Lupe Vélez – Killing the Urban Myth

Day 220 of Colourisation Project – December 13

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

There is an an urban legend in Hollywood that Mexican born Lupe Vélez, a highly talented and successful actress died with her head in a toilet after committing suicide when she discovered she was pregnant to a new lover who didn’t want to marry her.

This story has gained so much traction since Kenneth Anger asserted it in his 1960s book, Hollywood Babylon, that it is frequently reported as fact; an assertion which is plainly physically impossible.

Lupe Vélez

Photographer Unknown – Lupe Vélez – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

A Huffington Post report on May 24, 2013, reveals how a police photo surfaced nearly 70 years after Vélez’s death, which shows how she was found by police: on the floor, not in the toilet and not on her bed, as was also incorrectly claimed.

The reasons for her suicide have also given rise to gross speculation. One popular belief is that, unable to face the shame of giving birth to a child out of wedlock, Vélez decided to take her own life. Some biographers have suggested that Vélez suffered from bipolar disorder, which, left untreated, ultimately led to her suicide. Whatever the reason, the tragic reality was that a 36-year-old pregnant woman was so overcome with despair that she chose to end her own life.

Unlucky in love, Vélez had stormy affairs with many of her leading men, including John Gilbert, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn and most notably Gary Cooper. Theirs was a volatile and intense relationship and lasted less than two years. In 1933 she married actor and Olympic swimmer, Johnny Weissmuller, (AKA Tarzan). This relationship was also tempestuous and the marriage lasted only five years.

Whatever was behind the pain that led Vélez to swallow 80 Seconal pills on this day, December 13, 1944 will always be a mystery. A suicide note naming Austrian actor, Harald Maresch (whom she had been seeing for less than a year), as the father of her unborn child, gives some hint that the prospect of bearing an illegitimate child on her own was too much to bear and that abortion was not an option for her.

Her suicide note 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 killin’ him.   Lupe.”

More than four-thousand people filed past her casket during her funeral at which ex-husband, Johnny Weissmuller joined actors Arturo de Córdova and Gilbert Roland as pallbearers.

Vélez has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard, in honor of her contributions to the motion picture industry.


“The first time you buy a house you think how pretty it is and sign the check. The second time you look to see if the basement has termites. It’s the same with men.”   –  Lupe Vélez

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Film, Photography, Women, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Lupe Vélez – Killing the Urban Myth

  1. Pingback: Susan Hayward – Brooklyn Bombshell | Random Phoughts

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