Jeanne Cooper, the veteran star who played grande dame Katherine Chancellor for nearly four decades on The Young and the Restless, has died in her sleep aged 84.
Jeanne Cooper died Wednesday morning in her sleep, her son the actor Corbin Bernsen wrote on Facebook. The family confirmed the death to CBS, according to a network spokeswoman.
The veteran actress was in a Los Angeles-area hospital, according to Corbin Bernsen’s spokesman, Charles Sherman, who said the cause of death was not immediately available.
“One of the last great broads in our business – Jeanne Cooper, Mom – is now stirring up trouble in great beyond,” her family said in a statement.
Jeanne Cooper will be remembered “as a daytime television legend and as a friend who will truly be missed by all of us here at the network,” said Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, adding that the actress brought “indelible charm, class and talent to every episode”.
She joined the daytime serial six months after its March 1973 debut, staking claim to the title of longest-tenured cast member. The role earned her 11 Daytime Emmy nominations and a trophy for best actress in a drama series in 2008.
“God knows it’s claimed a big part of my life,” Jeanne Cooper told The Associated Press in March as CBS’ The Young and the Restless celebrated its milestone 40th anniversary.
As the years passed, Jeanne Cooper brushed aside thoughts of saying goodbye to the show and its fictional Wisconsin town of Genoa City.
“What would I do? I’m no good at crocheting. My fingers would bleed,” she told the AP as she turned 83 in October.
But on April 12 Corbin Bernsen tweeted that his mother faced an “uphill battle” for an undisclosed illness. In subsequent days he wrote of her gradual improvement and said that she’d been taken off breathing equipment.
In a Facebook posting April 17, Corbin Bernsen said his mother cursed several times, “showing me that she’s becoming her old self, not thrilled about the situation, and ready to get out of the hospital and shake up the world”.
On Wednesday Corbin Bernsen wrote that Jeanne Cooper remained a fighter until the end: “She has been a blaze her entire life, that beacon, that boxer I spoke of earlier. She went the full twelve rounds and by unanimous decision… won!”
Jeanne Cooper, born in the California town of Taft in 1928, attended the College of the Pacific and performed in local theater productions before her professional career began with the 1953 film The Redhead from Wyoming starring Maureen O’Hara. Other film credits include 1968’s The Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis and 1967’s Tony Rome with Frank Sinatra.
She had a parallel career in TV, with shows including The Adventures of Kit Carson in 1953 and The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse in 1954 and Bracken’s World in 1969-70.
In a recurring role on L.A. Law, Jeanne Cooper played the mother to Corbin Bernsen’s character, Arnie, and received a 1987 Emmy nomination for best guest actress in a drama. Corbin Bernsen later joined his mother on her series, making several appearances as a priest, Father Todd.
But it was her role on The Young and the Restless that made her a TV star intimately familiar to viewers.
In 1984, Jeanne Cooper’s real-life facelift was televised on the show as her character underwent the surgery at the same time, and had no regrets about it.
“It opened up reconstructive surgery for so many people, youngsters getting things done,” she said.
“To this day, people will come up to me and say, <<Thank you so much for doing that. My mom or I had something done, and not just cosmetic surgery>>. That was an incredible experience in my life.”
The Young and the Restless has topped the daytime serial ratings for more than 24 years, in part because of the continuity provided by Jeanne Cooper and its other long-time stars including Eric Braeden. It held its ground as the genre diminished in popularity and the majority of soaps vanished.
Jeanne Cooper’s 30-year marriage to Harry Bernsen ended in divorce. The couple have three children, Corbin, Caren and Collin, and eight grandchildren.