Her movie monicker was Rosa del Rosario and her real name was Rose Stagner, possibly the first Fil-Am superstar of the country. Her mother was Agustina del Rosario of Bacolor, Pampanga and her father was Frank Stagner of Helena, Montana (United States of America). She was born on December 15, 1919 in Manila—the seventh in a brood of thirteen children.
Ms. Del Rosario entered showbiz at 12 years old when she was given a bit role in the horror flick . This was was in the year 1932. The film starred Alma Bella and Gregorio Fernandez (the father of the late Rudy Fernandez who also became a noted director for LVN productions) and was produced by Malayan Films.
Rosa’s discoverer was Isabel A. Nepomuceno, the wife of Jose Nepomuceno, better known as The Father of Philippines Movies and a producer in his own right.
Big for her age, Rosa was given starring role in Ligaw na Bulaklak opposite matinee idol Rogelio dela Rosa. A sequel—titled Lantang Bulaklak–was produced right after that same year with the same co-star.
The succeeding films had cast Rosa in the lead actress role. These included Ang Mga Ulila, Ang Gulong ng Buhay, Nang Magulo ang Maynila, Ang Mag-inang Mahirap at ang Maynila, Tianak and Sa Tawag ng Diyos. In the last film which was directed by Ramon Estella for Premiere Production, Inc., Rosa played the role of a nobisyada.
For her lead actress role in the first Bakya Mo, Neneng, she was given a talent fee of P35,000.
Aside from the legendary Rogelio de la Rosa, Rosa was also paired in a loveteam with The Great Profile, Leopoldo Salcedo The films they appeared in were Huling Habilin, Santong Diablo, Ilang-Ilang and Gamu-Gamong naging Lawin.
In Zamboanga, Rosa co-starred with Fernando Poe Sr. This was the fame film which was remade starring Fernando Poe, Jr. with reel-and-real wife Susan Roces.
Other notable films of Rosa included the first Ang Maestra where she played the role of a Manila lass who teaches in the province. Rogelio dela Rosa again starred opposite her in his own RDR Productions outfit. Another socially-conscious film was Buenavista, a true-to-life agrarian story about landlords and tenants which was made in 1940 under the land reform program of President Manuel Quezon which aimed to parcel out hacienda lands to be given to the tenants of the hacienda.
When World War II broke out, Rosa was already living with his older brother in the United States. When based in the US, she make Hollywood films, including Anna and the King of Siam which Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne. This was produced by Twentieh Century Fox Productions. Another film was Border Bandits which starred Johnny Mack Brown as a western cowboy who became the love interest of Rosa.
In the year 1950, Rosa appeared as a female guerilla in another Hollywood film, An American Guerilla in the Philippines, with Tyrone Power, Micheline Presle, Robert Barrat as General Douglas MacArthur, Naty Rubi and Cris de Vera as a Japanese soldier, the film was shot here in our country.
When peace returned to the country, Rosa decided to stay here to get involved in more film production projects. These films included Anak ng Panday, Mag-inang Ulila with Manuel Ubaldo as her son, Aklat ng Pag-Ibig, Caprichosa, Rosario Cantada (with co-stars Erlinda Cortes, Lita Rio and Ben Perez), Bagong Sinderela and Bulalakaw.
Also in 1950, she made the film Bulaklak ng Digmaan where she portrayed a nobisyada in an orphanage. Her leading man was Carlos Padilla Sr. who played the role of a heroic soldier who saved the nuns and their wards from invading Japanese soldiers. At film’s end, the nobisyada leaves the convent when he falls in love with the man who helped them against the enemies. Other members of the cast were Rita Rivera, Virgilio Araneta and Jose (Ronquillo) Santiago. The writer was Consuelo P. Osorio who also supervised the film which was directed by Melania Dolorico for Liwayway Pictures, Inc. (a production outfit of the Padilla brothers. Pempe and Carlos.
Rosa is still rememberd as the first Darna, the super heroine komiks creation of Marfs Ravelo. The first Darna co-starred her with Mila Nimfa as Narda, Manuel Ubaldo as Ding and Cristina Aragon portraying snake-woman Valentina. The film was directed by Fernando Poe Sr.
The sequel—Darna at ang Babaeng Lawin—also starred the same cast of the original Darna film. The kontrabida, the hawkwoman was played by Elvira Reyes. The cast also included Ben Rubio and Andres Benitez. The film was directed this time by Carlos Vander Tolosa but was still produced by Fernando Poe, Sr. for his Royal Productions Inc.
Rosa’s last movie was made in 1953. This was May Karapatang Isilang with co-stars Jose Padilla, Jr, Paraluman, Rosita Noble and Ben Perez, a film produced by Deegar Cinema.
Rosa was married to an American, John Samit, and this led to her retirement from showbiz as they settled down in San Francisco, California. She had two daughters—Geraldine and Teresa, who ran a boutique in Daly City. California.
She returned to the country after she divorced John in 1982 to receive the Walang Kupas Award: Isang Parangal Sa Mga Natatanging Bituin ng Pinilikang Tabing, According to a Filipino writer based in the United States, Rosa del Rosario, the Prewar Queen of the Philippine Movies, died in mid-2006.
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