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Gary's 1927 Filmography

It’s 2017 and I thought it would be fun to review all of Gary’s films that came out in years ending with ‘7’. This first installment will cover his films from 1927 – 90 years ago.

1927 was a big year in Gary’s career in that it’s the first year he had starring roles in films. His films for this year in order of release date were:

  • It

  • Children of Divorce

  • Arizona Bound

  • The Last Outlaw

  • Wings

  • Nevada

It – Release date Feb 19, 1927

Gary had a bit part is this film as a news reporter and he appeared in just one scene. It was a big hit for Clara Bow who would become known as the “It Girl” after this film. She definitely had “It” meaning she was very charismatic and had an attractive way about her-women wanted to be her and men wanted to be with her. She’s my favorite actress and this is one of my favorites of her films. She’s just so peppy and full of life and then can turn on a dime and break your heart with her tears. This film is available on DVD.

Children of Divorce – Release date Apr 2, 1927

Gary had a supporting actor role in this one and as I noted in another blog post about this film, he was fired during the filming but then rehired. Up to this point he had mostly acted in Westerns or war movies and here he had to play a sophisticated, wealthy young man and he felt quite out of place. Having finally been able to see this film with its recent DVD release, I can say his acting is nowhere near as bad as it’s been made out to be. He’s still a bit raw but the talent is absolutely there.

Gary & Esther Ralston

Gary, Clara Bow, & Esther Ralston

Gary and Esther Ralston

Arizona Bound – Release date Apr 9, 1927

How great it would have been to be a Gary fan in April 1927 – two movies released within a week of each other!! Of course he wasn’t very well known yet but for his earliest fans this must have been a real treat. These releases so close together may seem weird to modern audiences but movies were made much more quickly in those days as they were also generally shorter than today-around an hour or just a little over in length. This is unfortunately a lost film in that there are no known copies anywhere which is a shame as this is his first film as a lead actor. As the title suggests it is a Western and I can imagine Gary felt much more comfortable in this film than he did in Children of Divorce.

Gary, Betty Jewel, & Flash the Wonder Horse

The Last Outlaw – Release date Jul 2, 1927

Another Western for Gary and again he is the lead actor. This film has not been officially released but there are copies floating around out there. It’s a really fun film as his sidekicks in this one are an adorable little boy and a really smart horse. Flash the Wonder Horse as he was billed was also in Arizona Bound. He was a beautiful solid white horse that could do quite a few tricks. This movie has a lighthearted tone to it and in the end Gary gets the bad guys and the girl.

Gary & Betty Jewel

Gary, Betty Jewel, and Flash the Wonder Horse

Wings – Release date Aug 12, 1927

This movie was a big deal. It’s hard to even come up with a modern comparison. It took four months to film between January and April which was practically an eternity at that time. It premiered in New York City on August 12, 1927 but did not have a wide release until 1929. This film was rolled out in what was called a roadshow. In the cities where it made a roadshow appearance, the film had a live orchestra playing the score and then it also had live sound effects to go along with the battle scenes. This was a major production and would really be more comparable to a Broadway show that then goes on tour across the country than any modern film releases. Another silent film, The Big Parade (1925), was released in similar fashion and these films were both massive hits and played in theaters for years. Wings received the first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929 for films released between 1927-1928, making this the only film of Gary’s career to win that award.

Gary is only on screen around two minutes in this film as Cadet White, but his performance was powerful and memorable enough that he practically stole the film. His name was not listed on the movie posters when this was first released but by the time it hit wide release, he was included along with the actual lead actors Clara Bow, Richard Arlen, and Buddy Rogers.

Where things get a little confusing is this film is usually listed as being his big break but he had already had films released where he was the leading actor (Arizona Bound and The Last Outlaw), so which is it? Paramount gave him a contract based on what they had seen in the 1926 film The Winning of Barbara Worth and a short interview they had with him around the end of 1926/beginning of 1927. I think it’s really cool that they didn’t even need to screen test him – they knew he had something and they wanted him. His films released prior to Wings did well and he was getting some good buzz in the film trade magazines but Wings was such a big movie that a lot more people saw him in that and wanted to know more about him. After that he really began to become a star.

This film is available on DVD.

Gary & Richard Arlen

Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen, & Gary

Nevada – Release date Sep 10, 1927

Another Western but one a bit more serious than the playful Last Outlaw. This is also a milestone film in Gary’s career in that he is not only the lead actor but this is the first time his name appeared before the title letting everyone know this was a Gary Cooper film. There are also bootlegs copies of this film available but no official release yet. This film features two actors in Gary and William Powell who would go on to much bigger stardom in the age of the talkies. Powell is the bad guy here and this was the first film I saw him in and I didn’t like him because he was out to get Gary. A few months later I saw him in The Thin Man (1934) and wondered why anyone had ever cast him as a villain. He was just delightful in that film and next to Gary, he is one of my favorite actors.

Gary & Thelma Todd

William Powell, Thelma Todd, & Gary

In 1927, Gary appeared in six films and only one is thought to be lost which is really incredible when you consider that about 80% of all silent films made in the U.S. are classified as missing. This is the first year that Gary was regularly featured in fan magazines and you can read a collection of articles about him from 1927 here . A relationship with mega star Clara Bow and friendships with budding stars Richard Arlen and Buddy Rogers (this group was sometimes referred to as the three musketeers) put him on the press’s radar and endeared him to many fans.

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