is, or how good he isn't?--or anything.
I had this scene with Ronald Colman, Charles Lane, and Paul McAllister. Abe Lee
is supposed to knock on the door, completely exhausted after his ride across the
desert. I went to the studio that morning and the first thing I did was talk to
the boy. I wet his face and covered it with fuller's earth, and I walked and I
talked. Tired--tired--tired. That was my subject. Tired--tired--tired. I walked
around with him and I talked about how one feels when one is exhausted. Why I
wasn't exhausted, I'll never know. I kept him walking between scenes, then I'd
go back on the set. When I'd rehearsed those people, I'd go back to him. I
worked with him for an hour before I asked him on the set.
"If I wanted you to come up to this door," I said, "and fall flat on your
face--flat, even if it smashes you to pieces, could you do it?"
"I don't mean you to break your fall with your hands. I mean you to fall flat.
Like a corpse."
"When you knock on that door, I want you to knock like a tired man. How tired
would a man be if he'd ridden twenty-four hours on a horse?"
"Well, I want you to be that tired. You've got to be tired in your mind as well
as your body. When they open the door, I want you to look across the room. You
see Mr. Worth, but you can't move your feet. You ay 'M-m-mister ...' and you
collapse, and I want you to fall full length. Just as though you had died."
"Yes, sir," he whispered. "I'll do it."
I believed he would. I told Ronnie and Paul, "This boy has never done anything
before. He's going to fall on the floor and he's going to smash his face. When
he goes down, catch him under the arms and carry him over to the bed." We
rehearsed this without the boy. Irving Sindler, the property man, came up and
said that Mr. Goldwyn wanted to see me. Now, I had the set blocked off with
black cloth, so that no one could see what was going on. I laid back the cloth
and went outside.
"Henry," said Goldwyn, "I just want you to understand one thing. When you spend
a dollar of my money, you're spending a dollar of your own."
"Why, what's the matter, Sam?" I asked.
"You're going to put that damn cowboy in one of the biggest parts in the
"How did you know?"
"I just saw yesterday's rushes."
"How were they?"
"They were good--for that. But how are you going to do the big scene? That is a
big dramatic scene and no damn cowboy can play it."
"Well, now," I said, "to ease your mind, Sam, we have finished everything we
can. The actor we hired from Warner's is still working for Lubitsch and I don't
know if he'll get here by Christmas. It isn't costing us anything to continue
with this boy. We have to pay for everything anyway. We're just using up some
"I just wanted to tell you that when you spend a dollar of my money, you spend a
dollar of your own." And he turned on his heel and walked away.
So all right. I returned to the set and got the people back into the mood. Then
I went outside to the actor, wet his face again, and pasted more fuller's earth
till his eyes were just two cracks. It was the darnedest make-up you ever saw in
your life, because it had been on for about four hours. We kept wetting his face
and applying more fuller's earth until the dust caked his ears, his eyes, his
clothes--everything was white. When I was ready to shoot, I gave Sindler the
sign for this fellow to knock on the door.
And you know, he knocked on that door like he could hardly touch it. Ronnie
Colman stood up, opened the door, and revealed the most pathetic case I've ever
seen in my life. I don't think anything will remain in my memory as long as the
sight of Gary Cooper standing full length in that door, looking across the room
and saying, "Mr. W-W-Worth ..."--and falling flat on his face. As he went down,
Ronnie Colman and Paul McAllister grabbed him, and Cooper's face missed the
floor by two inches. They carried him over to the bed and I said to George
Barnes, the cameraman, and Gregg Toland, the second, "Right, over here, quick!"
If I let this make-up deteriorate, we could never replace it. They were lining
up for a close-up when Irving Sindler came up.
"Mr. Goldwyn wants to see you."
"Oh--not now!" I went outside.
"Sam, what is it?"
"Henry," he said, "you're always trying to tease me. Why didn't you tell me that
man was a great actor?"
"Because he isn't," I said. "He's a cowboy from Montana--"
"Henry, he's the greatest actor I have ever seen in my life."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Because I was peeping through a hole in the curtain. Let's sign him up."
"Sam, I've got a scene to shoot. I'll come back and talk to you about this
"Let Abe do it," he said. "We'll make a deal."
"Later," I said.
"Listen, we're partners, aren't we?"
"Of course we are, but unless we shoot this scene, we won't have a picture."
I ran back onto the set and I made the close-up of Gary. Then I said, "Gary, you
have the part." He was just as bewildered by that as he was when he stood in the
door. How do these things happen? The boy had his heart and soul set on playing
Abe Lee. He knew the book backward. He came down to California, I gave him a
part riding a horse as an extra man, and he ends up playing Abe Lee. Now if you
can explain that, explain it. I'm not going to try to.
Unfortunately, that scene never made it into the film.
In Henry King Director From Silents to Scope, interviews with Henry King by
David Shepard and Ted Perry, Henry King said, "When Frances Marion saw the
rushes she said, 'That guy is going to steal the picture. If you leave in the
scene where he rides twenty-four hours across the desert, you better give that
part to Colman, because this guy will be the hero of the picture.'
"We had to cut the scene out for just that reason. When we finished The Winning
of Barbara Worth the Forum Theater on Pico in Los Angeles was about to open and
they wanted the picture very quickly for the opening. We worked day and night to
get the picture out. Everybody forgot about Gary Cooper. But on opening night an
agent from Paramount was there and by ten o'clock the next morning they had
signed him to a contract. They started him at as much money as Goldwyn was going
to finish him with. Years later, when Cooper made The Westerner (1938), Goldwyn
had to pay $150,000 to the guy he once paid $50 to."
3. Frances Marion found Him
day, as screenwriter Frances Marion was headed for Sam Goldwyn's office
for a conference about The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926), she
noticed a tall, lanky fellow dressed like a cowboy leaning against the wall of
the office building, talking through the window to Goldwyn's secretary.
Impressed by his appearance, she took a couple of more looks at him as she went
in the door. Inside, she found Goldwyn in a bad mood; he had assembled the cast
for his new Western (including Ronald Colman and Vilma Banky), but still had no
one to play the cowboy. 'I can get you a young man who won't cost much,' Marion
told him. 'He looks like good material to me.' 'Who?' asked Goldwyn skeptically.
'Hold your horses, Sam,' cried
Marion. 'I'll let you know in five minutes.' She went out to
Goldwyn's secretary. 'Does that young man want to act?' she asked her. 'He sure
does,' said the secretary. 'Get him in here right away,'
Marion told her.
"When the rugged young man
entered Goldwyn's office, the producer looked him over and asked: 'What
experience have you had?' 'None,' drawled the cowboy. 'I was an extra in one -
two pictures.' Goldwyn looked doubtfully at Marion, but she nodded her head
approvingly, and he knew her advice had been good in the past. 'All right, young
man,' he finally sighed. 'I'll take a chance on you.'
turned out to be a wise one. The new young performer fit perfectly into The
Winning of Barbara Worth; he seemed quite at home in the great outdoors,
either on horseback or off. But his part was small and no one paid much
attention to him when he wasn't before the camera. When the company went on
location, he was bunked in a tent with a Chinese cook who threw knives at
gophers, an old hack comedian, and a cardsharping bit player. And until the
picture was released and became a big hit, no one even remembered his name: Gary
Source: Paul Boller,
Hollywood Anecdotes, www.anecdotage.com/index.php?aid=6210
Back to 1926 movie, "The Winning of Barbara Worth"
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by Gerry Chudleigh