You meet the most interesting people at your public library.
Los Osos Library Manager Joe Laurenzi thought he knew one of his regular library patrons.
The staff was helping George research maritime projects for some oils he was painting.
Laurenzi enjoyed talking movies with George. Then Laurenzi discovered there was much more to learn about George Healey Cooper Jr.
Cooper grew up inside the Hollywood movie business. His father was an actor in 211 films during the silent and “talkie” eras from 1911 to 1940.
“Sky Devils,” “Boys Town,” “Anything Goes,” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” are a few titles in which Cooper’s father starred.
George Jr. was regularly on the set with his father, who taught him, “Let the camera do the work. An actor should react to the other actors.”
But junior’s first love was art, which he studied in school. His talent is capturing multidimensional perspectives and movement in illustrations and oils.
Before World War II, he was a technical illustrator for Douglas Aircraft Co., a predecessor to McDonnell Douglas, which Boeing would then acquire.
Cooper explained, “My drawings facilitated production assembly lines.
Illustrations of the component parts of airplanes such as the DC-3 demonstrated how parts fit together.”
He enlisted in the Naval Air Force Transfer Service, serving three years overseas. After his honorable discharge, he developed George Cooper Publications, a commercial technical illustration firm.
But right after the war, he needed a job. Growing up knowing some Hollywood heavyweights, one of them character actor J. Carrol Naish, helped him break into movies.
“ ‘Crossfire’ with Robert Mitchum and Robert Young was my first big movie,” Cooper said.
Among his credits are “Blood on the Moon” with Mitchum, “Men of the Fighting Lady” with Van Johnson and “Brigadoon” with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. He also had television roles on “I Led Three Lives” and “The Gene Autrey Show.”
His Los Osos home and art studio has posters of several of his films, including a movie poster of “Patton.”
George C. Scott was Patton, but George H. Cooper was the model for huge posters hovering over New York’s Times Square and Hollywood.
Since relocating to the Central Coast to be near family, Cooper continues to produce stunning oils depicting ocean wave action.
He diligently portrays accuracy painting historical battles and ships of all sizes, including the sinking of the oil tanker Montebello off the Cambria coast on Dec. 23, 1941.
An official U.S. Coast Guard artist, check out Cooper’s oils at www.georgehcooper.com, or meet the artist at the Los Osos Library Summer Extravaganza on July 30.
Reach Judy Salamacha firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-1422.