Friday, July 22, 2022. Summer in New York City; the temp daytime was up in the mid-90s with a Real Feel of 107 degrees. Affects everything you do; cuts the speed and demands your patience. And there was a rainstorm predicted which occurred mid-day but it was brief. We’re right up there with the rest of the country dealing with the heat.
Memorials; remembrances. I had lunch earlier this week with Maria Cooper Janis, the wife of Byron Janis, the internationally famous classical pianist, and also the daughter of the now immortal movie star Gary Cooper. Maria was born and grew up in Hollywood during the heyday of the American film industry.
Although she’s lived in New York for much of her life, she recently made a trip out to Los Angeles for a special event, a double celebration honoring her father and Carl Foreman who was the Associate Producer and Oscar nominated screenwriter of HIGH NOON.
It’s the 70th anniversary of the film for which Gary Cooper won his second Best Actor Oscar. The event marked the opening of the Gary Cooper Retrospective and Exhibition at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The film will be on display to the public until September 30th. Cooper, in his will, left a large bequest for scholarships.
It was a real old Hollywood reunion. On Maria’s arrival there was an intimate Friday gathering at the art-filled home on the Wilshire Corridor of Lyn Rothman. It was a reunion for best-selling author Dr. Amanda Foreman and hostess Lyn Rothman many years in the making. Lyn used to look after the Foreman kids when the family lived in London and their parents were on location for one of the films Carl Foreman was writing and producing there in his exile from the States during the blacklist years of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
Lyn Rothman ended up in Beverly Hills when she married motion picture executive and producer Mo Rothman, famous for persuading Charlie Chaplin to end his 12-year exile from America and return to receive the Lifetime Achievement Oscar (the same honor Gary Cooper was awarded just weeks before his death.)
At the dinner were Maria’s friend Jill Schary (daughter of MGM studio head Dore Schary). She and Maria have known each other since they were in third grade together. Other guests included Michael Feinstein and Terrance Flannery, Tina Sinatra, Tim Zinnemann (son of HIGH NOON’s director Fred Zinnemann), Katie Edelman Johnson, Tim Mendelson (Co-Trustee of the Elizabeth Taylor Estate), Colonel Gerald York and wife Linda, Washington based grandson of the legendary Sergeant Alvin York whom Gary Cooper portrayed in his first Oscar-winning role in SERGEANT YORK. Incidentally, both Oscars are on display at the USC Retrospective along with wardrobe and other authentic items from Gary Cooper’s extensive filmography. Other attendees included art dealer Suzanne Zada, Broadway producer Mary Cossette, Don Granger (producer of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE films) and Bernie Bubman.
After a quick night’s sleep, the following morning Maria headed to the Art Deco Pantages Theater in Hollywood for the first of two book signings for the fascinating coffee table book she wrote called Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers. The second signing was part of the prestigious Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC and was followed a packed anniversary screening of HIGH NOON.
Maria has pledged 100% of sales to the USC Gary Cooper Endowed Fund for Student Support, which provides scholarships to qualified indigenous recipients who might not otherwise have the monetary means to study at the country’s leading film school. You learn more about the Fund and Gary Cooper’s lifelong relationship with the indigenous tribes of his native Montana (which Maria also describes in moving detail in her book), go to www.garycooper.com.
Before completing her whirlwind hometown weekend in LA, Maria also got to introduce another HIGH NOON screening at the annual TCM Film Festival headquartered at the TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, one of the city’s most-visited tourist attractions. It was also the first time Maria got to visit her father’s hand and footprints placed in cement in the forecourt in 1943 when it was known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
In telling me about the weekend she recalled when her father had committed to doing HIGH NOON he got a call from his friend Duke a/k/a John Wayne.
Duke had heard about the deal and called his friend Coop to remind him that the screenwriter, Mr. Foreman, had been investigated by HUAC for his alleged interest in the Communist Party back in the 1930s.
On hearing his advice Coop pleasantly responded to Duke: “Well if Carl has to leave the film, then I have to leave the film, too.”
And of course he didn’t and the film was made, and as it happened Gary Cooper was nominated for Best Actor in the film. He was on location working on another film when it was announced and so he called his friend Duke Wayne to tell him the news and to ask him if he would collect the Oscar for him. And so he did, happily ever after.
Remembrances and Fate. Wednesday as many people know was the funeral of Ivana Trump, the first wife of Donald Trump and mother of his children, Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr. Her mother who had returned from Czechoslovakia to live here. They were all at the wake on Frank Campbell’s, along with two longtime close friends of Ivana: Nikki Haskell, Martha Kramer and Dennis Basso.
Interestingly, Ivana’s mother, who is in her late 90s, didn’t live with her daughter on her return because she is confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t use the staircase that took her daughter’s life. She also couldn’t use the house’s elevator because the dimensions of her chair. So to see her grandchildren in Washington, she stayed at the White House, and to see Ivana, she also stayed at Mar-a-lago where her son-in-law looked after her like one of his own.
Hearing about Donald’s mother-in-law, I was reminded of a matter I happened to learn years ago from a friend who was with Ivana at the moment when Donald called Ivana after the divorce of Donald and Ivana, on the night before he was to marry Marla Maples.
He told Ivana that he would be back, but he had to marry because she was pregnant and if she weren’t married, the child would be illegitimate. And he did not want that for his child, Tiffany.
It so happened that at the time of that phone call, Ivana was having a very exciting relationship with a very handsome Italian man of the world, Gaetano Roffredi.
However, divorce had changed some things in the lives of Ivana and Donald, but they remained very close to the very end. He often consulted her with matters at hand in his life before, during and after his Presidency. They had a good life together and together afterwards. He always loved her with his respect.
After the service at St. Vincent Ferrer on 66th and Lexington, the guests followed the hearse out of the city and up to Bedminster where Donald had a special plot created for her, surrounded by a beautiful vista of the countryside. May she rest in peace.