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Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper



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Meet John Doe ... Meet John Doe - Digitally Remastered. A fired reporter's white lie spirals out... more info $8.45was $10.99 Buy Now

Springfield Rifle ... Gary Cooper, Paul Kelly. During the Civil War, a Union officer gets himself... more info $14.95was $17.99 Buy Now

Dallas ... Gary Cooper, Ruth Roman. Post-Civil War Dallas is turned upside down by an ex... more info $14.95was $17.99 Buy Now

The Real Glory ... Gary Cooper is wonderful (Los Angeles Herald-Examiner) alongside Andrea Leeds... more info $16.46was $21.99 Buy Now

The Cowboy and the Lady ... Gary Cooper is at his very best. (The Hollywood Reporter) in this enchanting... more info $18.95was $21.99 Buy Now

Love in the Afternoon ... She plays the cello. He plays the field She's coltishly young. He's worldly and... more info $14.36was $17.99 Buy Now

Also Known As: Frank James Cooper Died: May 13, 1961
Born: May 7, 1901 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: Helena, Montana, USA Profession: actor, cartoonist, producer, ranch hand, salesman, guide


Gary Cooper's rugged mug, soft-spoken demeanor and earnest, haunted eyes for decades made him the quintessential lonely American of motion pictures, a more stoic, human protagonist versus boisterous, bigger-than-life Hollywood supermen. Privately a debonair ladies' man with a taste for high society, he crafted an image as just the opposite, from his prototype cowboy talkie "The Virginian" (1929) playing shy, stoic "aw-shucks" her s. He built that image in such classics as Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds G s to Town" (1936) and "Meet John D " (1941) and celebrated biopics like "Sergeant York" (1941) and "Pride of the Yankees" (1942). Though he cooperated with the U.S. government's Hollywood witch hunts early in the Cold War, he nevertheless made a triumphant comeback in the anti-blacklisting parable "High Noon" (1952), refusing to dissociate himself from the film's blacklisted writer, Carl Foreman, karmic punctuation to what had been, on screen anyway, a legacy of a weary everyman who nevertheless stood tall against mob mentality. He was born Frank James Cooper, second son of British immigrants Charles and Alice Cooper, in Helena, Montana on May 7, 1901. Charles Cooper worked as a lawyer and kept a 600-acre...

Gary Cooper's rugged mug, soft-spoken demeanor and earnest, haunted eyes for decades made him the quintessential lonely American of motion pictures, a more stoic, human protagonist versus boisterous, bigger-than-life Hollywood supermen. Privately a debonair ladies' man with a taste for high society, he crafted an image as just the opposite, from his prototype cowboy talkie "The Virginian" (1929) playing shy, stoic "aw-shucks" her s. He built that image in such classics as Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds G s to Town" (1936) and "Meet John D " (1941) and celebrated biopics like "Sergeant York" (1941) and "Pride of the Yankees" (1942). Though he cooperated with the U.S. government's Hollywood witch hunts early in the Cold War, he nevertheless made a triumphant comeback in the anti-blacklisting parable "High Noon" (1952), refusing to dissociate himself from the film's blacklisted writer, Carl Foreman, karmic punctuation to what had been, on screen anyway, a legacy of a weary everyman who nevertheless stood tall against mob mentality.

He was born Frank James Cooper, second son of British immigrants Charles and Alice Cooper, in Helena, Montana on May 7, 1901. Charles Cooper worked as a lawyer and kept a 600-acre ranch outside Helena, where Frank and older brother Arthur spent their early years until their mother, hoping to acculturate her sons, sent them off to school in England. Frank returned to Montana at age 16, upon the U.S.'s entry into World War I, and eventually matriculated at Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA, where he attempted to nurture a passion for drawing - until a serious car accident ended his college days in the summer of 1920. He would recover from his severely injured hip through an odd but painful therapy, horseback riding. This would come in handy four years later as his search for a job as a political cartoonist bore no fruit and Cooper followed his parents to Los Angeles - where they'd moved after his father's retirement form the Montana Supreme Court - and found work as a stunt horseman in motion pictures. The tall, lean Frank Cooper caught the eye of agent Nan Collins, who took him on as a client and, with somebody already working under his name in show business, redubbed him Gary Cooper, after her Indiana hometown. Another uncredited horseman role in "The Winning of Barbara Worth" (1926) expanded portentously when silent star Vilma Banky's onscreen suitor fell out and Cooper found himself promoted to third-billing. Variety called the then-unknown Cooper "a youth who will be heard of on the screen," Paramount made him a contract player at $150 a week and notoriously randy A-list actress Clara Bow set her sights on him, giving him a small role in her next picture "It" (1927) - originating the notion of the "It-girl," the buzz around their romance making Cooper the original "It-boy."

