Lupe Vélez was a Mexican film actress. Vélez began her career in Mexico as a dancer, before moving to the U.S. where she worked in vaudeville. She was seen by Fanny Brice who promoted her, and Vélez soon entered films, making her first appearance in 1924. By the end of the decade she had progressed to leading roles. With the advent of talking pictures Vélez acted in comedies, but she became disappointed with her film career, and moved to New York where she worked in Broadway productions.
Returning to Hollywood in 1939, she made a series of comedies. She also made some films in Mexico. Vélez’s personal life was often difficult; a five year marriage to Johnny Weissmuller and a series of romances, were highly publicized. Vélez committed suicide in 1944. She is often associated with the nicknames “The Mexican Spitfire” and “The Hot Pepper”.
Vélez was born María Guadalupe Villalobos Vélez in the city of San Luis Potosí in Mexico, the daughter of an army officer and his wife, an opera singer, both from prominent families in the state of San Luis Potosí. Because at that time becoming an artist and coming from a well-to-do family was seen as embarrassing, her father refused to let her use his last name in theater, so she used her mother’s surname. Lupe was educated at a convent school in Texas. From an early age, she had a strong temper and an explosive personality. She took dancing lessons and in 1924, made her performing debut at the Teatro Principal in Mexico City. In 1923 she moved to Texas, where she began dancing in vaudeville shows and finding work as a sales assistant. She moved to California, where she met the comedienne Fanny Brice, who promoted her career as a dancer. In 1924 she was first cast in movies by Hal Roach.
Vélez’s first feature-length film was The Gaucho starring Douglas Fairbanks. The next year, she was named one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars, the young starlets deemed to be most promising for movie stardom. Most of her early films cast her in exotic or ethnic roles .