Gary Cooper: MGM Movie Legends Collection

Gary Cooper: MGM Movie Legends Collection
DVD collections are usually a mixed bag: you’re not guaranteed that some or any of the titles will be emblematic, typical, or even good examples of the actor or actress in question. Still, MGM’s new Gary Cooper box set has at least a couple of interesting titles, even if they’re lesser-known entities. Best of the bunch is Vera Cruz, a gritty western set during the Mexican revolution; the virtuous Coop is paired with the devious Burt Lancaster to protect a Marquise and some gold as they travel across hostile terrain. Cooper and Lancaster make a good team (and an interesting contrast in character) but the real star of the movie is director Robert Aldrich. He directs with black-hearted gusto as the pair defy the revolutionaries whom they must eventually help, and his film is fast-moving and disaffected in a manner that anticipates Sam Peckinpah. Next in line is The Winning of Barbara Worth, a silent extravaganza that represents our man’s first credited screen role. Here, cowboy Coop must vie with top billed industrialist Ronald Colman for the hand of Vilma Banky as the West is irrigated and corrupt businessmen seek to fleece the citizenry. The film isn’t genius and is more properly tagged a Colman picture but it’s an enjoyable (if sometimes risible) example of silent innocence and sweeping melodrama. That covers the good titles. Bringing up the rear are the likes of The Cowboy and the Lady, in which a sheltered politician’s daughter, Merle Oberon, gets fed up with being stifled and sneaks out only to fall for rodeo cowboy Cooper. The flimsy comedy-romance has Oberon doing unbelievably stupid things for the sake of her man, culminating in her marrying Coop after knowing him two days! It’s unfunny, unconvincing and unworthy of your time. Finally, The Real Glory features our man as a military doctor stationed in the Philippines as marauding pirates terrorise the populace. It’s up to his unit to train the Filipinos to defend themselves against the constant threat of murder and plunder. This might have seemed well meaning at the time but it dates badly and reveals a colonial bias at every turn of the screw. It’s also fairly cornball in its drama and looks pretty phoney from the vantage point of now. Two winners, two losers; weigh your options carefully before making a blind purchase. (MGM)