That led to his first top-billing as a stereotype hero-cowboy in "Arizona Bound" (1927), then another turn supporting Bow in "Wings" (1927), the first film to win the Academy Award as Best Picture. He crossed over to partial-sound pics, most notably in "Wolf Song" (1929), which co-starred his latest love, Mexican actress Lupe Velez. His first full-fledged talkie, Victor Fleming's "The Virginian" (1929), would take him to a new stratum of stardom, hitting big with audiences and creating an archetype for American westerns, Cooper playing the white-hat hero rigidly following his moral compass versus the black-hats of the chaotic west, along the way wooing the transplanted Eastern schoolmarm. Much in demand, he went on to crank out 11 more movies in the next two years, four of them westerns, but most notably "Morocco" (1930), a French Foreign Legion adventure that would make Marlene Dietrich his love interest both on and off camera. By the time he filmed "His Woman" (1931), his first pairing with screwball comedy ingénue Claudette Colbert, his schedule had worn down his health, as had a tempestuous, sometimes violent cohabitation with Velez and the meddling of his disapproving mother, all bringing Cooper to the brink of nervous exhaustion. Even as he embarked on a sabbatical, Velez notoriously pulled a pistol and fired several rounds at his train car as it departed for Chicago

He traveled to Europe, in Italy finding another watershed relationship, with Countess Dorothy di Frasso-nee-Taylor, a socialite ten years his senior who had married into Euro-aristocracy out of Watertown, NY. They began a country-hopping affair, while she undertook his "Pygmallion"-esque refinement. Paramount c rced him back to Hollywood with threats of replacing him on its A-list with a young Cary Grant, then immediately shoved both into naval adventure compromised by a love triangle over stage great Tallulah Bankhead in "The Devil and the Deep" (1932). Cooper proved susceptible to her charms, as most her co-stars did, Bankhead soon ending her unhappy flirtation with the movies and returning to the theater, notoriously averring, "The only reason I went to Hollywood was to f--k that divine Gary Cooper." His ladies'-man days would end not long after - at least officially - when he met a savvy 20-year-old New York debutante, Veronica "Rocky" Balfe, at a party in early 1933 and married her the next December.

In the meantime he stretched his by-now-signature solemn-yet-upright character, sometimes in sober North American expatriate roles such as Hemmingway's melodrama "A Farewell to Arms" (1932), "Today We Live" (1933) and the hit actioner "Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (1934), more spiritedly in comedies such as "Design for Living" (1933), "One Sunday Afternoon" (1933), "Desire" (1936) and "Mr. Deeds G s to Town" (1936). The latter two would prove pivotal for Cooper in developing his charming rube character, "Desire" reteaming him with Dietrich as a bright-eyed American abroad caught in her criminal web, "Deeds" codifying the character, by way of director Frank Capra, as an archetype of integrity and innocence in the face of sophisticated charlatanry. Longfellow Deeds, a tuba-playing small-town Vermonter inheriting a fortune, plus the big city swells and grifters that follow, "had to symbolize incorruptibility, and in my mind Gary Cooper already was that symbol," Capra later wrote. His intuition paid off with a hit, earning Cooper his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, not to mention a separate six-year contract with independent producer Samuel Goldwyn for a movie a year at $150,000 apiece. That move challenged the studios' perceived exclusivity with their stars. Paramount sued and lost, the court ruling he could still fulfill his obligation to the studio.

Cooper continued his share of adventure yarns, playing a mercenary in revolutionary China in "The General Died at Dawn" (1936), Wild Bill Hickok in Cecille B. DeMille's "The Plainsman," more conspicuously as the world-spanning explorer in "The Adventures of Marco Polo" (1938) and again as a Legionnaire in the blockbuster "Beau Geste" (1939). Bolstering his manly bona fides, he met Hemingway on vacation in Idaho in 1940, getting a sneak-peak at his forthcoming book, The Sun Also Rises. He kept his hand in comedy, reuniting with Colbert in "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" (1938), and with Capra in another rube-against-the-odds picture, "Meet John D " (1941). A subtle indictment of the fascist machinations inflaming Europe, "D " had Cooper as a vagabond hired by an unscrupulous newspaper to play the role of a made-up pundit, claiming to be the voice of America's unheard everymen, unknowingly becoming the key to a plan by the paper's industrialist owner to garner populist groundswell for his "iron-fist" presidential candidacy. The oft-corny film nevertheless signaled Cooper's capacity, as a Time cover story posited, to render "a personality that de-schmaltzes sentiment and de-rants rhetoric." The looming war would color an even more momentous project of 1941, director Howard Hawks in the World War I tale of Sgt. Alvin York, the hayseed pacifist drafted into the U.S. army, overcoming his personal objections and capturing an entire German company single-handed. "Sergeant York" scored 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Actor, which Cooper walked away with the next February.

On a roll, he reteamed successfully with Stanwyck in "Ball of Fire" (1942), playing a nerdy English professor who hooks up with a mob-connected showgirl to learn new slang, and then went somber again, earning another Oscar nomination for director Sam Wood's "Pride of the Yankees," playing the baseball great Lou Gehrig, whose career was cut short by the disease that bears his name. The inspirational Gehrig farewell speech would become part of his routine when he entertained troops during the war. Wood directed him again in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (1943), during which Cooper reverted to old ways, beginning an affair with co-star Ingrid Bergman. A meandering tale, it nevertheless proved box-office gold in Hollywood's volume of wartime anti-fascist messages - curious given Cooper and Wood's helping to found the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals the next year. "The Alliance," whose members also included Walt Disney, Robert Taylor and Clark Gable (not to mention its influential but unofficial godfather John Wayne), dedicated itself to winnowing "Red" influence out of motion pictures. The studio reteamed Cooper and Bergman in the period romance "The Saratoga Trunk," shot in 1943 but released in '45, but by then he had become he became increasingly dissatisfied with his work for Paramount. The contract lapsing that year, he would produce his own first post-studio picture, "Along Came Jones" (1945), as an early revisionist western, parodying his once-rote western roles.

1947 would prove momentous for Cooper, though not for his work. The Alliance invited the Red Scare's primary catalyst, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), to investigate subversive influences in film, an exercise in paranoia that would ruin careers and have Cooper as a "friendly witness." Apologists say Cooper addressed the committee ambivalently and never named names of suspected Reds as did other Hollywood denizens who would later find themselves ostracized for their political convenience. Signing with Warner Bros., Cooper would link himself to right-wing canon in King Vidor's attempt to film Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead, a job made difficult by the controlling author. The film's climactic scene had Cooper, as her heroic architect-turned-terrorist, giving the longest speech in movie history theretofore, but with Rand's overwrought writing translating miserably to spoken dialogue, Cooper didn't understand it, appealed to Vidor for it to be simplified, and Rand nearly shut down production until the studio guaranteed her a pristine reading. When released in 1949, the work intended as a testimonial to Rand's exceptionalism proved a garish bomb. Rumors bubbling about troubles in his marriage also gained traction when he and his "Fountainhead" love interest, 22-year-old Patricia Neal, began an affair, which would become a long-term relationship and particularly problematic as Rocky, a devout Catholic, refused to consider divorce (though they separated in 1951).

