Lupe Vélez in Mexican Spitfire (1940)
|Born||María Guadalupe Villalobos Vélez
July 18, 1908
San Luis Potosí, Mexico
|Died||December 13, 1944
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Panteón de Dolores, México City|
|Other names||The Mexican Spitfire
The Hot Pepper
|Spouse(s)||Johnny Weissmuller (1933–1939)|
Lupe Vélez (July 18, 1908 – December 13, 1944) was a Mexican film actress. Vélez began her career in Mexico as a dancer in vaudeville, before moving to the U.S. Vélez soon entered films, making her first appearance in 1927 in the film The Gaucho. By the end of the decade she had progressed to leading roles. She worked with film directors like D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Victor Fleming and William Wyler among others. With the arrival of talkies, Vélez's career took a turn towards comedy. Her characterization of the temperamental, explosive, rebellious and irreverent Latina woman gave her enormous popularity. She enjoyed immense popularity among Hispanic audiences and also made some films in Mexico. Some of her most memorable films are Lady of the Pavements (1928), The Wolf Song (1929), Palooka (1933), Laughing Boy (1934), Hollywood Party (1934) and the series of films created especially for her: Mexican Spitfire, in the early 1940's.
Vélez's personal life was often difficult; a five-year marriage to Johnny Weissmuller and a series of romances, were highly publicized. She is often associated with the nicknames "The Mexican Spitfire" and "The Hot Pepper".
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Personality
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Death
- 6 References in popular culture
- 7 Filmography
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Vélez was born María Guadalupe Villalobos Vélez in the city of San Luis Potosí in Mexico, the daughter of a colonel (Jacobo Villalobos Reyes) in the armed forces of the dictator Porfirio Diaz, and his wife (Josefina Vélez Gomez). She had three younger siblings: Mercedes, Josefina and Emigdio. Because of her impulsive and aggressive behavior towards her classmates, when she was 13 years old, her parents sent her to study at Our Lady of the Lake (now Our Lady of the Lake University) in San Antonio, Texas. This was how she learned to speak English.
After her 15th birthday her father went missing in the Mexican Revolution, Vélez left the convent and moved with her family to Mexico City. She attempted to find work to support her family. Vélez went to work in a warehouse as a clerk earning four dollars a week.
In 1924, Aurelio Campos, a young pianist and friend Lupe and her sister Josefina, recommended Lupe with the stage producers Carlos Ortega and Manuel Castro Padilla, who were preparing a season revue at the Regis Theatre. They gave her his first opportunity in the company in March 1925. Initially, she was rejected by other more experienced vedettes because of her youth and rivalized with the popular Mexican tiple Celia Montalvan, with whom she starred in some conflicts in public. In the same year, 1925, arrived from Paris the show Ba-ta-clan, where clad dancers appeared on stage, caused a sensation in the Esperanza Iris Theater. Given this presumption, the entrepeneurs fought back with two parodies: Mexican Ra-Ta-Plan and ¡No lo tapes!, starring by Vélez. Lupe Vélez caused furor for besides singing and dancing with suggestive and provocative pelvis movements, appeared wrapped in rhinestones and feathers, while singing songs full of mischief. Very young, and more famous that her rivals, Lupe (who because of her youth was called La Niña Lupe) soon established herself as one of the main stars of de vaudeville in Mexico. Among her admirers were poets as Jose Gorostiza and Renato Leduc.
A family friend, Frank Woodward, recommended Vélez to actor Richard Bennett (the father of the actresses Joan Bennett and Constance Bennett), who was well known in the American theater. He needed a young woman with the characteristics of Vélez for the stage play The Dove. Vélez came to Los Angeles, but eventually did not get the part.
In California, she met the comedian Fanny Brice, who promoted her career as a dancer and who recommended her to Florence Ziegfeld in New York. When Lupe was about to move to New York for a stage play, she received a call from Harry Rapf, an official of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who offered her a screen test. Hal Roach, producer and director of Pathé Pictures, saw the Vélez tests and hired her a role in the short film Sailors, Beware! with Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel.
