Film: Lupe Velez

LUPE VELEZ (continued)

Velez's brief affair with Douglas Fairbanks accelerated the breakup of his famous union with Mary Pickford. Lupe's other affairs were legendary. Her men included Tom Mix, Clark Gable, Russ Columbo, John Gilbert, Jack Dempsey, Jimmy Durante, and Charlie Chaplin.

Velez's tempestuous liaison with Gary Cooper drove the tall, handsome, slim actor to lose 40 pounds and suffer a nervous breakdown. Their three-year relationship was marked by brawls and rages, yet they would have married, if not for the vehement disapproval of  Cooper's mother. Finally, when Gary was boarding the Twentieth Century train to Chicago, vengeful Lupe arrived, pulled a gun and shot several times at her lover, narrowly missing his head. Cooper dove into the car and Velez quickly stormed out of the station, swearing at her lack of marksmanship and escaping arrest.

On July 24, 1934, Lupe married handsome Olympic champion and Tarzan star Johnny Weismuller. Their union was ferocious, and famed for its public scenes. Johnny was the one who always ended up bruised, bitten, and beaten to a pulp during their five years together.

In 1944, Lupe, now known as "The Mexican Spitfire" due to a popular series of movies incorporating that name in which she starred from 1940 -1942, found herself pregnant by Harald Ramond, a dark, handsome French drifter and bit-part actor. She planned a wedding, and became distraught when he would not marry her. A devout Catholic, Lupe felt having a child out of wedlock would be humilitating, and abortion out of the question. Instead, she decided to kill herself--glamorously, of course.

At her elegant home in Beverly Hills, Casa Felicitas, she filled her 30-foot white bedroom with hundreds of fragrant gardenias and tuberoses. Dozens of lit candles flickered against the mirrored walls and white satin drapes as the gorgeously coiffed and manicured Lupe donned her favorite blue satin pajamas. Swallowing 75 illegal Seconals imported from Mexico and washing them down with brandy, Velez laid on her gigantic bed, framed by a silver, gold, and black rainbow-shaped headboard. There, she fell asleep to face blessed eternity.

During the night, however, her spicy dinner, combined with her final dessert, awoke the beauty.  Violently ill, teetering to the washroom, she slipped on the tiles and plunged head first into her Egyptian Chartreuse Onyx Hush Flush Model DeLuxe Commode, broke her neck and drowned December 14, 1944.

Lupe's funeral in Mexico City attracted over four thousand mourners striving for a closer look at the star. Cemetery monuments were knocked over and several people were injured in an hysterical rush, including her sister Reyna who fainted and was trampled by the crowd. However, little Lupe was at peace.

Some of Lupe Velez's best films include Lady of the Pavements (1929), Hell Harbor (1930), Hot Pepper (1933), Hollywood Party (1934), The Morals of Marcus (1936), La Zandunga (1938), The Girl From Mexico (1939), Mexican Spitfire (1940), Six Lessons From Madame La Zonga (1941), and  Ladies Day (1943).

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Sources :  Lupe Velez and her Lovers  by  Floyd Connor
They Had Faces Then  by John Springer and Jack D. Hamilton
Hollywood Babylon  by Kenneth Anger
Movie Time by Gene Brown
Lupe Velez Websites

Steve Starr is the author of "Picture Perfect" -Deco Photo Frames 1926-1946, published by Rizzoli International Publications. A photographer, designer and artist, he is the owner of  Steve Starr Studios, specializing in original Art Deco photo frames, jewelry, and artifacts, celebrating its 39th Anniversary in 2006. Starr's personal collection of over 950 gorgeous frames is filled with photos of Hollywood's most elegant stars.

Steve Starr's column, STARRLIGHT, about movie stars of the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's appears in various publications including Entertainment Magazine Online, the Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine, and the Windy City Times.

STARRGAZERS-Radiant Digital Photography by Steve Starr is available privately and for events, and at particular locations in Chicago that include the Seneca Hotel's Chestnut Grill, the Cabaret Cocktail Boutique, Cornelia's Restaurant, Katerina's nightclub, the Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club, and the Whitehall Hotel's Fornetto Mei, where Starr will personally photograph you and your friends, print, frame, sign and deliver your picture to you on the premises for just $10. For further information and current schedule, call 773-463-8017.

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