Lupe Velez the actress was born Maria Guadalupe Velez de Villalobos on July 18, 1908 in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Velez had one brother and two sisters. Velez’s father was an officer in the Army while her mother was an opera singer though other reports have her being a prostitute. Velez’s father passed away during the revolution. In 1921, Velez moved to Texas where she lived in a convent. Later Velez went back to Mexico where she worked in sales. Shortly after, Velez took dance lessons. In 1924, Velez appeared on stage for the first time in “Teatro Principal”.
Three years later, Velez moved to Hollywood in search of an acting career. That same year, Hal Roach a producer gave her parts in the comedy shorts, “What Women Did for Me” and “Sailors Beware” with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Velez’s debut into film was in “The Gaucho” with Douglas Fairbanks where she played the lead. In 1928, Velez was selected as one of thirteen women to be WAMPAS Baby Stars where they celebrate young women who are on the brink of becoming movie stars. That same year, Velez appeared in the romantic drama, “Stand and Deliver”. Velez made her talkie debut in the drama, “Lady of the Pavements” with William Boyd.
Several roles in film ensued such as, “The Wolf Song” (1929) with Gary Cooper, “Where East Is East” (1929) with Lon Chaney, “East Is West” (1930) with Edward G. Robinson, Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Squaw Man” (1932) and the romantic drama, “The Broken Wing” (1932) with Melvyn Douglas. It is reported that Velez began a romantic relationship while working with Cooper. On October 8, 1933, Velez married Olympic gold medalist and actor, Johnny Weissmuller. Ultimately the marriage would last six years. Films continued for Velez including, “Palooka” (1934) with Jimmy Durante, “Hollywood Party ” (1934), “Gypsy Melody” (1936), “Stardust” (1937) and “High Flyers” (1937) with Jack Carson.
In 1939, Velez appeared in the comedy film “The Girl from Mexico” with Leon Errol which lead to the roles, “Mexican Spitfire Out West” (1940), “Mexican Spitfire’s Baby” (1941), “Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost” (1942) and “Mexican Spitfire’s Blessed Event” (1943). Velez’s last acting role was in 1944 when she appeared in the film drama, “Nana” which was shot in Mexico. During this time, Velez began a relationship with actor, Harry Maresch and became pregnant. Velez proposed to the actor but Maresch was married and refused to leave his wife. Velez felt no way out other than to commit suicide. On December 13, 1944, she took an overdose of secobarbital and died. A note was left that 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 killing him, Lupe.” She was 36 years old. Velez is currently buried at Panteon Civil de Dolores in Mexico.