Hollywood: The Virginian

He was Robert Jordan, dying at his submachine gun in Spain. He was Beau Geste staving off a charge, Sergeant York capturing 132 Germans, Lou Gehrig saying goodbye to the Yankees. And, so often and so well that there are urchins in Marrakech who know his name, he was the tall man—boyish and strong in The Virginian, wind-lined and stronger in High Noon—who walked arrow-straight down the street to meet the killers. Last week the tall man was dead.

During his 60 years, Gary Cooper learned to punch cows (at 13, on a...

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