By Charles Winecoff
Updated May 29, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Gary Cooper: American Hero, a biography of the laconic legend whose understated presence graced many a screen classic (Morocco, The Fountainhead, High Noon) clumsily tallies the contradictions of Cooper’s character without bothering to interpret them. An odd mix of closemouthed cowboy (he was Montana-born), English gent (his parents were Brits), mama’s boy, and philanderer, ”Coop” attracted some of his male costars (like Charles Laughton) as well as the female ones (Myers describes affairs with Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Tallulah Bankhead, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, and Patricia Neal). But even the cooperation of Cooper’s daughter, Maria, doesn’t help Meyers get deeply beyond Cooper’s facade. C

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