Jeanne Cooper
Cooper in 1964
Wilma Jeanne Cooper

(1928-10-25)October 25, 1928
DiedMay 8, 2013(2013-05-08) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1953–2013
Harry Bernsen, Jr.
(m. 1954; div. 1977)
Children3, including Corbin Bernsen

Wilma Jeanne Cooper (October 25, 1928 – May 8, 2013) was an American actress, best known for her role as Katherine Chancellor on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless (1973–2013). At the time of her death, she had played Katherine for over 40 years, and her name appears on the list of longest-serving soap opera actors in the United States.

Cooper also appeared on numerous episodic television series in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as several film roles. She was the mother of three children, the eldest being actor Corbin Bernsen.[1]

Early life

Jeanne Cooper was born in Taft, California, the youngest of three children of Albert Troy Cooper and his wife, the former Sildeth Evelyn Moore.[2][3] The family lived in Kern County for several years, first in Taft until 1942 and then in Bakersfield. Her mother died on August 21, 1944, the year before Jeanne graduated from Taft Union High School.[4] Her father lived for several more decades, dying on April 11, 1986.[5]


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Film and television work

Cooper began her acting career in the 1950s, performing initially as a supporting player in films with stars like Maureen O'Hara, Glenn Ford, Tony Curtis, and Henry Fonda.[2] Her first film role was as Myra in the 1953 western film, The Redhead from Wyoming. She later appeared in small roles in The Man from the Alamo, Over-Exposed, 5 Steps to Danger, Rock All Night, House of Women, 13 West Street, The Intruder, Black Zoo, The Glory Guys, Tony Rome, The Boston Strangler and Kansas City Bomber.

Cooper was a fixture on episodic television throughout the 1950s and 1960s.[6] In 1956, she was cast as Mrs. Hinton in "The Rabbi Davis Story" of the religious anthology series, Crossroads. That same year, she portrayed Louise Douglas in "Girl Bandit" of Broderick Crawford's syndicated crime drama, Highway Patrol. She also appeared in the Wagon Train episode titled "The Whipping" and as Marie Conover in the 1957 Cheyenne episode titled "Top Hand" starring Clint Walker.

Cooper played Ann Dix in the 1955 episode "I Am Joaquin" of the syndicated western anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the storyline, Ann searches with ultimate success for eight years for the return of her young daughter whom the Mexican bandit Joaquin Murrieta (Cliff Fields) left at a Roman Catholic church after he boarded a ship and stabbed to death the girl's father, Capt. Stephen Dix, played by John Damler.

In 1957, she starred in one of the early episodes of two different western series, NBC's Tales of Wells Fargo starring Dale Robertson, in the role of the woman bandit Belle Starr, and two episodes on ABC’s Maverick; in 1959, she portrayed Duchess in a second Tales of Wells Fargo episode, "Clay Allison". In 1958, she was cast in the episode "Wheel of Fortune" of the NBC western series, Jefferson Drum, starring Jeff Richards as a newspaper publisher. Also in 1958, Cooper appeared as Lucy in the "Sundown at Bitter Creek" episode of the CBS western anthology series, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre. She guest starred as love interest Myra in Wanted Dead or Alive starring Steve McQueen in S2 E14 "Man on Horseback", which aired 12/3/1959.

In 1960, she again played Belle Starr in the "Shadow of Jesse James" episode of the TV series Bronco starring Ty Hardin. Cooper made five guest appearances during the nine-year run of CBS's Perry Mason starring Raymond Burr, beginning with the role of Laura Beaumont in the 1958 episode, "The Case of the Corresponding Corpse." In the final season of the show, she made her fifth and final appearance as defendant Miriam Fielding in the 1966 episode, "The Case of the Vanishing Victim". In 1962, Cooper earned her first Emmy nomination for her performance in Ben Casey. She appeared as a regular on NBC's Bracken's World series about the movie business.[6] She also appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, Ironside, Storefront Lawyers, The Silent Force, Touched by an Angel, Gunsmoke, The Untouchables, among numerous other series.

In 1965, she appeared in the ABC network's Western television series The Big Valley as Elaine Baxter Jason, a mercantile store owner and an old friend of series character Victoria Barkley (Barbara Stanwyck). In another episode she appears as the money-hungry aunt of Heath (Lee Majors). Her husband was portrayed in the episode by John Anderson, who years later became known as MacGyver's grandfather, Harry Jackson.

