Cooper in The Duke Is Tops, 1938
January 16, 1908|
Harlem, New York City, U.S.
|Died||August 4, 1992
New York City, U.S.
|Resting place||Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York|
|Education||New York University (attended)|
|Known for||Founder of the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night (1935)|
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth (Betti Mays) Cooper (m. 1945; his death 1992)|
Ralph Cooper (January 16, 1908 – August 4, 1992), was an American actor, screenwriter, dancer and choreographer. Cooper is best known as the original master of ceremonies and founder of amateur night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City in 1935. He wrote, produced, directed and acted in ten motion pictures. Titles include, "The Duke Is Tops," "Dark Manhattan," "Gangsters on the Loose" and "Gang War."
Cooper was born on January 16, 1908 in Harlem, New York City. He worked as a dancer in small downtown clubs near New York University, which he attended with plans of becoming a medical doctor. In July 1935, Cooper started the Apollo's Amateur Night which ran every Wednesday night. In 1937, Cooper formed Million Dollar Productions 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. 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."
Later life and death
The Apollo closed in the mid–1970s, but the contest was restarted in 1985 after the renovations were completed. Cooper was again the master of ceremonies. His son, Ralph Cooper II, took over the show after his father was hospitalized with cancer in late–1986. He died on August 4, 1992 due to cancer. Cooper is interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.
- "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.
- Social Security Death Index
- 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.
- Watkins, Mel (1999). On the Real Side: A History of African American Comedy from Slavery to Chris Rock. Chicago Review Press.
- Balio, Tino (1995). Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939. University of California Press. p. 345. ISBN 9780520203341.