DVDs: Gary Cooper

Warner
Movie ••• Picture •••½ Sound ••• Extras •••
Gary Cooper, America's archetypal hero of "natural" screen-acting, admirably demonstrates his cinematic personae in this five-movie set. It's highlighted by his Oscar-winning performance in Howard Hawks' Sergeant York (1941) and his daring portrayal of Howard Roark in King Vidor's sexually charged The Fountainhead (1949). Like all the titles here, these two classics have received much-needed restorations; Sergeant York's flat, gray tones returned to their lustrous rich (although occasionally grainy) monochrome, while The Fountainhead glistens with stark, razor-sharp, high-contrast noirish visuals.

The remaining films also have much to recommend them. Dallas (1950) virtually explodes in vibrant Technicolor, and the underrated, violent Springfield Rifle (1952) looks almost as good. Cooper's presence alone elevates both westerns way above their B-picture narratives. The mystery-thriller The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) - one of six CinemaScope films Coop made - has an impressive, sinister palette of dark greens and blues.

The soundtracks on all five, though only uncomplicated mono, are crisp, clear, and often impressively bass-thunderous. Sergeant York's two-disc set comes with a fascinating documentary on the production, featuring recent interviews with Cooper's daughter Maria and costar Joan Leslie. Other extras in the collection include a commentary by film historian Jeannine Basinger, a featurette on the making of The Fountainhead, a profile of Cooper, a classic cartoon, and a vintage short. All: [NR] English and French, Dolby Digital 2-channel mono; full frame (1.33:1). Wreck: letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; three dual-layer and three single-layer discs.

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