biography

Born Maria Guadalupe Velez de Villalobos near Mexico City on July 18, 1908, the early life of gorgeous Lupe Velez is somewhat of a mystery. Some biographers claim she was the daughter of a prostitute, while others claim that her mother was a singer and her father was an Army officer who was killed during the waning days of the Mexican Revolution. Velez's mother and siblings relocated to Texas in the early 1920s only to soon return to Mexico City, where Velez took a job as a shop girl. And avid student of dance and song, Velez soon made her way onstage in musical shows in her native country. At the age of 18, she left Mexico City for Hollywood in search of a big break into silent films. She was quickly discovered by producer Hal Roach, who recognized her comedic gifts and used her in several comedy shorts starring Charley Chase and Laurel and Hardy. Her breakthrough role came in 1927 when she was cast in a starring role opposite Douglas Fairbanks in the United Artists adventure The Gaucho (1928; with Joan Barclay). Her next film was the drama Stand and Deliver (1928; with Rod La Rocque and Warner Oland). That same year, Velez was selected by the Western Association Of Motion Picture Advertisers as one of its WAMPAS baby stars, along with other actresses such as Lina Basquette, Sue Carol, June Collyer, and Sally Eilers.

Lupe VelezLupe VelezLupe Velez and Johnny Weissmuller

LEFT: Campy behind-the-scenes shot of Lupe Velez from the late 1920s. CENTER: Stylish mid 1930s photo. LEFT: With husband Johnny Weissmuller

During the waning days of the silents, Velez became a star in popular films such as Where East Is East (1929; with Lon Chaney) and Tiger Rose (1929; with Monte Blue and Grant Withers). Her first sound feature, Lady of the Pavements (1929; with William Boyd and Franklin Pangborn), was one of famed silent director D.W. Griffith's last assignments.

Velez's career survived the transition to sound rather nicely, but she often scandalized Hollywood with romantic exploits with her costars, including Gary Cooper and Gilbert Roland. In 1933, she married Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller, but their frequent rifts made headlines and did nothing for Velez's career, which began a slow decline. Her sexually energized pre-Code roles had made her a star, but when the Hays Production Code was enforced in 1934, dramatic roles for Velez vanished, so she returned to comedy in B movies. Possessing a gift for song, Velez also acted on the Broadway stage in several musicals during the early 1930s and again in the late 1930s. By 1939, her marriage to Weissmuller had ended, and her career had few bright spots until she was cast in the RKO comedy The Girl from Mexico (1939; with Leon Errol and Donald Woods). Velez's performance was so stellar and well-received that RKO built a series around the film called Mexican Spitfire, which included eight films.

the films of lupe velez

Hell Harbor (1930)

Lupe Velez

From the United Artists drama Hell Harbor

The Squaw Man (1931)

Warner Baxter and Lupe Velez

With Warner Baxter in the Cecil B. DeMille drama The Squaw Man, released by MGM

Resurrection (1931)

Lupe VelezLupe Velez

Velez as the tragic Katusha in the Universal drama Resurrection

The Half-Naked Truth (1932)

Eugene Pallette, Lupe Velez, and Lee Tracy

With Eugene Pallette and Lee Tracy in the RKO comedy The Half-Naked Truth

Hollywood Party (1934)

Lupe Velez, Oliver Hardy, and Stan Laurel

With Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel in the MGM all-star comedy Hollywood Party

High Flyers (1937)

Bert Wheeler, Paul Harvey, Robert Woolsey, and Lupe Velez

From the RKO comedy High Flyers with Bert Wheeler, Paul Harvey, and Robert Woolsey. This was Wheeler and Woolsey's last team effort, as Robert Woolsey was terminally ill during the filming of this movie

The Girl from Mexico (1939)

Lupe Velez and Leon Errol

With Leon Errol in the RKO comedy The Girl from Mexico, which inspired the Mexican Spitfire series

Mexican Spitfire Out West (1940)

Elizabeth Risdon, Lupe Velez, and Leon Errol

From the RKO comedy Mexican Spitfire Out West with Elizabeth Risdon and Leon Errol. This film is the third in the Mexican Spitfire series

Honolulu Lu (1941)

Bruce Bennett, Lupe Velez, and Forrest TuckerLupe Velez and Leo Carrillo

From the Columbia comedy Honolulu Lu. LEFT: With Bruce Bennett and Forrest Tucker. RIGHT: With Leo Carrillo

Ladies' Day (1943)

Lupe Velez and Eddie Albert

From the RKO comedy Ladies' Day with Eddie Albert

later years

With the release of Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event (1943; with Leon Errol and Hugh Beaumont), the Mexican Spitfire series fizzled. At this point, Velez's career stalled. She made just one more film, Nana (1944) in her native Mexico, but this film failed to revive her flagging career. In the fall of 1944, Velez discovered she was pregnant by aspiring Austrian actor Harald Maresch, who refused to marry her. Despondent over her career and personal situation, Velez committed suicide on December 13, 1944, at the age of 36. She was survived by her mother.