After her debut in the short film Sailors, Beware!, Vélez appeared in another short film with Hal Roach What Women Did for Me in 1927. One day that year, a talent scout brought Lupe and her Chihuahua to meet powerful movie star Douglas Fairbanks in order to win a role in his elaborate new film, The Gaucho, which was to be shot in black and white with some sequences in color. At first, Fairbanks thought Lupe too languid for the vivacious part. During the interview, a stagehand "stole" her dog as a prank. When Velez, barely five feet tall, discovered this, she beat the man mercilessly. Impressed, Douglas hired Lupe and gave her a five-year contract at his studio, United Artists.
The next year, she was named one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars. The Hollywood entertainment columnists, christened with nicknames like The Mexican Panther, Miss Hot Tamale or Miss Chile Picante, phrases all about the personality of Vélez on the screen. Most of her early films cast her in exotic or ethnic roles (Latina, Native American, French, Russian, and Asian).
Soon after the release of The Gaucho, Vélez made her second major film, Stand and Deliver (1928), in which she played a Greek peasant girl, for the Cecil B. DeMille division of Pathé Pictures. Her next film, Lady of the Pavements (1929), was directed by D. W. Griffith and would be remembered for her image of the Smoking Dog Café. In the film, Vélez, as the café's chanteuse, sings for the first time a number of now-classic Irving Berlin songs. She later appeared in The Wolf Song (1929), directed by Victor Fleming, opposite Gary Cooper.
Vélez made her first all-talking picture, Tiger Rose in 1929. She also starred in Spanish-language versions of some of her movies produced by the Universal Studios. With the arrival of the talkies, Vélez appeared in a series of Pre-Code movies like Hell Harbor (directed by Henry King), The Storm (directed by William Wyler), and the crime drama East is West with Edward G. Robinson (1930). In 1931 she worked with Cecil B. DeMille in the film Squaw Man. Vélez's notable work was in Resurrection, directed by Edwin Carewe (the previous version was realized by Carewe in 1927 with Dolores del Río). Vélez became increasingly confined to fiery supporting roles, although these characters were sometimes of different ethnicities.
In 1932, Vélez filmed The Cuban Love Song (1931), with Lawrence Tibbett. Next, she filmed Kongo, a second version of West of Zanzibar, with Walter Huston. In the same year, she filmed The Broken Wing.
In 1933, Vélez appeared in The Half-Naked Truth with Lee Tracy, for which she won critical acclaim. In the film, she portrayed "Princess Exotica, a publicity hungry actress. Vélez's, character displayed aggressive sexual behavior and the ability to promote herself, a parody of Vélez's own off-screen abilities.
She starred with Jimmy Durante in Palooka and Strictly Dynamite (both in 1934). That same year, Vélez filmed Laughing Boy with Ramón Novarro. Despite both Vélez and Novarro's popularity, the film was a failure in large part due to casting. Novarro and Vélez were cast as Native Americans - a decision that doomed this film to failure even before it was begun. Her battle with Laurel and Hardy in the film Hollywood Party is another typical enthusiastic Vélez performances.
Broadway, Europe and Mexico
Although Vélez was a popular actress, RKO Pictures did not renew her contract in 1934. Over the next few years, Vélez traveled from studio to studio; she also spent two years in England making films. In England she filmed The Morals of Marcus and Gypsy Melody (1936). It was part of the producer Julius Hagen's ambitious programme of film production. Hagen brought in Vélez, a leading Mexican actress, to give the her films greater international appeal.
Vélez was now nearing 30 and had not become a major star. Disappointed, she left Hollywood for Broadway. The first musical in which Lupe Vélez acted was Hot-Cha! presented at the famous Ziegfeld Theatre between March 8 and June 18, 1932 and had 119 performances. It is the last work that Florence Ziegfeld staged. She died in July of that year. In this musical revue Lupe Vélez sings several songs: Conchita which is accompanied by the choir and twice Say What I Wanna Hear You Say with Jack Whitney and choirs. The second raid of Lupe Velez on Broadway was with Jimmy Durante in the musical revue Strike Me Pink, which was presented at the Majestic Theatre from March 4 to June 10, 1933. The last appearance of Lupe Vélez on Broadway was in 1938 in the musical You Never Know by Cole Porter, which was a failure. During the short season, Vélez had a strong rivalry and real war of egos with Libby Holman, who dealt a blow to leave a "black eye." On February 5, 1938 The Pittsburgh Press breaks the news that You Never Know will be presented at the Nixon Theatre for a week from April 18. Also reports that several stars of film and theater were recommended for the role of Mary, but Lupe Vélez was lucky. Among those considered were Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, Miriam Hopkins, Gloria Swanson, Mary Ellis, Genevieve Tobin, Joan Crawford and June Knight (an entire galaxy of stars of the era).
