Monday, February 1, 2010

FLASHBACK: Jeanne Cooper 1956

TV Is Making Popular Star of Jeanne Cooper

By Harold Stern
The Hartford Courant
November 18, 1956

Jeanne Cooper knows she's going to be a star. Everyone who knows Jeanne Cooper knows she's going to be a star. And after an all-too-brief meeting with the charming young actress, even I'm disposed to think so.

In case you don't know who Jeanne Cooper is, she's made more than 60 TV films, the most recent of which are The Country Husband, last Thursday's PLAYHOUSE 90 production, and Sometimes It Happens, for FORD THEATER opposite Guy Madison. Also in the can is a film for the GEORGE SANDERS MYSTERY THEATER (one of the first three shows) tentatively titled Try It My Way. The latest information reveals that the SANDERS show has been sold to NBC for early 1957 airing, which means, if you're the producer of a shaky NBC show, brother, start worrying.

"It wasn't always like this," Jeanne told me, "but my roles in those three films are all different. On PLAYHOUSE 90 I was sympathetic Nina Foch - type character, on FORD I had a personality role and on the SANDERS show I have a straight leading-woman part.

"My first break was a contract with Universal - International in 1952. They were supposedly going "into prestige pictures, but they decided to go all out for westerns. I did Red Head From Wyoming and The Man From the Alamo and went into free lance TV. On the basis of my movie credits, I got a part in a syndicated TV film. I played an insane murderess and that typed me. From then on, any time they needed anyone to play a sick woman, they called me.

"If you notice," Jeanne continued, "all three of my newest TV films are Screen Gems productions. I owe a lot to the company. They helped me break from type and they produce so many shows and use me so well, they're building me up to be a star. I shuttle from show to show, playing more important roles as I go along. TV is the greatest cultivating ground for breaking into leads in both TV and at the major Hollywood studios. TV in Hollywood is what off-Broadway is in New York, and it also must develop new stars for itself.

"I think," she added, "it's safe to say that FORD THEATER has developed more stars than any other TV show. (Editors' note - Jeanne's mistaken.) But, she said with surprising candor, "the scripts haven't always been what they should be. Overall, and I hate to say this, I've been paid more than the writer on over half the TV appearances I've made. This is disgraceful! Why should an actor get paid more for three days work than a writer who's worked so long?

"Is it any wonder that so many bad TV film scripts are so bad? I could do TV films in Hollywood until they come out of my ears, but not so long ago, along with a lot of other performers, I turned down every film offer that came along. The scripts were just unbelievable.

"But," Jeanne Cooper concluded proudly, "now that I'm doing a lot of work for Screen Gems, I've noticed one thing that pleases me almost as much as the care they're taking with my career. They've started a program of development for writers and producers. This is something the business needs desperately!" (Ed. Note: Amen!)