Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Veronica "Rocky" Cooper: The Best Photographer of Husband Gary Cooper!

Veronica Balfe was born May 23, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York. 

In 1933, Cooper met twenty year old Veronica Balfe, known as Rocky to her friends.  A New York debutant socialite (with Park Avenue and Southampton addresses), her father, Harry Balfe, Jr., was the son of a wealthy industrialist and financier and she was the neice of Cedric Gibbons, the well known Hollywood art director at MGM (as well as the designer of the Oscar, the Academy Awards Statue), whose wife was the actress Dolores Del Rio.  In 1930 Rocky moved to Los Angles (with a chaperone, since she was only seventeen and had just abandoned her finishing school) to flirt with a movie career under the name Sandra Shaw.  By her own admission she wasn't the world's greatest actor, but she had a beaufiul face and gorgeous figure--not particularly unusual in Hollywood.  What was disarmingly unusual was her poise and intelligence, well-bred, elegant style, and being ironically, something of a tomboy.  She was a national skeet-shooting champion and loved swimming, skiing, and riding.  Cooper was immediately smitten and soon he and Rocky became something of an item in Beverly Hills society.  The year she met Cooper she'd been in Hollywood three years and had made three films.

Just six months after they met, Cooper asked her to marry him, and the wedding took place in New York on December 15, 1933.  Rocky maintained her own identity even though her husband was a celebrated movie star, and Cooper surprised the gossip columnists by leaving behind his party-going bachelor days quite happily.  Their only daughter, Maria, was born four years later.  Marriage and fatherhood did nothing to damage his image as the most elegant man in the movies, driving around Hollywood in his chartreuse Duesenberg convertible, aptly named "The Yellow Peril" because of his fast driving habit.

His daughter, Maria Cooper Janis says:

With her camera, my mother, Veronica Cooper documented the life of our family in the group of personal photograghs I've selected for this book (Cary Cooper: Enduring Style).  "Rocky" was a great shot and she kept many meticulous red-leather bound albums.  The pages were filled with festive events, and intimate and private moments with my father.  But she also set about preserving more adventursome memories of their skiing forays in Sun Valley and Aspen, shooting, riding, and their many trips around the world.  There are pictures of poeple well known to the public as well as family friends, interspersed with shots of my father taken by some of the  premier photographers of the day, along with a few pictures he took himself.

She passed away in February 16, 2000 in New York, New York of natural causes.

Here are some examples of her work:

With Grace Kelly

Elizabeth Taylor and Tony Curtis

Below are a few of Cooper with "Rocky":


With his family including Maria:
And the other part of his 'family', love of animals:
Here is Maria's celebratory book of her father:
I highly recommend it!  Thanks for shaing the memories, Maria!

1 comment:

  1. because my danish grandfather resembled him...i have always loved photos of gary cooper. the sweet description of her father by ms maria cooper tells it all as captured visually by his wife 'rocky'. thank you for this sweet post.