Friday, August 10, 2018

RIP Jeff Cooper

The Hamilton Spectator
By Daniel Nolan
July 16, 2018

Jeff Cooper, a Hamilton-born actor who had success in Hollywood and is probably best known for his role as Sue Ellen Ewing's psychiatrist on the 1980s TV hit "Dallas," died quietly in his hometown at the end of March.

A small death notice appeared in The Spectator on April 7 announcing his passing on March 24, but it made no mention of his decades-long career in Tinsel Town.

That cavalcade before the cameras included roles in movies with David Niven, James Garner, Sydney Poitier and David Carradine, as well as appearances in such shows as "Perry Mason," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "The Virginian," "The Love Boat," "Wonder Woman," "Knight Rider," "Vegas" and "The Fall Guy."

His wife, Colette, said he had become "a private person" since he came back to Hamilton from Hollywood in 1995 to look after his ailing mother Elizabeth.

She, however, communicated his death to friends in California like actors Keith and Robert Carradine.

Cooper, who was 82 when he died, spent his years back in Hamilton learning how to play guitar, taking nature walks, working out at the downtown YMCA, telling stories of his Hollywood days and visiting the library.

"He was a voracious reader," said his wife, a well-known realtor.

"If he wasn't playing his guitar, he had 10 books from the library he was reading."

She also said he was a very meticulous. "I never seen anyone shine their shoes so much," she said.

"He shined them even if he was just going to the Y. I guess that was part of his Hollywood days."

He was a police cadet but eventually headed to Toronto for acting jobs on the CBC after getting a taste for the stage at a church variety show when he was four.

His handsome, blue-eyed looks got him some attention and two CBC colleagues recommended he try Hollywood. He took their advice and landed contracts with Warner Bros and Universal Studios in the early 1960s.

Warner initially called him Kyle Thomson in 1961. He eventually became Jeff Cooper because his wife said there was already an actor named George Cooper.

He played a cavalry soldier in 1966's "Duel at Diablo" with Garner and Poitier and a hippy in 1968's "The Impossible Years" with Niven.

Cooper was also a biker in 1967's "The Born Losers," the film that introduced the world to Billy Jack.

In interviews with the Spec over the years, sometimes he was excited about his career, sometimes he believed he was not meeting his potential. He was considered for "Midnight Cowboy" in 1969 but the part went to Jon Voight.

"I want to do stuff that's never been done, man," Cooper told the Spec in 1973.

"I want to be the best there ever was. That's my game now. All I want to be is a movie star."

Cooper's biggest movie role was in 1972 when he starred as Kaliman the Incredible. Kaliman was South America's favourite comic book hero and the film was made by a Mexican film studio.

It was an enormous hit in Mexico and Cooper was elated. He told The Spectator he hoped to capitalize on its success but major stardom continued to elude him.

He made films in Mexico, Europe and Egypt and starred as a detective in the western-mystery "A Knife for the Ladies" in 1973 with Jack Elam.

He did a kung fu film called "Circle of Iron" with his David Carradine and Christopher Lee in 1978.

He was looking at becoming a realtor but landed the role of Dr. Simon Ellby in "Dallas" on the same day his wife said he got his real estate licence. He never sold a home.

The part on "Dallas" stretched from 1979 to 1981 and his character was part of the famous "Who Shot J.R.?" storyline. Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray) was charged with attempted murder of her husband J.R. and Ellby was featured in the "Who Done It?" episode.

"I was the guy who cracked who shot J.R.," Cooper told the Spec in 1995.

"I hypnotized her and proved she didn't do it. It was the most watched show in the history of television. I had a pivotal part in it and it felt great."

An estimated 83 million watched "Who Done It?' on Nov. 21, 1980. The shooter was Kristen Shepard (Mary Crosby), Sue Ellen's sister and ex-mistress of J.R.

Cooper is survived by his wife.

COOPER Jeff (George Cooper)
Born: 1936, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Died: 3/24/2018, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Jeff Cooper’s westerns – actor:
The Virginian (TV) - 1964 (Matt Potter)
Duel at Diablo – 1966 (Trooper Casey)
A Knife for the Ladies – 1974 (Burns)

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