Elizabeth Cooper (born Isabel Rosario Cooper; January 15, 1914 – June 29, 1960) was a Filipina film actress, vaudeville dancer, and singer. In addition to her brief movie career, Cooper was also known for being the mistress of General Douglas MacArthur.
Born in Manila, she was infamous for the first on-screen kiss in a Filipino movie, Ang Tatlong Hambog (1926). In 1930, she met US General Douglas MacArthur and became his mistress. He arranged for her to follow him to Washington, D.C.
While serving as Army Chief of Staff in the 1930s, MacArthur filed a libel action against a journalist at The Washington Post, Drew Pearson. When Pearson added Cooper to his list of witnesses to be deposed, MacArthur dropped the suit. MacArthur subsequently paid Cooper $15,000 to leave Washington, the money allegedly delivered by his aide, Dwight Eisenhower. However, she did not return to the Philippines, and after a few failed attempts in Hollywood and a hair dressing shop in the Midwest, committed suicide in 1960.
Elizabeth was born Isabel Rosario Cooper to a Scottish father and Chinese-Filipina mother, who was a haciendera (farm worker) from Vallehermoso, Negros Oriental. She was nicknamed "Dimples". As a teenager she traveled Southeast Asia as a torch singer / entertainer.
Isabel appeared in a few B-grade Filipino films starting in 1925, under the screen name "Chabing". Two of her films were Miracles of Love (1925) and Ang Tatlong Hambog (1926). In the latter film, Cooper made Philippine film history with Luis Tuason when they performed the very first kissing scene in a Philippine film. She was 12 years old at the time.
She did not act in any Filipino films after 1930, although the 1941 Tagalog film Ikaw Pala is sometimes wrongly attributed to her. "Ikaw Pala" had another actress named Cresencia Aligada acting in it in a supporting role; Aligada also went by the screen name "Dimples," hence the mistaken identity.
After her 1934 break-up with MacArthur, Cooper attempted to find roles in Hollywood, but in vain.
Relationship with General MacArthur
In 1930, at the age of 16, Cooper met the American General Douglas MacArthur, then commander of all U.S. troops in the Philippines. MacArthur's marriage had ended a year earlier. Cooper became his mistress in Manila, a fact the 50-year-old MacArthur hid from his 80-year-old mother. In Manila, the teenaged Cooper lived in Paco.
Five months after they first met, MacArthur returned to the United States; while he intended to bring her to Washington, he could not risk scandal by traveling with her, so he bought her a ticket on a ship to arrive after him. She arrived in Washington and ended up ensconced in an apartment in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. MacArthur later moved her to the Chastleton Hotel (now a co-op building). According to one biographer of MacArthur, William Manchester, MacArthur "showered [Cooper] with presents and bought her many lacy tea gowns, but no raincoat. She didn't need one, he told her; her duty lay in bed."
In 1933, when the secret affair threatened to become public, MacArthur brought it to an end, reportedly giving her $15,000 and a ticket back to the Philippines. She did not use the ticket and never returned to the Philippines. In 1934, the 20-year-old Cooper moved to the Midwestern United States, where she owned a hairdressing salon, before moving to Los Angeles several years later.
Cooper tried to find work as an actress in Hollywood; however, the only roles that Cooper could manage were those as an extra, such as a geisha and a Filipina nurse in films such as The King and I and Squaw.
- 1925 Miracles of Love
- 1926 Ang Tatlong Hambog
- 1927 Fate or Consequence
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- Dates cited in California Death Index, accessed 23 May 2011.
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