Hollywood icon Gary Cooper at the Aspen rail yard, winter 1949
When a Hollywood reporter ran into film legend Gary Cooper at the premiere of The Fountainhead in 1949, he told the actor he looked 15 years younger than the character he portrayed in the movie. “Well,” Cooper said, grinning, “maybe it’s the healthy life I lead. I’ve just been up to Aspen, Colorado. Caught some of the biggest trout you ever saw. Prettiest place in western America. We’re building a house there. We bought 15 acres. The house won’t be too fancy, but comfortable enough. It’ll be right by a lake, a frame house with an aluminum roof. Five bedrooms, four baths, kitchen, an 18-by-38 living room.”
Since Cooper’s fame in Hollywood was already cemented by films like The Virginian, High Noon and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the actor spent less time in California and more leisurely hours in his adopted mountain escape—especially the Hotel Jerome, where the same reporter found Cooper months later in the middle of winter in shirt sleeves sipping cocktails and lounging against a weathered column on the veranda. It was 10 degrees below zero. Cooper greeted the reporter. “Glad you boys could make it,” he said. “It snowed last night. And the weather is just perfect for skiing.” The reporter asked Cooper how he could walk around without a coat. “Oh, I’ve been up on a ski run all afternoon—got overheated,” he said. At least one of Hollywood’s heroes became a legend in Aspen first.