Cooper and Hemingway: The True Gen Blu-ray Review

Two American Icons Become Unexpected Friends

Two towering American figures of the 20th Century happened to be close friends despite their differences in personality and temperament. Film legend Gary Cooper and literary icon Ernest Hemingway first met in 1940 and remained friends until their untimely deaths in 1961, within weeks of each other’s passing.

John Mulholland has fashioned a documentary that explores their unique relationship that seemingly shouldn’t have worked. The two completely different men both helped define masculinity for the World War II generation, looking backwards to America’s past.

Cooper And Hemingway: The True Gen is a honest, insightful examination of their friendship. Each man’s professional and personal lives are covered over the time period, reflecting their ups and downs. It’s a rich, rewarding documentary with dozens of key interviews with notable Hollywood and literary figures. For anyone with a passing interest in either man, or movies like A Farewell To Arms, this is a moving documentary that provides a rarely-seen glimpse into these larger-than-life legends.

Interview subjects include everyone from Patrick Hemingway, Ernest’s son, to figures such as Elmore Leonard, George Plimpton, Charlton Heston, Robert Osbourne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal and more. Dozens of Hollywood and literary figures are included in pithy interview clips, from studio executives to surviving friends and family members.

Director John Mulholland does an effective job conveying why the two icons personally meshed

It’s strange how these two opposites with little in common became such fast and close friends. One a liberal, one a conservative. One the most famous American author of the 20th Century, the other one of the most famous actors that ever lived. Director John Mulholland does an effective job conveying why the two icons personally meshed. They were some of the first men to deal with the crush of celebrity status in America as mass media was beginning to get off the ground. There is a wonderful anecdote of Gary Cooper taking advantage of his fame in front of Hemingway to save a little money and riling the great writer up.

The documentary mostly covers the time frame of the friendship, focusing on the key films and novels made by the two men during the period. It’s a revelatory look into Cooper’s up and down film career as his popularity waned after World War II with a string of box office failures, until High Noon brought him back into stardom. Hemingway’s misfortunes during the same period are also examined, including his hot and cold relationship with Hollywood itself.

This is a revealing peek into each man’s personal foibles and the drama that personally followed each one. Cooper, a married man, was a notorious womanizer in Hollywood and his affairs with Hollywood stars like Ingrid Bergman during the filming of For Whom The Bell Tolls are not swept under the rug. Everything, for good or ill, gets the spotlight. The personal stuff is deftly weaved into the larger themes of each man’s career, reflecting back on each other’s accomplishments.

Cooper And Hemingway: The True Gen, first released in 2013, is a thorough and enlightening documentary on two fascinating icons. If you care about either man’s work, this documentary helps fill in the background necessary to appreciate each man’s importance in American culture.


The documentary has been put together with archival clips of varying video quality, still photographs, rare personal videos of Cooper and Hemingway, and a preponderance of the usual talking-head interviews filmed in more recent decades. Sources vary in their true resolution. Some of the film clips look little better than DVD or even VHS.

The documentary itself is presented in 1080P resolution at the standard 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Converting every clip and photo in the documentary to this resolution has introduced a number of artifacts into the video you normally don’t find on Blu-ray but common for most documentaries.

Cooper And Hemingway: The True Gen has solid definition and generally decent clarity. This isn’t HD video that wows with razor-sharp detail or gorgeous colors. It offers a steady, consistent experience that sees some benefit from the enhanced resolution of Blu-ray. Just don’t expect a flawlessly smooth visual experience since much of its footage and clips are from older, unrestored sources.

Released by niche distributor Transmultimedia Entertainment, he documentary runs over two hours at 138 minutes, cleanly encoded in AVC on a BD-50. The special features have been moved to a second BD for breathing room on the encode.


The stereo 2.0 PCM soundtrack is serviceable with adequate separation. The documentary has an excellent instrumental score provided by acclaimed pianist Byron Janis. Each talking-head interview has intelligible dialogue in decent clarity. The stereo mix is fairly rudimentary. Sam Waterston’s narration smoothly rides over the background music. But Len Cariou’s reading of Hemingway’s passages are often mixed too loudly.

No subtitles or closed captions are provided.


Released back in 2015 on DVD, Cooper and Hemingway: The True Gen receives this lavish two-disc Blu-ray set with copious extras new to home video. The 16-page newspaper fold-out that comes inside the extra-wide DVD case has to be seen to be believed. Called the Lively Arts and styled like an old-fashioned newspaper mock-up, it includes reproductions of reviews for Hemingway’s novels and Cooper’s movies among other items. It’s a really neat bonus and something I’ve never come across before on Blu-ray or DVD.

Audio Commentary With Director John Mulholland – This feature-length solo commentary is absolutely packed with information about both men. It does come off as more a lecture than anything else, as Mulholland sounds as if he’s reading prepared lines much of the time. He occasionally references what happens on screen, but his speech is unapologetic about adding information not presented in the documentary. If you want to learn more about Gary Cooper and Hemingway, this is a good place to start. This is dense and informative.

Additional Interview Footage (All in HD) – This is broken up into 28 different people, showing the raw interview footage completely unedited. Everyone from Robert Stark to George Plimpton and Robert Osborne are included, pretty much every single person that provided interview clips has their own section. It totals three hours of additional interview footage. Some of this material didn’t make the documentary but makes for entertaining viewing on its own. Watch the entire Charlton Heston footage. It’s pure gold.

Deleted Scenes – Three brief scenes are included that didn’t make the final cut for whatever reason.

Bill Blass Fashion (02:18 in HD)

Music Montage (01:28 in HD)

Dallas 1950 (00:24 in HD)

Cooper and Hemingway: The True Gen Theatrical Trailer (03:24 in HD)

Production Stills (00:57 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Cooper And Hemingway: The True Gen
  • Video
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A fascinating documentary that examines the close friendship between screen legend Gary Cooper and American author Ernest Hemingway.

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