Internationally renowned actress Jeanne Cooper, who played the vibrant and tough grand dame with a heart of gold, Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless, died on May 8, 2013, after a brief illness.
She was born Wilma Jeanne Cooper in Taft, California, on October 25, 1928, of English, Irish and Cherokee Indian descent, something was extremely proud of, to Albert Troy Cooper and Sildeth Evelyn Moore. After graduating high school in the rural oil-field town, she attended the College of the Pacific and performed in the Civic Light Opera Company and Revue Theatre in Stockton, California before graduating from the famed Pasadena Playhouse School in Pasadena, California.
Her professional career began with the film The Redhead from Wyoming with Maureen O’Hara in 1953, followed by many classics such as The Man from the Alamo with Glenn Ford, There Was a Crooked Man with Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda, The Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda and George Kennedy, Tony Rome with Frank Sinatra and Jill St. John, The All-American Boy with Jon Voight, The Glory Guys with James Caan, Kansas City Bomber with Raquel Welch and Let No Man Write My Epitaph with Shelley Winters. More recently, Cooper starred in the feature films Carpool Guy, directed and starring her son, Corbin Bernsen, as well as Three Day Test and Over the Hedge, also produced by Bernsen’s film company, Public Filmworks.
Additionally, Cooper became a recognizable name by starring in many early television shows such as Playhouse 90, The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, The Untouchables, The Virginian, Maverick, Bracken’s World, Ben Casey, Bonanza, The Big Valley and many others.
Cooper’s most notable stage credits include starring roles in On the Town, The Miracle Worker, Plain and Fancy, and the touring production of Plaza Suite. She also starred in the critically acclaimed Love Letters at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills.
In 1974 she joined the William J. and Lee Phillip Bell daytime drama The Young and the Restless, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary on CBS, in the iconic role of Katherine Chancellor. Cooper was the longest-running cast member on the series. In 1984, footage of Cooper’s real-life facelift was televised on The Young and the Restless as her character underwent the surgery at the same time. Additionally, she made public, through Y&R, her struggle with alcoholism. She liked to say that she was the first reality show on television.
During her 40 seasons with Y&R, Cooper garnered 10 Daytime Entertainment Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, winning in this category in 2008, and one Daytime Entertainment Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Additionally, she received the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award in May of 2004.
In 1962 she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for her role on Ben Casey. In 1987 she was nominated, again, for her recurring role on L.A. Law, playing the mother to her real-life son, Corbin Bernsen, in the category of Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series. Bernsen subsequently joined his mother on The Young and the Restless making several guest appearances as the priest Father Todd.
Additionally, in 1989 Cooper received a Soap Opera Digest Award and the Soap Opera Digest’s Editor’s Award for her portrayal of Katherine Chancellor on Y&R. She was awarded two First American in the Arts Awards as Lead Actress in a Drama Series and in 2009 was the recipient of the coveted AMEE Award from the AFTRA Foundation. Cooper received her star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993.
In 2012, Cooper published her memoir, Not Young, Still Restless, which she wrote with her dear friend Lindsay Harrison, which was a New York Times best-seller.
Cooper has been the spokesperson for No2Debt.com, a company that helps people reclaim their lives by getting out from under the burden of debt. She also is extremely proud of Spring Board Center in Midland, Texas, a facility for drug and alcohol addiction that she co-founded.
Cooper was pre-deceased by her parents and brother, Jack Cooper. She is survived by her three children, Corbin, Collin and Caren, eight grandchildren, as well as her sister, Evelyn Rader, and her beloved animals, Bishop, Daisy and Crackerjack. Services are pending.
CBS says The Young and the Restless will broadcast a tribute to Jeanne Cooper, the veteran star of the daytime drama who died earlier this week. It is scheduled to air May 28.
The network says cast members, friends and family of the actress will gather next week to tape a celebration of her life. Interviews with Cooper from the show's recent 40th anniversary and clips of her years on the show will also be included.
Cooper joined the soap six months after its March 1973 debut, staking claim to the title of its longest-tenured cast member.
The role earned her 11 Daytime Emmy nominations and a trophy for best actress in a drama series in 2008.
More about her life and work is available at: