For the fifteenth in a series of Hollywood Legend stamps, the U.S. Postal Service chose to honor Gary Cooper, and I was privileged to host the first day of issue ceremony held, appropriately enough, at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. Cooper didn’t just make Westerns, of course, but I reckon if you asked most people to instantly name one Gary Cooper movie the answer you’d get most often would be High Noon. The actor’s charming daughter, Maria Cooper Janis, was the morning’s guest of honor. She has kept her father’s memory alive in many ways; she compiled a lovely picture-and-text book, Gary Cooper Off-Camera: A Daughter Remembers, in 1999, and narrated a warm profile of him that airs periodically on Turner Classic Movies. She is currently working on a feature-length…
documentary about Cooper’s longtime friendship with Ernest Hemingway, which will be scored by her husband, noted concert pianist Byron Janis. Here, Maria poses against a blowup of the stamp, based on Kazuhiko Sano’s beautiful painting of the actor.
In the green room before the event, Catherine Kramer and her mother Karen (daughter and wife of High Noon’s producer Stanley Kramer) chat with Maria Cooper Janis’ friend, Nancy Sinatra, another notable “second-generation” Hollywood figure.
John Gray, Executive Director of the Autry National Center, poses in the green room with veteran Paramount producer and ambassador-at-large, A.C. Lyles. A.C. regaled the crowd with a story of how he called on Gary Cooper to sign a note encouraging Adolph Zukor to hire him when he was ten years old.
After the ceremony, actor Tab Hunter (who worked with Cooper in They Came to Cordura in 1959) greets Maria Cooper Janis. Many other friends and colleagues joined stamp collectors in the audience at the public ceremony. I just hope I have time to use these 44-cent stamps before postage rates go up again!