The Young and the Restless

Cooper is best known for her role as Katherine Chancellor on the daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless. Her character broke ground in the daytime medium; Katherine endured several bouts with alcoholism, ischemic stroke, and the loss of many men in her life (four late husbands, and a child surrendered for adoption).[6]

In 1984, Katherine (and Cooper) also had a facelift on national television (Cooper had pitched the idea of having a live facelift to CBS executives, who agreed to write the facelift into the show). [2][7][8]

For many years, the story of Katherine's bitter rivalry with character Jill Foster Abbott (originally portrayed by Brenda Dickson, and more recently by Jess Walton) was a mainstay of the show. A 2003 storyline suggested Jill was Katherine's daughter born out of wedlock,[9] but further story developments in 2009 cast doubt on that assertion, and the long-bitter enemies were found not to be mother and daughter after all.

Cooper received ten Daytime Emmy nominations, nine for Outstanding Lead Actress and one for Outstanding Supporting Actress, and two Primetime Emmy nominations. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daytime Emmys in 2004.[2] For her contributions to television, Cooper received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. She won the 2008 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. This was her first competitive win; she had first been nominated in 1989.

Cooper's character, Katherine, was thought to have died in a November 2008 episode. It was, however, her look-alike, Marge, who died, and Katherine had experienced memory issues due to the car accident that took Marge's life.

Cooper had to take a medical leave in October 2011 and her part on the soap was temporarily recast with veteran actress Michael Learned. However, the next month, Cooper confirmed she was returning to the set. She returned as part of the show on December 23, 2011. She taped her last scene on the show in March 2013 on the same day as the Young and the Restless 40th anniversary and this scene aired on May 3, 2013, five days before her death.

A tribute episode of The Young and the Restless in honor of Jeanne Cooper, made up of clips, cast memories and interviews, was shown on May 28, 2013, on CBS. Her character, Katherine, died offscreen a few months later after a trip around the world.

Personal life

Cooper married television producer Harry Bernsen, Jr., and they were together for 23 years before divorcing. In her book (released on July 31, 2012), Cooper makes it known that after their divorce, she and her ex-husband very rarely saw each other (only when family functions dictated) and they were not close or even friends before his death on May 31, 2008.

The Bernsens had three children, all of whom are actors: Corbin Bernsen of L.A. Law fame (born September 7, 1954), whose mother Cooper portrayed twice on that series; Collin Bernsen, born March 30, 1958; and Caren Bernsen,[9] born August 17, 1960.


In 2013, shortly after a round of promotion for the Y&R 40th anniversary, Cooper became ill due to an infection. She died on May 8, 2013, in a Los Angeles hospital.[10][11][12] In addition to the infection, Cooper had been a heavy smoker most of her adult life and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her final Y&R scene was taped March 26, 2013 (the exact date of Y&R's 40th anniversary) and aired on May 3, 2013.[13] “Mom passed this morning”, her son, Corbin Bernsen, revealed on Twitter the day of her death. “She was in peace and without fear.”[14]

Awards and nominations



Year Film Role Notes
1953 The Redhead from Wyoming Myra
The Man from the Alamo Kate Lamar
Shadows of Tombstone Marge
1955 The Naked Street Evelyn Shriner Uncredited
1956 The Houston Story Madge
Over-Exposed Renee
Calling Homicide Darlene Adams
Five Steps to Danger Helen Bethke
1957 Rock All Night Mabel
Plunder Road Fran Werner
1958 Screaming Mimi Lola Lake in Photo Uncredited
Unwed Mother Mrs. Horton
1960 Let No Man Write My Epitaph Fran
1962 13 West Street Mrs. Quinn
House of Women Helen Jennings
The Intruder Vi Griffin
Red Nightmare Helen Donavan
1963 Black Zoo Edna Conrad
1965 The Glory Guys Mrs. Rachael McCabe
1967 Tony Rome Lorna Boyd
1968 The Boston Strangler Cloe
1970 There Was a Crooked Man... Prostitute
1972 Kansas City Bomber Trainer Vivien
1973 The All-American Boy Nola Bealer
1977 The San Pedro Bums Mrs. McClory
1991 Lethal Justice Clerk
1992 Frozen Assets Zach Shepard's Mother
1993 Beyond Suspicion Renata
2002 The Tomorrow Man Jeanine
2005 Carpool Guy Mrs. Lunsford
2009 Donna on Demand Virginia Hart
Dead Air Paranoid Caller