Cooper as a 50-year-old leading man, meanwhile, was hardly setting the box office afire with by-the-numbers period adventure/romantic fare such as "Dallas" (1950) and "Distant Drums" (1951) as he once did - at least until independent producers Stanley Kramer and Carl Foreman came calling with a Western that would rock the genre. "High Noon," written by Foreman, told the tale of an aging marshal seeking the aid of townspeople to help fend off a gang whose leader he had put in prison, but finding no allies and only advice to flee with his young Quaker wife before the villains arrive. Cooper turned in a somber performance as the conflicted marshal, even as he reputedly began another amorous dalliance with his young co-star Grace Kelly. The film became a lightning rod, not only for its reversal of the sunny myths of square-jawed western superher s and intrepid pioneer-folk, but also for Foreman's use of the story as allegory for HUAC witch hunts, with which he himself had refused to cooperate. An overwhelming success financially and critically, it nevertheless became a target of the Alliance and its allies, who lobbied furiously against the film winning any of the seven Oscars for which it had been nominated, Alliance president John Wayne, and Cooper friend, calling it "the most un-American thing I have ever seen in my whole life." "High Noon" nevertheless won four Oscars, Cooper taking his second Best Actor statue and remaining friends with Foreman, who, now blacklisted, lost production credit on the film and moved to London. Cooper, shooting a new movie during the Academy Awards ceremony, asked Wayne to accept the award for him.

With marriage impossible, his relationship with Neal had ended by 1953, and he reunited with Rocky the next year. That year, he did another gun-slinging adventure in "Vera Cruz," this time as mercenaries with Burt Lancaster amid Mexico's 1866 revolution, a tale of conscience versus the shifting morals intrinsic to power politics. It gave Cooper a monster hit with another revisionist Western, "Vera Cruz" greatly influencing the coming spaghetti Western movement. Ensuing years would see him work with some of the cinema's top directors, Otto Preminger for "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell" (1955), with Cooper as the brash prophet of military air power; William Wyler for "Friendly Persuasion" (1956), a poignant film that had Cooper the head of a Quaker family whose pacifism is tested by the American Civil War; Billy Wilder for "Love in the Afternoon" (1957), with Cooper as the unlikely suitor of Audrey Hepburn; and Anthony Mann for "Man of the West" (1958). Largely considered the best of his final films, "The Hanging Tree" (1959) had Cooper as a frontier doctor attempting to be the moral anchor of a bawdy, troubled mining town and live down a dark past. His last two films, nautical mystery "The Wreck of the Mary Dearer" (1959) and psychological thriller "The Naked Edge" (1961), both showed a diminished, ill-looking Cooper, the result of cancer diagnosed in 1960, but kept from the public. One of his good friends, Jimmy Stewart, knew of Cooper's medical state when he emotionally accepted a special lifetime Oscar in spring 1961, Cooper spending his final days in his and Ricky's home in L.A.'s Holm by Hills neighborhood, until his death on May 14, 1961. He and Sidney Poitier share the distinction of being the only actors to have five films in the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies" list, with "Pride of the Yankees" at No. 22, "High Noon" at 27, "D " at 49, "York" at 57 and "Deeds" at 83.


Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

 The Naked Edge (1961) George Radcliffe
 The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) Gideon Patch
 The Hanging Tree (1959) Dr. Joseph "Doc" Frail
 They Came to Cordura (1959) Major Thomas Thorn
 Ten North Frederick (1958) Joseph B. Chapin
 Man of the West (1958) Link Jones, also known as Link Tobin
 Love in the Afternoon (1957) Frank Flannagan
 Friendly Persuasion (1956) Jess Birdwell

