Turner Classic Movies
Merian C. Cooper
Written by Diana Saenger   

Merian C. Cooper Profile


Date of Birth: October 24, 1893

Place of Birth: Jacksonville, Florida

Date of Death: April 21, 1973

Place of Death: San Diego, CA

Cause of Death: Cancer


Merian C. Cooper
Warner Home Video


Early Years: As a boy Cooper loved to read. He became particulary excited when his uncle gave him a copy of the book "Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa" by Paul B Du Chaillu. The book began Cooper's fascination with gorillas and may him want to be an explorer. Cooper's family members had military backgrounds and he followed suit by entering the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Adventure Years: Always the adventurer, in 1916 Cooper helped pursue Pancho Villa in Mexico. "He was the kind of guy that would read something about a new kind of car, an airplane...and everything he read about he wanted to try or do," explained Rich Correll, director/friend of the and Schoedsacks and Coopers. "People sometimes thought he was kind of crazy because he was always doing different things."

War Years: In 1920 Cooper became a volunteer of the American Kosciuszko Squadron that supported the Polish army in the war with Soviet Russia. On July 26, 1920 his plane was shot down and he was thought dead initially, but spent nearly nine months under an assumed name in the Soviet concentration camp in Moscow. Marshall Jozef Pilsudski decorated Cooper with the highest military decorations: Virtuti Military, for his actions and service.

Sealing His Fate For The Future: Just before the war was over Cooper escaped and met his life-long best friend and future producing partner Ernest B. Schoedsack. The two men meshed their passion of movies to become producing partners and set out to make true life adventure documentaries, capturing drama and reality at the same time.

Showbusiness: Cooper and Schoedsack had a very successful career in Hollywood. Merian Cooper was brought on board to RKO Studios by David O. Selznick to offer ideas about the studios upcoming slate of films. Cooper agreed to help if Selznick would let him make his gorilla movie. King Kong not only became a sensation, it saved the studio from bankruptcy.

Cooper's film legacy includes producing more than 60 films, including King Kong and The Last Days of Pompeii. He helped write eight films and directed six.

His peers knew Cooper as a risk taker who wasn't afraid to step into new territories. Filmmaker Peter Jackson said about Cooper on Warner Home Video's King Kong Collector's Edition DVD commentary, "He was an amazing character. He was incredibly courageous and incredibly honorable."



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