Selected television works

Year Title Role Notes
1957-1962 Cheyenne Marie Conover / Mary "Molly" Spenser Episodes: "Top Hand" and "The Quick and the Deadly"
1958-1966 Perry Mason Laura Beaumont / Thelma Hill / Ethel Belan / Mary Browne / Miriam Fielding
1959 Tales of Wells Fargo Duchess Episode: "Clay Allison"
1959 The Twilight Zone Barmaid Miss Smith Episode: "Mr. Denton on Doomsday"
1959 Wanted Dead or Alive Myra Season 2, Episode 14: "Man on Horseback"
1961 The Tall Man Mrs. Elmira Webster Episode: "The Reversed Blade"
1961 Rawhide Mrs. Clara Wilson S3:E16, "Incident on the Road Back"
1962 The Untouchables Fran Cagle Episode: 'The Case Against Eliot Ness' - Season 3, episode #83
Wagon Train Donna Fuller Episode: "The Donna Fuller Story"
Have Gun–Will Travel Edna Hardin Season 6, Episode 16: "The Treasure"
1962-1963 Bonanza Abigal Hinton / Emilia Miller Episodes: "The Good Samaritan" and "She Walks in Beauty"
1963 Stoney Burke Loren Schuyler Episode: "Webb of Fear"
Gunsmoke Lilly Pitts Episode: "The Ex-Con"
Mr. Novak Louise Sargent Episode: "The Boy Without a Country"
1965 The Big Valley Martha Simmons Season 1 Episode 3 / "Boots with My Father's Name"
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Mother Fear a.k.a. Yvonne Episode: "The Children's Day Affair" - Season 2, episode #41
1966 The Big Valley Elaine Jason Season 1 Episode 29 / "Tunnel of Gold"
1966-1967 Daniel Boone Amy Barr / Addie Ogilvie
1969 Death Valley Days Rachel Barrett Season 17, Episode 14: "A Gift" with Valentin de Vargas and Harry Lauter
1973-2013 The Young and the Restless Katherine Chancellor 1973-2013
Marge Cotrooke 1989-1990, 2008-2009
1973 Hawkins Mrs. Hamilton Season 1, Episode 3: "A Life for a Life"
1975 Emergency! Evelyn Fenady 1 episode (Season 5, Episode 5)
1997 The Nanny Herself
2005 The Bold and the Beautiful Katherine Chancellor Guest (October 31, 2005 - November 1, 2005)
2009 Guiding Light Wedding Guest Guest star


  1. ^ "Caren Bernsen: Jeanne Cooper's Daughter". Retrieved November 13, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d "Jeanne Cooper: Biography". TV Guide. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  3. ^ "United States Census, 1930," Wilma J. Cooper in household of Albert T. Cooper, Kern, California; digital image of original enumeration page, ED 6, sheet 5B, line 87; United States Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, Washington. D.C.; National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved via FamilySearch, January 29, 2022.
  4. ^ "Taft Union High School Hall of Fame". Taft Union High School Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on July 30, 2022.
  5. ^ "Albert Troy Cooper (1897-1986)". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "Jeanne Cooper- Biography". Yahoo!. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  7. ^ Jeanne Cooper of 'The Young And The Restless' Talks Controversial On-Air Facelift (VIDEO)
  8. ^ The Reliable Source (May 9, 2013). "R.I.P. Jeanne Cooper, the soap star who was a facelift pioneer". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Raising Cane". Soap Opera Weekly. February 27, 2007. p. 20.
  10. ^ Rice, Lynette (May 8, 2013). "Longtime 'Young & the Restless' star Jeanne Cooper dies at 84". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  11. ^ "'Young and Restless' star Jeanne Cooper dies at 84 - A&E". June 27, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  12. ^ Dzurilla, Christie (May 8, 2013). "Jeanne Cooper of 'Young and the Restless' Dies at 84". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  13. ^ "Jeanne Cooper". May 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  14. ^ June, Daniel (May 9, 2013). "'The Young and the Restless' Star Jeanne Cooper Dies".
  15. ^ a b Jeanne Cooper at