Milestones close milestones

Born in and spent early childhood living in Montana
Moved to England with his mother and older brother
Returned to the USA
During the summers while in college, worked as a guide in Yellowstone National Park
Submitted many delightful cartoons and caricatures to the Helena (Montana) INDEPENDENT
Joined his parents in Los Angeles, hoping to interest local newspapers in his artistic abilities
Worked as stunt rider and extra in Westerns before making acting debut
Screen acting debut in "The Thundering Herd"
First came to attention as second lead in "The Winning of Barbara Worth"
Had walk-on as a reporter in "It", starring Clara Bow; first of four films in which both Bow and Cooper acted
Had first starring role in the silent "Arizona Bound" (locations shot in Bryce Canyon, Utah); did his own stunt work
Played a key role in William Wellman's "Wings", having one scene ("When your time comes, you're going to get it") before dying; audiences remembered him, and fan mail poured in
Reteamed with Wellman for second "flyboy" movie, "Legion of the Condemned"; first film with Fay Wray
First feature film with speaking part, "The Shopworn Angel"
Portrayed sardonic, independent soldier, too taciturn to spell out his love for Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg's "Morocco"
Starred opposite Claudette Colbert in "His Woman"
Essayed his first Hemingway character (Frederick Henry) opposite Helen Hayes in Frank Borzage's "A Farewell to Arms"
Played the White Knight in "Alice in Wonderland"
Fifth and last performance opposite Fay Wray in "One Sunday Afternoon"
Made stage debut at NYC's Paramount Theatre in skit directed by Ernst Lubitsch
First of seven features with director Henry Hathaway, "Now and Forever", co-starring Shirley Temple and Carole Lombard; association with Hathaway actually went back to several films directed by Victor Fleming on which Hathaway assisted
Reunited with Dietrich and Borzage for "Desire"
Received first of five Academy Award nominations as Best Actor for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", directed by Frank Capra and co-starring Jean Arthur
Starred opposite Arthur in "The Plainsman", the first of four films with director Cecil B. DeMille
Reteamed with Colbert for "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife"
US Treasury Department reported that Cooper was the nation's top wage earner at $482,819
Turned down the leading role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent" (Joel McCrea undertook the part)
Starred in William Wyler's "The Westerner", one of seven Cooper films in which Walter Brennan played a supporting role
Reunited with Capra for "Meet John Doe", starring opposite Barbara Stanwyck
Earned first Best Actor Oscar for Howard Hawks' "Sergeant York", the biopic of the WWI hero
Portrayed baseball great Lou Gehrig in "The Pride of the Yankees"; nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor
Second time as Hemingway hero (Robert Jordan) in Sam Wood's "For Whom the Bell Tolls", opposite Ingrid Bergman; received fourth Best Actor Oscar nomination
Formed production company Cinema Artists for making of "Along Came Jones"; also producer
Romanced Bergman a second time in Wood's "Saratoga Trunk"
Offered credible turn as a nuclear scientist caught up in espionage in Fritz Lang's "Cloak and Dagger"
Played opposite Paulette Goddard in "Unconquered", the last of his over 50 films for Paramount; also marked final collaboration with DeMille
Testified as a "friendly witness" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), investing Communism in Hollywood
His undaunted naturalism contributed strongly to the success of King Vidor's "The Fountainhead", co-starring Patricia Neal; Ayn Rand scripted from her 1943 best-selling novel
Reteamed with Neal for "Bright Leaf"; only film with Lauren Bacall
Collected second Best Actor Oscar for his dignified, lone sheriff in "High Noon", a suspense Western revolving around the sheriff's crisis of conscience; written by Carl Foreman, it also operated as an allegory for the writer's difficulties with HUAC (he was an uncooperative witness) that led to his blacklisting; Cooper took a cut in salary for a percentage of the profits, marking the beginning of big star participation in movie-making; produced by Stanley Kramer
Reteamed with Stanwyck for offbeat "Blowing Wild"
Last of seven films directed by Henry Hathaway, "Garden of Evil", co-starring Susan Hayward and Richard Widmark
Suffered for his foresight as the title character of Otto Preminger's "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell"
Made TV debut as guest on "The Steve Allen Show"
Played a Quaker drawn reluctantly into Civil War in Wyler's "Friendly Persuasion"
"Told" his memoirs to SATURDAY EVENING POST writer George Scullins, and they appeared in eight installments, entitled "Well, It Was This Way"
Romanced younger woman Audrey Hepburn in sparkling comedy "Love in the Afternoon", director Billy Wilder's first film co-written with I.A.L. Diamond
Formed Baroda Productions; first film "The Hanging Tree" (1959)
Converted to Roman Catholicism, the religion of his wife and daughter
Underwent treatment for an ulcer and had minor facial surgery
Acted in four films, including "The Wreck of the Mary Deare", directed by Michael Anderson
Had two major abdominal operations for stomach cancer
Narrated and appeared in the excellent documentary "The Real West", produced as part of NBC-TV's "Project 20" series; aired on March 26
Presented with honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement on April 17; accepted by longtime friend Jimmy Stewart because Cooper was too ill to attend
Last film, "The Naked Edge" (for Baroda), helmed by Michael Anderson; released posthumously
A nationwide televison popularity poll conducted by VARIETY still included Cooper and Clark Gable, though both had departed the scene nearly a decade before