In 1937, Lupe Velez returned to Hollywood. Take part in the comedy Stardust. She also appeared in the final part of the Wheeler & Woolsey comedy High Flyers (1937) doing impersonations of Simone Simon, Dolores del Rio and Shirley Temple.
In 1939, she snared the lead in a B comedy for RKO Radio Pictures, The Girl from Mexico. She established such a rapport with co-star Leon Errol that RKO made a quick sequel, Mexican Spitfire, which became a very popular series. Vélez perfected her comic character, Carmelita Lindsey, indulging in broken-English malaprops, trouble-making ideas, and sudden fits of temper bursting into torrents of Spanish invective. She occasionally sang in these films, and often displayed a talent for hectic, visual comedy. Vélez enjoyed making these films and can be seen openly breaking up at Leon Errol's comic ad libs.
The Spitfire films rejuvenated Vélez's career, and for the next few years she starred in musical and comedy features for RKO, Universal Pictures, and Columbia Pictures in addition to the Spitfire films. In one of her last films, Columbia's Redhead from Manhattan, she played a dual role: one in her exaggerated comic dialect, and the other in her actual speaking voice.
In 1944, she returned to Mexican films starring in an adaptation of Émile Zola's novel Nana, which was well received. Vélez career in the late thirties suffered from too many exotic, two-dimensional roles designed with Hollywood's cliched ideas of ethnic minorities in mind. In the late thirties the Latin temperament was no longer fashionable. Once these characters and films proved useless to Dolores del Río, she moved back to Mexico in 1943 and to more appropriate roles. Vélez apparently planned a similar move in 1944, but she was overwhelmed by the difficulties of her personal life.
In her career in Hollywood, Vélez consciously chose and groomed her image as Whoopee Lupe. With her proclamation, "I'm not wild. I'm just Lupe". In a church, I am a saint. In a public place, I am a lady. In my own home, I am a devil....My house is where I can do as I please, scream and yell and dance and fall on the floor if I like. I am myself when I am in my home", Vélez developed a public reputation as The Hot Baby of Hollywood, and found herself in roles portraying "half-castes" and exotic characters. In contrast, magazines, newspapers and gossip columnists placed fellow Mexican actress Dolores del Río upon a pedestal, extolling her beauty and character. While Dolores del Rio was refined and educated, Vélez was blunt: she said what came to mind, and did not care how it looked socially. Vélez reportedly had a rivalry with Dolores del Río. Del Río was terrified to meet Vélez in public places because Vélez was known to be biting, aggressive, and openly mocked del Río. Once, at a premiere, both actresses coincided and del Rio accidentally stepped upon Vélez's dress damaging it. Furious, Vélez took off one of her gloves and threw it on the plate of Del Rio yelling: Now you swallow!.
Velez was a prototype for contemporary female stars, (as Madonna), who have proclaimed their pleasure in their body and their sexual liberation — a pro-sex activist before her time, doomed to suffer the rejection of a more puritanical age. Unlike other contemporary female clowns, such as Winnie Lightner or Charlotte Greenwood, Velez did not position herself as a spectacle of "failed femininity," nor did she construct her image as grotesque, graceless and gawky. Rather, she flaunted her sexual attractiveness as central to her comic persona. She was rendered funny because of an excess of sexual energy, not because of a lack of physical attractiveness. Velez emphatically refused to conform to the norms of decorum associated with the Hollywood system. She protested to one interviewer who reported that an unnamed actress had said she was "no lady": "What the hell? How can they tell? To act like everyone else, is that what they call a lady? Then, I am not a lady." In another interview, she contrasted herself with Garbo: "I couldn't be like Garbo. But it would be so dull if we were all Garbos! People like her because she's quiet and so beautiful. They like me because I have pep!."
