Ralph Cooper (actor)

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Ralph Cooper
Born Ralph Cooper
(1908-01-16)January 16, 1908
New York City, New York, U.S
Died August 4, 1992(1992-08-04) (aged 84)
Harlem, New York, U.S

Ralph Cooper (January 16, 1908 - August 4, 1992), was an American actor, dancer and the originator and master of ceremonies of Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.


He was born on January 16, 1908 in New York City.[1] He worked as a dancer in small downtown clubs near New York University, which he attended for one semester. In 1935 he started the Apollo's Amateur Night which ran every Wednesday night. The Apollo closed in the 1970s, but the contest was restarted in 1985 after the renovations were completed. He was again the master of ceremonies. His son, Ralph Cooper 2nd, took over the show after his father was hospitalized with cancer.[2] He died on August 4, 1992.[3]

In 1937 he formed Million Dollar Productions[4] with black actor George Randol and white producers Harry Popkin and his brother Leo Popkin to produce race films that he often starred in, wrote, produced and directed.[5] Tino Balio has written that, "Million Dollar, more than any other company, moved black filmmaking away from a marginalized form towards the mainstream, advancing considerably its reputation and ability to attract audiences."[6]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Social Security Death Index
  2. ^ "Ralph Cooper, Who Found Stars At Apollo's Amateur Nights, Dies". New York Times. August 6, 1992. Retrieved 2008-07-29. Ralph Cooper, the originator and master of ceremonies of Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, died on Tuesday at his home in Harlem. His age was not known, but his associates at the theater said they believed that he was in his mid to late 80's. He died of cancer, said Percy Sutton, a friend and business associate. 
  3. ^ IMDB uses the incorrect date of 4 April 1992
  4. ^ Bogle, Donald (2001). Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, Fourth Edition. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 109. ISBN 9780826412676. 
  5. ^ Watkins, Mel (1999). On the Real Side: A History of African American Comedy from Slavery to Chris Rock. Chicago Review Press. 
  6. ^ Balio, Tino (1995). Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939. University of California Press. p. 345. ISBN 9780520203341.