Inez Cooper was an actress whose career was at first propelled by her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr – and crashed not long after for the very same reason. While she does enjoy a glimmer of recognition by having appeared in several low budget westerns, the “Hedy seal” plagued her for the whole duration of her career and made Inez unable to achieve much in terms of artistic validation or commercial success.
Elizabeth Inez Cooper was born on March 23, 1921, in Atlanta, Georgia to Mary Beatres “Molly” McEver and Thomas Scott Cooper. She had an older sister, Juana Althea, born in 1917. She grew up in Georgia, but moved to New York at some point to become a model. She blended nicely with the metropolitan city in the late 1930s.
Inez was living it high in Miami, Florida and New York before she went to Hollywood purely for fun (to make the nightclub rounds). Someone noticed her in a nightclub and directed her to visit Bill Grady’s office. Bill was the MGM talent scout. On her way to the office, in the MGM building, she was seen by the famous director Melvyn LeRoy, who did a screen test on the spot. She was signed to MGM even before she reached Grady’s door. It was suggested her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr got her very easily something many girls would draw blood for.
First, let’s look at the reason Inez had the crazy luck to get signed by a movie studio at at the first glance: her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr. if you make careful comparisons of both women, ti’s clear that Inez bore only a superficial similarity to Hedy (Vivien Leigh looked much more like Hedy than Inez ever did, and yet nobody connects the two actresses). What made her the spitting image of Hedy was the styling – the hair, the make up, everything the studio did to make the two more alike.
Yet, if Inez was smart, she could have known that look alike of major stars never fare well in Hollywood. Not a single look alike had a substantial career. They do manage to get some publicity on the account of their uncanny resemblance to the said star, but ti usually ends there. Examples: Mary Castle (lookalike for Rita Hayworth), and Marjorie Woodworth (lookalike for Jean Harlow).
Her career is a testament to this rule. While she’s not in the league of girls who were never credited and are invisible in most movies they appeared in, she’s never gained any real popularity nor artistic validation via her roles.
Inez did her beginner’s due in a bunch of uncredited roles – but the movie son that list are quite impressive! Among the better knowns are Shadow of the Thin Man, an entry in the charming Thin man series, Du Barry Was a Lady and Girl Crazy, both very good musicals. There were also undistinguished, not really interesting movies many newcomers just have to do. Married Bachelor is a run of the mill comedy romance, Whistling in the Dark, actually a decent mystery movie with Red Skelton, Rio Rita, a Abbott and Costello anti Nazi movie, and Tarzan’s New York Adventure with the legendary Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan. it seems that the MGM top brass wanted a Hedy Lamarr carbon copy in many of their movies, and since the real thing was not available, they went for the second best, Inez!
Her MGM contract expired, and she did not appear on the screen for three years, ending her exile in 1946. While taking a hiatus from Hollywood usually backfires to all expect the very popular, Inez later day career is arguably even better than her 1943 output. No longed signed my the MG,m, the studio that liked to show saccharine, cute movies with little to no doses of reality, she freelanced and definetly had more variety in movie genres and types.
Flight to Nowhere is a very low budget, very bad potboiler which nothing much to recommend it. Luckily, Inez came to what is the absolute peek of her career – leading roles in a two series of western shorts, ‘Neath Canadian Skies and North of the Border. While both movies are forgotten today, they still remain the reason Inez is listed in books and other media related to various B class westerns of the 1930s and 1940s. Her perhaps most famous western outlet came a little while later, in Riding the California Trail, as a foil for the famous Cisco Kid.
Lady Chaser gave her another female lead role, but it’s an uninspired short (little over 50 mins) that did no services to anyone involved. Inez again took a hiatus, returning two years later, in 1949, with The Barkleys of Broadway, the last Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movie. More mature and grimmer that their usual charming, fluffy and light fare, it’s a good “grown up” musical.
When one is a Hedy Lamarr look alike, publicity is plenty and so are the suitors. it’s incredible how many man flocked to her side almost the moment she put her feet down in Los Angeles.
Howard Bruno was the first one. He did not last long, and was replaced by Mark Newman, brother of the eminent director Alfred Newman . They were even engaged for a short while in July 1941. Steve Cornell came next, but mainly as a fun diversion.
Yet, by the end of the year, Inez was deeply in love with Bill Marshall, a well known charmer in the Hollywood circles who once dated the enchanting Helen Gilbert. They were a duet for a couple of months, ending the affair in early 1942. Marshall went on to marry several top actresses, Michele Morgan, Micheline Presle and Ginger Rogers.
In 1942, Inez became one of the long list of conquests of wealthy Huntington Hartford. Like many of his swains, the relationship did not lead to marriage. Not the one to be miffed, Inez started to date John Carroll, a handsome young actor. Inez was also friends with Mickey Rooney and his wife, then unknown Ava Gardner.
By 1943, it was clear to everybody that Inez was nothing more than a glamourised stock actress for MGM, her biggest merit not her acting ability but her looks. Inez became bitter towards the way MGM handled her career, and broke off with the studio not long after. Her interviews during this period show just how disenchanted she was with the whole industry. She was very much elated when Monogram gave her a chance to act in the low budget westerns – while they could not compare in terms of production values with MGM’s extravaganzas, at least she had proper roles that did not involve looking like Hedy Lamarr.
She dated Pete Rugulo in 1950. Inez ended her career in 1951, and married not long after to Fred H. Davison, Los Angeles manager of National Concert & Artists Corp. While I’m not sure this is a valid claim, I believe Inez and Fred had three children born in the 1950s – James Lloyd, born January 1, 1955, Jack W, born on June 1, 1956, and Kathleen D, born on February 17, 1959. They divorced at some point after 1960.
Elizabeth Inez Cooper died on December 1, 1993, in Montgomery, Alabama.