Jeanne Cooper was one of the longest-serving actresses in soap opera history, having played Katherine Chancellor, the flinty doyenne of “The Young and the Restless,” since 1973. She was awarded a Daytime Emmy for Lifetime Achievement in 2004.
Cooper graduated from the College of the Pacific before joining the Pasadena Playhouse. She made her big-screen debut in “The Redhead from Wyoming,” starring opposite Maureen O’Hara. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, Cooper worked steadily in television, guest starring on “Hawaii Five-O” and “The Twilight Zone,” among many others. Though never renowned for her film work, Cooper quietly accrued some impressive credits, starring opposite legends like Frank Sinatra and Henry Fonda.
In 1973, she was cast as Katherine Chancellor on the brand-new daytime soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” Cooper has described her character as “one of the most magnificent women I have ever known, who does what I ask her to do and, occasionally, I do what I thinks she wants me to do.” Over the years, the tenacious matriarch has endured a number of extraordinary ordeals, including kidnapping and faked paralysis, often at the hands of her bitter rival, Jill Foster Abbott. In 1984, Cooper and her fictional counterpart shared at least one remarkable experience: They both got face-lifts. Cooper planned to have surgery, and proposed the idea of incorporating footage of the operation into the show. Later, the bandages were removed on television. “Everybody saw my face the same day I saw my face,” Cooper said.
Her 23-year marriage to Harry Bernsen ended in 1973, but the couple had three children together, including actor Corbin Bernsen. Cooper made several guest appearances on her son’s hit series “L.A. Law,” playing Bernsen’s mother.
Cooper died on May 8, 2013 in Los Angeles. She was 84.