Television soap star, Jeanne Cooper, who played Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless, has died at the age of 84.
Cooper’s death followed an unidentified illness from which she faced an “uphill battled” according to tweets by her son, actor Corbin Bernsen. He tweeted on April 12 about his mother’s illness, but later stated that she had been removed from ventilation equipment.
“In a Facebook posting April 17, 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.’” (foxnews.com)
The actress died Wednesday morning, May 8, in her sleep, per a post on Bernsen’s Facebook page, and confirmed by the family to CBS.
Cooper, a California native, joined the cast of The Young and the Restless to live in the fictional town of Genoa City, Wisconsin, in 1973. Playing the character for 40 years, she became one of the longest-serving actors in American soap operas, and became the show’s senior cast member.
As Katherine Chancellor, Cooper earned a trophy for best actress in a drama series in 2008, and 11 Daytime Emmy nominations. In 1993, she received a star on the Hollywood walk of Fame, and in 2004, the star received a lifetime achievement award.
Although Cooper is most widely recognized for her work in the daytime soap opera, she had over 30 film credits to her name, and numerous television roles dating back to the 1950s. She also portrayed the mother of her son Corbin Bernsen’s character twice, on
At times, Cooper thought of leaving daytime television, but thought differently about it when determining what she would do with her life, “God knows it’s claimed a big part of my life,” she said in an interview about Young and the Restless’ 40th anniversary. “What would I do? I’m no good at crocheting. My fingers would bleed.” (foxnews.com)
Katherine Chancellor, Cooper’s character was one of the most controversial personalities on daytime television. Her rivalry with Jill Foster Abbott (Jess Walton) lasted nearly the entire span of Cooper’s career.
In 1984, Cooper’s own facelift was televised as Chancellor’s and was woven into the storyline. Said Cooper of the procedure, “It opened up reconstructive surgery for so many people, youngsters getting things done. 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” (washingtontimes.com)
Chancellor fought alcohol addiction, smoking, suicide attempts, and sexual affairs; she became known as “the matriarch of all soaps”. Critics believed Cooper’s portrayal of the matriarch was responsible for the success of the show.
Cooper’s personal life was not as salacious as the one she played on television; her marriage to Harry Bernsen, Jr., lasted for 30 years and produced three children, Corbin, Collin, and Caren. However, the couple rarely saw each other after the divorce are did not remain friends, seeing each other only at the requisite family functions.
The Young and the Restless (Y&R) originally broadcast in March 1973, with Cooper as part of the original cast. Initially, it was a half-hour program, expanding to hour-long episodes in February 1980, five days per week.
The show has won seven Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series, in part thanks to the work of the matriarch of all soaps, no doubt.
By Dawn Cranfield
Senior Correspondent/Product Specialist