"Glamour girls" took a beating through her performances, as well. Velez was notorious for standing up at Hollywood parties and launching into vicious parodies of other screen actresses, especially those she regarded as rivals (such as Dolores del Río), or those she felt had "stolen" one of "her men." When she suspected Gary Cooper of having an affair with Marlene Dietrich during the filming of Morocco, she staged an outrageously off-color impersonation of her. About her romance with Cooper, Marlene Dietrich said: "Gary was totally under the control of Lupe". Vélez once said, "If I had the chance, i will take the eyes of Marlene Dietrich".
Vélez stated, "To what do I attribute my success? I think, simply, I'm different. I'm not beautiful, but i have lovely eyes and I know exactly what to do with them. Even though the public thinks I'm a pretty wild girl, I'm really not. I'm just me, Lupe Vélez, a simple and natural Lupe. If I'm happy, I dance and sing and act like a puppy without a care. And if something angers me, I scream, and sob, and I feel a little better. Someone named that "personality". Personality is nothing more than being to other people what you are to yourself. If I tried to look and act like Norma Talmadge, the great dramatic actress, or like gorgeous Corinne Griffith, movie's aristocrat, or like Mary Pickford, sweet and gentle Mary, I would be nothing more than an imitation. That's why I only want to be me, Lupe Vélez".
Vélez had a number of highly publicized affairs. Her first widely publicized love affair was with John Gilbert. She also had affairs with Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Erich Maria Remarque and Errol Flynn.
His relationship with Gary was totally passionate and stormy. On one occasion, she was about to rip an ear in the train station in Los Angeles as he prepared to flee from it and uncontrollable rage. Irrepressible, was also taken to the police when a police patrol spotted Lupe practicing oral sex with Gary on board his car in a park in that city. The torrid affair ended influenced by Cooper's mother. For several biographers, Cooper was the great love of her life. A long love affair with Gary Cooper ended almost tragically - once Lupe slashed him with a knife, which had always been with her, and once shot at his head, catching on the station platform, when Cooper was trying to escape from her to New York. Fortunately, the bullet flew past, and Cooper escaped a nervous disease.
After her relationship with Cooper ended, Vélez married Olympic athlete Johnny Weissmuller (of Tarzan fame) in 1933. The marriage lasted five years; they repeatedly split and reunited several times before divorcing in 1939. Coexistence between Lupe and Johnny was stormy, with constant fights and arguments that pierced the private sector to become the talk of the social media sphere.
Arturo de Córdova
When Velez shot in Mexico the filmLa Zandunga, fell in love with her co-star, Mexican actor Arturo de Córdova. Velez and De Cordova began a torrid romance, although De Cordova was married, and his wife, upon learning of the relationship, refused to divorce him. Velez and De Cordova remained together until the early 40's, and was Velez who opened De Cordova way to work in Hollywood.
In 1944 she met an young Austrian actor named Harald Maresch, who tried to start an acting career in Hollywood. Vélez recommended it to some producers while she fell in love and asked marriage. Harald agreed to marry her, but only for convenience. In September, Velez discovered she was four months pregnant. In December 1944, when it became known that Velez would marry Ramond, Francesca Vitiner, a woman who had been a couple of Maresch, sued him in court for breach of promise. Vélez realized that Maresch was not the inexperienced young man whom she had protected.
Unable to face the shame of giving birth to a child out of wedlock, she decided to take her own life. Her suicide note read:
"To Harald: May God forgive you and forgive me, too; but I prefer to take my life away and our baby's, before I bring him with shame, or killin' him.
The last night of her life she dined with her two best friends, Estelle Taylor and Benita Oakie, the menu was Mexican food in abundant quantities, drank brandy, smoked and spent a good evening. She retired to bed after taking an overdose of sleeping pills, specifically she swallowed 580 Seconal pills. According to newspaper accounts at the time, her body was found by her secretary and companion of ten years, Beulah Kinder, on her bed surrounded by flowers, as she had wished. But in a Huffington Post report on May 24, 2013, the first ever photo of the scene of Lupe's death was published, showing how she was found by police: on the floor, not on her bed.
