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Jeanne Cooper, 'Young and the Restless' matriarch, dead at 84

Story highlights

  • Jeanne Cooper played Katherine Chancellor on "Young and the Restless"
  • Cooper played role for 39 years
  • Actress is mother of actor Corbin Bernsen
  • "She was in peace and without fear," Bernsen tweeted

Jeanne Cooper, who played Katherine Chancellor, the "Dame of Genoa City," on "The Young and the Restless," has died. She was 84.

Her death was confirmed by her son, actor Corbin Bernsen, on his Twitter account.

"Mom passed this morning," Bernsen posted. "She was in peace and without fear."

Cooper had been suffering from an undisclosed illness. The cause of death was not given.

Cooper was already a well-established TV actress when she took the role of Chancellor in 1973. "The Young and the Restless" was struggling in the ratings and its creator, William J. Bell, wanted to spice things up.

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"Jeanne was the matriarch of the show in every sense of the word," said Lauralee Bell, Christine/Cricket on "The Young and the Restless" and William Bell's daughter.

"When you did work you were proud of, you'd hope for approval or a 'good job' from Jeanne as a child would from a parent. When things got too tense, she'd break the tension with her amazing wit. She would teach the younger actors without ever talking down to them. In fact, she would raise them up," said Bell. "She always had my back and my parents (and our whole family) always had hers."

Kate Linder, another member of "The Young and the Restless" cast, said Cooper was her "mentor and an amazing actress and friend." Linder, Esther Valentine on the show, said, "When Jeanne welcomed you into her life, you knew it and it was a fantastic feeling. This is truly the end of an era, not just for fans of 'The Young and the Restless' but for all of the people she touched throughout her long and distinguished career and life."

Cooper's character was colorful from the beginning: a drunk conducting a series of affairs with younger men, as well as one with the best friend of her husband, the wealthy Gary Reynolds.

The character was an immediate hit and Cooper -- who had signed a three-year contract -- stayed on.

Cooper was instrumental in another storyline 10 years later. In the early '80s the actress decided to undergo a face lift, so the show's producers had Chancellor get a face lift as well -- it was performed on-screen.

Chancellor was also part of a famed soap opera feud, in her case with Jill Abbott Fenmore (played since 1987 by Jess Walton). At one point the two believed they were mother and daughter; at another, the relationship warmed when Chancellor had a breast cancer scare. The two later became rivals again.

And Chancellor also found herself victim of many classic soap opera twists: conniving suitors, long-lost relatives, multiple marriages and memory lapses.

Cooper enjoyed all the twists and turns. "I never wanted to be a movie star," she said in an interview, according to Entertainment Weekly. "I always wanted to be an actress, one of the best. And I am."

Cooper also appeared in episodes of "Perry Mason," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "The Twilight Zone."

Cooper married television producer Harry Bernsen Jr. in 1954. The pair divorced in 1977. Cooper is survived by three children, all actors: Corbin, Collin and Caren.

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