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filmography

FILM
Nana (1944)
Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event (1943) with Leon Errol, Hugh Beaumont, and Walter Reed
Redhead from Manhattan (1943) with Tim Ryan and Gerald Mohr
Ladies' Day (1943) with Eddie Albert, Patsy Kelly, Max Baer, Iris Adrian, and Jerome Cowan
Mexican Spitfire's Elephant (1942) with Leon Errol, Walter Reed, and Lyle Talbot
Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost (1942) with Leon Errol, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Minna Gombell, and Mantan Moreland
Mexican Spitfire at Sea (1942) with Leon Errol, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Zasu Pitts, and Eddie Dunn
Playmates (1941) with John Barrymore, May Robson, Patsy Kelly, Peter Lind Hayes, and Kay Kyser
Honolulu Lu (1941) with Bruce Bennett, Leo Carrillo, Don Beddoe, and Forrest Tucker
Mexican Spitfire's Baby (1941) with Leon Errol, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Zasu Pitts, and Lloyd Corrigan
Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga (1941) with Leon Errol, Helen Parrish, William Frawley, Eddie Quillan, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, and Shemp Howard
Mexican Spitfire Out West (1940) with Leon Errol, Donald Woods, Cecil Kellaway, Eddie Dunn, and Grant Withers
Mexican Spitfire (1940) with Leon Errol, Donald Woods, and Cecil Kellaway
The Girl from Mexico (1939) with Leon Errol, Donald Woods, and Ward Bond
La Zandunga (1938)
Mad About Money (1938) with Ben Lyon, Wallace Ford, and Harry Langdon
High Flyers (1937) with Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Marjorie Lord, Margaret Dumont, and Jack Carson
Gypsy Melody (1936)
The Morals of Marcus (1935)
Hollywood Party (1934) with Jimmy Durante, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Polly Moran, Charles Butterworth, and Eddie Quillan
Laughing Boy (1934) with Ramon Novarro
Strictly Dynamite (1934) with Jimmy Durante, William Gargan, Marian Nixon, Eugene Pallette, Sterling Holloway, Minna Gombell, and Franklin Pangborn
Palooka (1934) with Jimmy Durante, Stuart Erwin, Marjorie Rambeau, Robert Armstrong, Thelma Todd, and Louise Beavers
Mr. Broadway (1933) with Ed Sullivan
Hot Pepper (1933) with Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglen
The Half-Naked Truth (1932) with Lee Tracy, Eugene Pallette, and Franklin Pangborn
Kongo (1932) with Walter Huston, Conrad Nagel, and Virginia Bruce
The Broken Wing (1932) with Leo Carrillo and Melvyn Douglas
Hombres de mi vida (1932) with Gilbert Roland
The Cuban Love Song (1931) with Jimmy Durante and Louise Fazenda
The Squaw Man (1931) with Warner Baxter, Charles Bickford, Roland Young, and Raymond Hatton
Resurrection (1931) with John Boles
East Is West (1930) with Lew Ayres, Edward G. Robinson, Charles Middleton, and Jean Hersholt
The Storm (1930)
Hell Harbor (1930) with Jean Hersholt, John Holland, and Al 'Fuzzy' St. John
Tiger Rose (1929) with Monte Blue, H.B. Warner, Grant Withers, and Slim Summerville
Where East Is East (1929) with Lon Chaney
The Wolf Song (1929) with Gary Cooper and Russ Columbo
Lady of the Pavement (1929) with William Boyd and Franklin Pangborn
Stand and Deliver (1928) with Rod La Rocque and Warner Oland
The Gaucho (1927) with Douglas Fairbanks
Sailors Beware (1927) with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
What Women Did for Me (1927) with Charley Chase

lupe velez film now showing

Watch Lupe Velez in the 1934 United Artists comedy Palooka

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