There is skepticism surrounding whether it was simply the shame of bearing a child out of wedlock that led Vélez to end her life. Throughout her life she showed signs of extreme emotion, mania and depression. Consequently, some biographers have suggested that Vélez suffered from bipolar disorder, which, left untreated, ultimately led to her suicide. Rosa Linda Fregoso writes that Vélez was known for her defiance of contemporary moral convention, and it seems unlikely that she could not have reconciled an "illegitimate child."
Lupe Vélez was buried in the Panteón de Dolores, in the Tacubaya section of Mexico City, in a walled section within the itself walled cemetery, reserved for artists and administered by the Asociación Nacional de Actores of México (National Association of Actors from México) (ANDA).
References in popular culture
- The author Kenneth Anger in his book Hollywood Babylon, published in 1965, gave his version of the night of the Vélez's death. Anger said Velez had been found dead with her head in the toilet, drowned in his own vomit after ingesting the lethal dose of Seconal. For a long time, many people take it as relating this story, with no credible evidence that the check.
- In a poll of Mexican filmgoers, actresses Marquita Rivera and Amalia Aguilar were chosen to star in a Hollywood film based on the life of the actress. However, due to the controversy over Vélez's suicide at that time, the film was never produced.
- Andy Warhol's underground film, Lupe (1965), starring Edie Sedgwick as Vélez, is loosely based on the night of her suicide. The film suggests that Vélez was found with her head in the toilet due to nausea caused by the overdose.
- In the first episode of the sitcom Frasier, "The Good Son", Frasier Crane's producer Roz Doyle tries to improve Frasier's outlook on his life by telling him the story of Lupe Vélez, "last seen with her head in the toilet". Apparently according to Roz, the pills she had taken did not mix well with "the enchilada combo plate she sadly chose as her last meal." When Frasier asks how her story is supposed to make him feel better, Roz responds that sometimes things don't go the way we want them to, but can work out in the end, anyway. She adds, "All she wanted was to be remembered. Will you ever forget that story?".
- She was mentioned in The Simpsons episode titled "Homer's Phobia". Guest star John Waters gave the Simpson family, sans Homer, a driving tour of Springfield's shopping district, where he pointed out the store where reportedly Vélez bought the toilet she drowned in.
- In Robert Stone's novel Children of Light, a troubled actress refers to a suicide-by-drowning scene she has just acted out as "Lupe Vélez takes a dunk."
- She is mentioned in the Michael Chabon novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, as well as the 2000 film Wonder Boys, adapted from the Chabon novel of the same name.
- In 2009 the Mexican film director Martín Caballero made the short film Forever Lupe based on the life of Vélez. Mexican actress Marieli Romo played the role of Vélez in the film.
- The Mexican director Carlos Carrera tries to film the life of Lupe Vélez in a Mexican-American production. Mexican actress Ana de la Reguera was chosen to interpret Velez in the film.
- Revista Somos: Katy Jurado:Estrella de Hollywood orgullosamente mexicana: Latinas en Hollywood. Editorial Televisa S.A de C.V. 1999. p. 86.
- Revista Somos: Katy Jurado:Estrella de Hollywood orgullosamente mexicana. Editorial Televisa S.A de C.V. 1999. p. 19.
- SOMOS (1999), p. 85
- La Historia Detras del Mito: Lupe Vélez part. 1/4 TV Azteca, México
- Myths and Recidivism: The Poets Loves Lupe Vélez
- SOMOS (1999), p. 86
- Ramírez, Gabriel 1986
- In honor of the 22nd Chicago Latino Film Festival, 2006: Lupe Vélez
- Clara Rodriguez, Heroes, Lovers, and Others: The Story of Latinos in Hollywood
- Elizabeth Jameson, Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women's West
- Mexican Silent Cinema: Lupe Vélez on Broadway
- The Scandal of Lupe Vélez
- SOMOS (1999), p. 87
- Corona, Moises (1999). Lupe Vélez: A medio siglo de ausencia. EDAMEX S.A de C.V. p. 10. ISBN 968-409-872-3.
