MANILA, Philippines – Movie actress Shirley Gorospe died in Los Angeles on Monday, after a valiant battle with brain cancer.
She just turned 73 last July 8, according to Digna Santiago, scion of Premiere Productions—one of the country’s big four studios, along with LVN, Sampaguita and Lebran in the 1950s.
Gorospe and late husband Zaldy Zshornack were the top screen tandem of Premiere Productions in the 1950s and 1960s.
A beauty titlist (Miss Philippines-California 1956), Gorospe, or Shirley Endoso in real life, was born to an Ilocano father and a Portuguese mother, in Hawaii.
It was Santiago’s brother filmmaker Cirio Santiago who convinced Gorospe, then based in Los Angeles, to join the movies.
She made her screen debut in “Sweethearts,” directed by National Artist for Film Gerry de Leon in 1957.
“She once told me that she felt lucky that she was directed by the great Gerry de Leon in films,” Santiago recalled. “Since she barely spoke Filipino, she was often cast as a balikbayan.”
De Leon also directed Gorospe’s most popular movie “Shirley, My Darling” in 1958.
She acted opposite action king and National Artist Fernando Poe Jr. in films like “Pitong Gatang” and “Tipin.”
Movie queen Susan Roces, widow of Poe, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Shirley was soft-spoken, caring and loving. I miss her already.”
Marichu Maceda, scion of rival studio Sampaguita, agreed: “She had a lot of class and was very glamorous.”
Santiago, who was only a teener when she met the actress in the 1950s, described the young Gorospe as a “statuesque, beautiful lady who danced well and was a fashion plate like contemporary Celia Rodriguez who sometimes played her sister in movies.”
Santiago related that Gorospe eloped with Zshornack at the height of their careers in 1958.
The elopement was pulled off with the help of the couple’s friends, Poe and Pancho Magalona who was her partner in the movie “Be My Love.”
“She was very much in love with Zaldy. Every time he spoke, she would look at him lovingly. They even got married twice,” Santiago recalled.
In spite of the ups and downs of married life, they reunited and remained together until his death of diabetes in 2002, said Santiago.
She had two sons with Zshornack, Garizaldy and Geno. A transgender entertainer, Garizaldy later became Christine Endoso Burdick or simply Coco.
“Zaldy and Shirley were both passionate golf players,” Santiago looked back. “Even in her golden years, she remained stylish. She was a gracious host and was always impeccably dressed at parties.”
Santiago said that Gorospe kept mum about her illness, though. “Maybe she didn’t want to bother others with her troubles.”
A close friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Gorospe’s cancer was only discovered after she went to the hospital for a head injury incurred after a fall over a month ago. “The cancer spread quickly.”
Cremation is set soon with a memorial service to follow in the US.