Jeanne Cooper: An Appreciation

 

Jeanne Cooper

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

This week daytime television lost a great icon and a great lady:  Jeanne Cooper, who played Mrs. Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless for more than forty years, passed away on Tuesday at 84.

There was no character like Mrs. Chancellor.  She was brought on six months into the show’s run in 1973 to be the spoiler in the romance of the nubile Jill Foster and the handsome older man, Phillip. Good news for fans, but bad news for the lovers: Mrs. Chancellor was a formidable woman who didn’t want to let her husband go.

Tough as she was, in the capable hands of an outstanding actress like Ms. Cooper, Mrs. Chancellor was no ogre. We were shown all sides to this very flawed human being.  She always wanted to take a drink, and Ms. Cooper made you understand that unquenchable thirst. She never wanted to be left alone, and Ms. Cooper made you understand that awful loneliness, too.   She wanted to be loved by all who were closed to her: husband Phillip, son Brock (who called her “Duchess)” and best friend Nikki, to whom she always acted the role of loving mother.

But woe to those who drew her scorn!  Enemies Katherine and Jill became legendary for their constant fighting.  Ms. Cooper was good in scenes with Brenda Dickson who originated the role of Jill, but absolutely great with Jess Walton, who became a legend unto herself as the equally tempestuous and vulnerable Jill.

Jeanne Cooper’s great achievement in soap acting was to keep the character interesting and challenging for four decades. From first broadcast to last in every scene in which she appeared, Katherine was the one we watched.  She definitely was one of the most understandably human characters in the history of daytime.

Off screen, Ms. Cooper was constantly human, too.  In her autobiography Not Young, Still Restless (It Books) published last year, she admitted her own tendencies to alcoholism and detailed her many affairs.  Yet, she wrote most convincingly that her best and most cherished role was mother — she had three children (including L.A. Law’s Corbin Bernsen) and six grandchildren.

Jeanne Cooper and Mrs. Chancellor will be much missed.  The Young and the Restless has planned a special episode in their honor for May 28.  We wouldn’t miss it.

Comments

  1. tess says:

    Lovely tribute to the great Jeanne Cooper. Her early story on YOUNG AND RESTLESS triggered memories of the old Susan Hayward movie, BACKSTREET. In the narrative, John Gavin played a man married to Vera Miles, a dipsomaniac. The marriage was troubled and he fell in love with Rae, a fashion designer portrayed by Susan Hayward. He finally divorced his drunken wife with every intention of marrying Rae. His wife picked him up at the airport and drove them both to their deaths ala YOUNG AND RESTLESS Kay and Philip only Kay didn’t die.

    I truly believe that the Jill/Kay story put Y&R on the map. The audience was polarized by the Jill/Kay feud. Some viewers actually rooted for Jill. They felt she deserved the Chancellor fortune and estate, that it was what Philp wanted. I certainly didn’t agree. I totally agreed with Kay that Jill was a harlot, who used her youth and beauty to steal an older woman’s husband.

    I HATED it when the writers decided that Kay and Jill were mother and daughter and then changed their minds about that.

    Jeanne Cooper provided this viewer with lots of soapy pleasure and I appreciated it and she will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Jeanne.

  2. Daniel says:

    I have never been a regular Y&R viewer, but whenever I caught it, Katherine was the character I always noticed and remembered. I am familiar with the Kay/Jill storyline, and it makes me happy to know that they were, in some respects, a soap super couple that people will always hold in high esteem. It saddens me whenever we lose someone from her generation, a true star, that don’t seem to exist all that much anymore., and I will definitely be watching the tribute episode.

  3. Lucy says:

    I am sure that Jill Farren Phelps — the show killing bitch — will ruin the May 28 send off to Jeanne Cooper. She will bring that bloated Steve Burton to say how much he loved her during his one month in Genoa City. This bitch — JILL FARREN PHELPS has to be fired! Or she will show us how much Michael Muhney has tweeted how much he misses Jeanne Cooper.

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