- La Historia Detras del Mito: Lupe Vélez part 2/3 TV Azteca Mexico
- Dietrich, Marlene (1989). Marlene. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1117-3.
-  History on Film: Actors: Gary Cooper
- Revista Vanidades de México: Año 46 no. 12 Marlene Dietrich. Editorial Televisa S.A de C.V. 2006. p. 141. ISSN 1665-7519.
- The Scandal of Lupe Vélez
- Ramírez (1986), p. 35, 63
- Austin, John (1994). Hollywood's Babylon Women. Shapolsky Publicers, Inc. p. 112. ISBN 1-56171-257-4.
- Carolyn Roos Olsen & Marylin Hudson, Hollywood's Man Who Worried for the Stars: The Story of Bö Roos
- Ruíz, Vicki; Sánchez Korrol, Virginia (2006). Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1 1. Indiana University Press. p. 793. ISBN 0-253-34681-9.
- Lupe Velez wanted to die beautiful
- Revista Somos: Katy Jurado:Estrella de Hollywood orgullosamente mexicana. Editorial Televisa S.A de C.V. 1999. p. 87.
- Sochen, June (1999). From Mae to Madonna: Women Entertainers in Twentieth-Century America. University Press of Kentucky. p. 128. ISBN 0-8131-2112-4.
- La Historia Detras del Mito: Lupe Vélez Part 3/4 TV Azteca Mexico
- La Historia Detras del Mito: Lupe Vélez part 4/4 TV Azteca, México
- Austin, John (1993). Hollywood's Greatest Mysteries: All the Scandalous Truth That Hollywood Doesn't Want You to Know. SP Books. p. 187. ISBN 1-56171-258-2.
- El Siglo de Torreón: Deja el mundo la actriz Lupe Vélez
- "Biography for Lupe Velez". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
- King, Susan; "Maker of Smiles"; Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2012; page D3.
- Fregoso, Rosa Linda. (2007) Lupe Velez: Queen of the B's. In Myra Mendible (ed.) From Bananas to Buttocks: The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture. Austin University of Texas Press.
- The Frasier Files: Transcripts – 1.1 The Good Son
-  "Homer's Phobia" in The Simpsons Archive
- Ana de la Reguera will play Lupe Vélez
- Ramírez, Gabriel (1986). Lupe Vélez: La Mexicana que escupía fuego. Cineteca Nacional.
- Floyd, Conner (1993). Lupe Vélez and Her Lovers. Barricade Books. ISBN 978-0-942637-96-0.
- Corona, Moises (1996). Lupe Velez, a medio siglo de ausencia. EDAMEX. ISBN 968-409-872-3.
- E. Fey, Ingrid., Racine, Karen (2000). Strange Pilgrimages: Exile, Travel, and National Identity in Latin America, 1800-1990s: "So Far from God, So Close to Hollywood: Dolores del Río and Lupe Vélez in Hollywood, 1925-1944,". Wilmington, Delaware, Scholarly Resources. ISBN 0-8420-2694-0.
- Agrasánchez Jr., Rogelio (2001). Bellezas del cine mexicano/Beauties of Mexican Cinema. Archivo Fílmico Agrasánchez. ISBN 968-5077-11-8.
- Vogel, Michelle (2012). Lupe Velez : The Life and Career of Hollywood's Mexican Spitfire. McFarland. ISBN 9780786461394.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lupe Velez.|
- Lupe Vélez at the Internet Movie Database
- Lupe Vélez at the Internet Broadway Database
- Lupe Vélez at Find a Grave
- Lupe Vélez at the TCM Movie Database
- Lupe Vélez at AllRovi
- Lupe Vélez at the Cinema of Mexico site of the ITESM (Spanish)
- Did Lupe Vélez Really Drown in the Toilet? at straightdope.com
- The fourth chapter of Tex(t)-Mex: Seductive Hallucination of the "Mexican" in America by William Nericcio, focuses on the life and death of Lupe Vélez and is entitled, Lupe Vélez Regurgitated or Jesus’s Kleenex: Cautionary, Indigestion-inspiring Ruminations on "Mexicans" in "American" Toilets.
- Lupe Vélez as an infant in 1908 (University of Washington, Sayre Collection)