Mr Cooper Comes To Town

Guest blogger: Eliza Woods, 2016 Mittleheuser student internship 

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, March 30 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 702692-19380330-s001b

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, March 30 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 702692-19380330-s001b

American film star, Gary Cooper, visited Brisbane in November, 1943 to entertain the troops during the war. Cooper was joined by American comedian, Una Merkel, the young Hollywood star, Phyllis Brooks, and Andy Arcari, a piano accordionist.

Asking for Gary Cooper's autograph, November 1943. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 105715

Asking for Gary Cooper's autograph, November 1943. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 105715

The entourage stayed at the Lennon’s Hotel and one of the waitresses at the hotel was happy to report that Mr Cooper was “swell” and “as nice as his pictures”.

His visit to Brisbane delighted his fans as crowds of women waited hours for his autograph; one woman was reported to have “skipped lunch” just to catch a glimpse of the Academy Award winner. However, the actor told one pressman at the time that he has never gotten used to the crowds. Despite this, The Telegraph reported he signed as many autograph books as he good “patiently and good humouredly”.

Gary Cooper and other American actors at a Brisbane press conference, November 1943. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 105703

Gary Cooper and other American actors at a Brisbane press conference, November 1943. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 105703

Cooper had a busy schedule while in Brisbane, alongside Merkel and Brooks, he had lunch with general Yeager in the officer’s mess enjoying a meal of roast veal, apple pie, ice-cream and iced tea.

Later, during a visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Fig Tree Pocket Cooper saw Australia’s unique native animals.

In the evening the Hollywood star attended an event hosted by the American consul, Joseph Ragland, and his wife at their Bowen Hills residence.

Cooper also attended a press conference, talking about how he would entertain the servicemen saying, “We will play sketches, sing a little, dance a little and bring some joy to the boys in forward areas. It will be a real delight.”

In the State Library of Queensland’s Original Materials Collections, Corporal Robert L. Wehnrenberg, World War Two Correspendence, writes in his personal letters on December the 11th 1943, that Cooper, Brooks and Merkel “put on a pretty good show” and that he “took a pair of field glasses along to make sure could get a look at ‘em.”

Following in Gary Cooper’s footsteps actor John Wayne visited Brisbane a month later.

Eliza Woods, 2016 Mittleheuser student internship

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My neighbour told me a story about her husband escorting G Cooper through the streets in Brisbane. They were walking along and a lot of people were hanging out the windows. Gard said to Wayne ""Gee Mr Gilley you are a pretty popular man around here.(My version of what I was told.).