Legendary agent Frank Cooper, tied to Sinatra and Eastwood, dies at 99


Legendary Hollywood talent agent Frank Cooper, who discovered Frank Sinatra and who helped develop pioneering TV programs and films, died Jan. 19 at 99 in Encino, Calif.

Trade publication Billboard said in 1943 that Cooper was the “forgotten man” in the complicated deal that freed Sinatra from his contract with the Tommy Dorsey band and gave Sinatra his big boost to superstardom. “Cooper is credited as being the first guy to see big money possibilities in Sinatra and swung his first theater dates which started the amazing success story.”


Cooper launched his own talent agency two years later, and his clients and accomplishments included:

  • representing Joe DiMaggio
  • finding out-of-the-boxing-ring work for boxing champion Joe Louis
  • selling the pioneering but controversial "Strike It Rich" to CBS, creating the first quiz program on radio
  • packaging the first dramatic TV series, "Man Against Crime," starring Ralph Bellamy for CBS
  • helping create "Dirty Harry" and bringing Clint Eastwood to one of his most iconic roles
  • bringing "Man of La Mancha" to Broadway

Cooper was born in Harlem to immigrant parents. His father died when Cooper was 10 and found a job as messenger for Joseph Schenck, a founder of 20th Century Fox. He later went to work as stenographer for CBS founder William Paley. By 19 he was secretary to legendary William Morris Agency founder William Morris. He became an agent himself shortly after and moved to Los Angeles in 1940.

One screenwriter said, "Frank gave me the feeling that not only was I his most valued client, but I was also family; and if he gave that same feeling to the rest of his clients as well, why should I care?"

In later years, Cooper became a donor to organizations such as the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and the Skirball Cultural Center. He was married to his wife, Sylvia, a sculptor and former vice president of the Jewish Federation, for nearly 75 years.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org.

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