Chabing. The Chan actress who once held General Douglas MacArthur’s heart.

Ever seen the movies The Chinese Ring (1947) or Shanghai Chest (1948)? Both Charlie Chan films staring Actor Roland Winters as Detective Chan? Well, they also features a lesser know bit actress born Isabel Rosario Cooper, who went under the stage name Chabing. She was also know as “Dimples” to one General Douglas MacArthur!

February brings thoughts of Valentine’s Day, flowers and love. However, this story did not have a happy ending. If you’re a bit unfamiliar with military history you can read all about General Douglas MacArthur here. To be sure, he’s a military legend in the history book. However the subject of this post, Isabel (or Dimples) might regard him in a different light. When they met she was around 18 years old and he was 50. And he took her as his girlfriend, concubine, or sex object…the jury’s still out on that.

The life of Isabel R. Cooper was intriguing. Her exact birthdate is undecided, either 1912 or 1914. Her mother Filipino, her father either a Wisconsin Fireman or an American of Scottish decent. As a teen she was a successful performer in popular variety shows, acts featuring hula-hula dance numbers, comedy skits, songs, and repartee, that performed in between the screenings of silent films. 

In 1925, she broke into film with her first movie “Miracles of Love,” a huge success in the Philippines. And the next year she was catapulted to some fame in Tatlong Hamboog (1926), a silent romantic comedy, which featured the first kissing scene in Philippine Cinema.

In 1930, she met General MacArthur at a boxing match in the Philippines. He was on a two-year assignment in the Philippines as U.S. Commander of the entire archipelago. The General was then 50 years old and Cooper either 16 or 18; and he was enamored with her.

Then, that same year President Herbert Hoover, appointed MacArthur as U.S. Army Chief of Staff, promoted to the rank of 5-Star General and reassignment to Washington D.C. By now he and Dimples had been in a public relationship for over six months, and MacArthur promised to send for Dimples…and he did!

While in the Philippines their relationship basically consisted of the busy General’s chauffeured limousine arriving at her home for a few hours. And after Chabing arrived in Washington it consisted of about the same. MacArthur had a domineering mother and a highly public image. A Caucasian-Philippine relationship was at that time considered “mixed” and very much unacceptable. And by now, MacArthur was secretly harboring visions of running for President of the United States!

The romance eventually dwindled and MacArthur wanted to end the relationship. He sent her money for a one-way ticket back to the Philippines. However, she wasn’t leaving! He tried to bully her, however, she had kept his love-letters and threatened to give them to the press. So $15,000 later, MacArthur had his letters and she was heading to Tinseltown…Hollywood, California!

Unfortunately, this was not an era where an Asian female could succeed in the American film industry. The Hay’s Code and California’s anti-miscegenation laws forbid on-screen romantic scenes with Asian females and White male leads. Even the great Anna Mae Wong, was limited.

Still, usually under her stage name Chabing, she acted in some significant films:

  • So Proudly We Hail (1943), with Claudette Colbert and Veronica Lake and George Reeves (yes, Superman.)
  • The Purple Heart (1944), with Dana Andrews and Richard Conte.
  • Ann and The King of Siam (1946) with Irene Dunne, Rex Harrington and Lee J. Cobb.
  • And of course the two Chan films mentioned above. See her entire 15 credits HERE.

Well, time passed and both married others. Dimples career never really took flight and in June of 1940, at her home in Los Angeles, California, she was found dead at the age of 46. Her death was deemed suicide due to ingesting an overdose of barbiturates. She was laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California.

As for General MacArthur, he never did reach his goal of becoming POTUS. While still serving on active duty, he’d carried out a secret campaign to run for President. He was highly popular and though never announcing his candidacy went along with the public and political calls for his nomination. Had he been chosen the Republican candidate nominee, it would have set a dangerous precedent for high-level military intrusion into domestic politics and civilian authority. That story you can find at He died in April 1964 of cirrhosis of the liver and is interned at the rotunda of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial, Norfolk, Virginia.

“The fishes, though deep in the water, may be hooked; the birds, though high in the air, may be shot; but, man’s heart only is out of our reach.

Keeper of The Keys, 1932, Chapter 7

11 thoughts on “Chabing. The Chan actress who once held General Douglas MacArthur’s heart.

  1. Hi Lou,

         Fascinating piece about “Dimples.”  
         I do not share your obviously unfavorable view of the great MacArthur. He was 32 years older than a grown-up woman who could certainly make her own decisions. Incidentally, my third wife was 25 years younger than me, and my last girlfriend was 30 years younger. 
         And the notion that a military leader as president was dangerous is bizarre. Eisenhower may not have been a great president but he certainly wasn’t dangerous, nor was Washington or Grant. 
         Yours, Otto

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Otto, I do agree. Many generals have been exceptional U.S. Presidents in our history. Pardon me if I misled you. However, military leaders commanding troops swear to follow the orders of the president of the U.S. And “if” he’d been chosen the republican nominee, while still serving under a democratic president, that would have been the conflict. But it never happened. BTW, one of my favorite Presidents of all time was Ulysses S. Grant. I especially loved the secret door he had in his office that Agents Jim West and Artemus Gordon used. All the best, Lou


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