By People Staff
January 24, 2000 12:00 PM

Off Camera

by Maria Cooper Janis

This intimate photo collection by the screen legend’s daughter portrays the actor as far different from the laconic defender of virtue he mastered onscreen. Gary Cooper the bon viveur partied all night with the likes of Clark Gable and Audrey Hepburn, discussed art with friend Pablo Picasso and fraternized with royalty and the Pope. Janis’s text and anecdotes, such as Cooper’s riding a horse while suffering from an undiagnosed broken hip, enhance his stoic image yet also convey the warmth and affection the Montana-born ex-cowhand showed his family.

The Coopers’ outdoor activities included not only cycling, riding, surfing and skiing but lots of game hunting. And while evoking her adoration for her dad, Janis acknowledges that Cooper, who died in 1961, was quite the ladies’ man. He left his wife, Veronica, during his 1940s affair with Patricia Neal, although he eventually returned.

But did he ever correct another major miscalculation? After seeing a preview of Gone with the Wind in 1939, he predicted that the film was going to be “the biggest flop in Hollywood history.” (Abrams, $35)

Bottom Line: A complex hero riding high