Wesleyan College: Bozeman , Montana -
Dunstable School: -
Grinnell College: Grinnell , Iowa - 1921 - 1923


"You're positive he's going to ruin your picture. I froze in my tracks the first time I directed him ("The Pride of the Yankees"). I thought something was wrong with him, and I saw a milion-dollar production go glimmering. I was amazed at the results on the screen. What I thought was underplaying turned out to be just the right approach. On the screen, he's perfect, yet on the set you'd swear it's the worst job of acting in the history of motion pictures." --Sam Wood (who directed Cooper four times) from "The Complete Films of Gary Cooper" by Homer Dickens (Citadel 1991)

"I knew it was a natural for me. My dad used to sit me on his knee and tell me stories about the sheriffs he dealt with in his days on the Montana Supreme Court bench, and all those episodes of the bygone years suddenly came back to me in full blossom right out of "High Noon" ... The sheriff I was asked to play was different than any I'd ever known or heard about because Sheriff Kane had to stand alone, literally, against the lawless. It was a challenging role--and I loved it." --Gary Cooper (reprinted in "The Motion Picture Guide", Volume IV)

Companions close complete companion listing

Clara Bow. Actor. Appeared together in "It" (1927) and three other movies; had relationship in the late 1920s.
Anderson Lawler. Actor. Contract player with Paramount; lived together in 1929.
Lupe Velez. Actor. Co-starred with Cooper in "Wolf Song" (1929) and shared a Laurel Canyon hideaway with him; his mother disapproved and came between the pair.
Evelyn Brent. Actor. Cooper's mother said, "Evelyn has been good to Gary; she has given him poise, she has taught him to think; her influence has been excellent, and I will always regard her with affection and gratitude"; the pair worked together on "Beau Sabreur" (1926) and "Paramount on Parade" (1930).
Countess Dorothy di Frasso. American-born daughter of multi-millionaire Bertrand L Taylor.
Veronica Balfe. Actor, socialite. Born c. 1912 introduced to society in 1931; met Cooper when she was a teenager living at the home of Cedric Gibbons and Dolores Del Rio; married on December 15, 1933; separated briefly in 1951; reconciled and remained together until his death in 1961; acted in only two films ("King Kong" and "Blood Money", both 1933); died on February 18, 2000.
Marlene Dietrich. Actor. Met during filming of "Morocco" (1930); Cooper's wife served Dietrich with a writ during divorce proceedings; writ later dropped.
Patricia Neal. Actor. Appeared in three films together in 1949-50, including "The Fountainhead"; had affair which led to Cooper's separation from his wife; relationship ended c. 1951.

Family close complete family listing

Charles Henry Cooper. Lawyer, rancher, judge. British-born; moved to the USA at age 19; settled in Montana; practiced law and eventually served on the Montana State Supreme Court; purchased the Seven-Bar-Nine ranch c. 1906; died in 1946.
Alice Cooper. British; returned to England with her two sons in 1910, purportedly for health reasons; returned to the USA after seven years during WWI; survived him.
Arthur Cooper. Born in 1895; survived him.
Maria Veronica Balfe Cooper. Author. Married to composer Byron Janis c. 1966 and from whom she separated in 1996.

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Complete Films of Gary Cooper" Citadel Press
"Coop: The Life and Legend of Gary Cooper"
"Gary Cooper: An Intimate Biography"
"The Last Hero: A Biography of Gary Cooper"
"Gary Cooper: American Hero" William Morrow
"Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers" Harry N. Abrams Inc.

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