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Actress and dancer Lupe Velez (1908-1944) hand-feeds her chihuahua, King, backstage during the filming of The Gaucho (1928). Her feeding method was almost certainly a minor publicity stunt, as Lupe was well-famed for her sense of humor, and an agent had brought the press specifically for promotion.

Lupe was known as "the Mexican spitfire," a silent film and early talkie star who played opposite the biggest actors of the day. She'd been doing dance and comedy on the vaudeville circuit when comedienne Fanny Brice noticed her and began to promote her career. She rose rapidly to film star and Broadway stage actor.

Lupe VelezDuring the interview and after this photograph was taken, a stagehand stole King. Lupe tracked down the thief to get her beloved chihuahua back.

Although only five feet tall, she beat the thief with stunning vigor, and by no means was this just for publicity.

Her furious vengeance on the thief so impressing Douglas Fairbanks that he insisted United Artist give her a five-year contract at once. Mary Pickford would break up with Fairbanks over his obsession with Lupe.

Her name became associated with such figures as Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Jimmy Durante and Tom Mix. Her affair with Gary Cooper was so traumatizing to Cooper that he lost thirty pounds and suffered a nervous breakdown after three years of knock-down drag-outs with the tempestuous beauty.

A five-year marriage to Olympic athlete and Tarzan star Johnny Weismuller was likewise frought with Lupe's loopiness. Johnny was frequently bruised and bitten during her public outbursts.

He seems never to have hit her back, but was bad enough if her claim is true and he avenged himself by abusing her chihuahuas. She told a judge, "Jah-nee wanted to keel my leetle dog," likely alluding to one of her later chihuahuas Chips or Chops, which had been gifts from Weismuller. The photo at the left shows Lupe with Chips and Chops in 1934.

A few years after her marriage to Weismuller ended, Lupe began an ill-fated affair with a French actor. She still had Chips, seen in the last photo below.

Lupe assuredly had her good side, having a famously generous disposition in addition to the temper, and she was unquestionably a brilliant comic actress. Like many comedians she was troubled by depression, and it's believed some of her more extreme behavior may have been the result of a bipolar condition.

She died rather young of suicide under sufficiently unusual circumstances to lend permanently to Hollywood legend.

Mary and Les

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