Future Favorites — Melville Cooper (1937) 🇺🇸

February 08, 2022

A reigning star of the London and New York stage, Melville Cooper faced obscurity when a studio gave him eighteen lines to speak in two years. It took the stage play “Tovarich” to bring about his rediscovery and his current leading roles in Thin Ice and The Great Garrick.

by Lee Blackstock

Born October 15, 1896, in Birmingham, England, Cooper made his first appearance on an English stage as a footman in The Return of the Prodigal at the famous Stratford-on-Avon Theatre... Birthplace of Shakespeare...

That was in 1914, and with the call to arms, the embryonic actor went to war... He spent four years fighting, the last year of which he was a prisoner of war in a German prison camp... Returning to Birmingham in 1919 as a retired Lieutenant in the Seaforth Highlanders, with even more of a craving to act, he played with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre group... he soon went to London and made a smash hit in the play The Farmer’s Wife, which ran three years... Cooper created the role of Trotter in Journey’s End, became a major stage star as dramatic actor and comedian...

He made his screen debut with Douglas Fairbanks in the “Private Life of Don Juan,” then played the leading role in J. B. Priestley’s The Laburnam Grove which ran a year in London and six months in New York... He was signed in London during the run by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer... and arrived in Hollywood ready for his big debut in June, 1935...

He was promptly cast in “The Bishop Misbehaves” and after six weeks work, spoke three lines in the picture... However, New York appreciated him and he returned to Gotham to play the role of the king opposite Mary Boland in the famous Jubilee...

Afterward he returned to Hollywood under his M-G-M contract... and worked eight weeks in The Gorgeous Hussy production with role ending on cutting-room floor except for five lines... Then played a chauffeur role in the Last of Mrs. Cheyney revival and got the big assignment of ten lines... His contract expired with M-G-M and the Cooper stock was at low ebb in January, 1937...

He received a letter from Peter Mather, once his understudy in London, asking if he would play a role in “Tovarich”... He consented... and the rest is history... He was promptly signed by Darryl Zanuck to play the part of hotel manager in Thin Ice with Tyrone Power and Sonja Henie...

Before the picture was finished, Mervyn LeRoy gave him a juicy character role in The Great Garrick... His stock now was above par... Cooper is married to Rita Paige, London, musical comedy star... they live in Brentwood... are popular members of the English colony... hobbies are golf, tennis, cricket... and acting!

Source: Motion Picture MagazineNovember 1937