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 LOT 627
Legendary Hollywood Actor and Sportsman Gary Cooper’s Well-Documented “Favorite Belly Gun” Smith & Wesson .38 Military & Police Model of 1905 4th Change Double Action Revolver with Documented 2 Inch Barrel - Serial no. 676948, 38 S&W special cal., 2 inch round bbl., blue finish, walnut grips. Offered here is a Smith & Wesson .38 Military & Police revolver that belonged to famed Hollywood actor and avid sportsman Gary Cooper. During a career that spanned 35 years, Gary Cooper appeared in 84 feature films as the leading man and received an Academy Award for best actor for the films “Sergeant York” and “High Noon.” Often considered Cooper’s greatest performance, “High Noon” was recognized in 2008 by the American Film Institute (AFI) as the second greatest American Western film made of all time. Cooper’s screen persona represented the ideal American hero, the tall, slender quiet man of action who possessed incorruptible integrity. He created the prototype image of the cowboy in such films like “The Virginian” and “High Noon” and continued playing stoic characters in biopics like “Sergeant York” and the “Pride of the Yankees.” Three of his heroic characters (Will Kane, Lou Gehrig and Sergeant York) appeared on the AFI’s list of 100 greatest heroes and villains. In AFI’s list of 25 leading male stars of classic Hollywood, Cooper ranked eleventh. “Thought of Gary
Cooper conjures a great era of the movies when they were part of a national unity that now somehow eludes us,” reflected Cooper’s biographer Larry Swindell. When not on a Hollywood backlot, Cooper spent his free time tinkering with his own firearms collection and partook in Africa safaris in which he was credited with over sixty big game kills, including a rhinoceros, two lions, and various antelopes. His safari experiences in Africa had a profound influence on Cooper and intensified his love of the wilderness. A hunting rifle attributed to Cooper is in this sale (LOT 1552). Cooper died in 1961, a few weeks after receiving an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement.
Several included documents connect this revolver to Gary Cooper. Perhaps the most important document is the October 10, 1977 dated California Department of Justice firearms serial number search requested by the Southampton Police Department. This serial number search confirms Gary Cooper purchased this revolver: “Our records show that Gary Cooper of 11940 Chaparal (sic), Los Angeles, CA; purchased a 38 cal. SW revolver serial 676948 in Beverly Hills, CA on 12-11-40.” The residency listed in the search request was Cooper’s personal residence from 1936 to 1953. In an included clipping from the News Review of Riverhead there is a photo of Cooper’s widow, Veronica Cooper (1913-1981), giving this revolver to Southampton Village Police Chief Don Finlay. The revolver is cited as “’Coop’s’ favorite belly gun” and confirms Cooper’s widow “gave the motion picture star’s favorite gun to Southampton Village Police Chief Don Finlay.” According to Cooper’s widow, “This 38-cailibre Smith & Wesson has a hair trigger and was Coop’s favorite belly gun. He carried it shoved in his belt and used to walk around the streets of Belair half hoping someone would hold him up. ” The handwritten date of March 11, 1976, appears on the clipping. The original photo accompanying the clipping is also included. Additional information is pertained in the handwritten affidavit by Chief Don Finlay. Chief Finlay wrote: “I am the proud owner of Gary Cooper’s gun. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Copper and his wife, “Rocky,” in 1960, when as a young patrolman I drove them (while off duty) to Kennedy (then Idlewild) Airport...In 1962 I was promoted to chief of the department and over the years maintained a friendly and professional relationship with Mrs. Cooper, privileged also to meet their daughter, Maria. In the fall of 1977 Mrs. Cooper presented me with ‘Coop’s’ S&W 38 caliber revolver snub nose, #676948 which is the one he carried for his own protection. He referred to it as his belly gun.” On the back of Chief Finlay’s statement is a signed statement from Cooper’s widow confirming she gave this revolver no. 676948 to Chief Finlay.
No. 676948 is one of 250 or less .38 M&P snub nose revolvers manufactured prior to World War II with the 2 inch barrel, which is correctly stamped with the two-line S&W/caliber marking on the left side. It wears a set of heavily modified S&W medallion checkered Magna grips and a handcrafted wood grip adapter. As explained in Chief Finlay’s statement, Gary Cooper personally worked on the gun “to his own satisfaction, building the grips, altering the grips to his own hand and filing the action to a smooth, responsive, beautifully accurate firearm.” CONDITION: Fine, displaying authentic wear and tear from years of being carried by legendary Hollywood actor Cary Cooper, retaining 80% original blue finish and 70% original case colors with edge and muzzle wear, a patch of oxidation on the inside of the trigger guard, and back strap thinned to brown from years of daily use. The very good grips show similar “working gun” character and have been meticulously modified by Cooper himself to meet his needs with a short stress crack on the rear of the right panel. Mechanically excellent. As Gary Cooper’s “favorite belly gun,” this snub nose .38 Military & Police revolver will make a fine addition to any S&W or Hollywood collection. Provenance: Gary Cooper; Veronica Cooper Converse; Southampton Village Police Chief Don Finlay; Property of a Gentleman. Estimate: 5,000 - 7,500

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