Lupe Velez: The Life and Career of Hollywood’s “Mexican Spitfire” (2012) – By James L. Neibaur

Offbeat, tempestuous, energetic, unpredictable, and immensely talented, actress Lupe Velez was all of these. Her work is perhaps best known today as the girl in the egg-breaking bit with Laurel and Hardy (from the 1934 film Hollywood Party), or perhaps her series as the Mexican Spitfire, Velez is often only noted for her tragic suicide in 1944. With her usual expertise at painstaking detail, Vogel’s heavy research reveals the troubled, vulnerable woman beneath the persona, while correcting long-standing errors and rumors that have unfortunately persisted.

Not merely a biography, this is a book which has everything. Velez’s life, relationships, as well as her personal triumphs and tragedies are all covered in accurate detail. Her career, growth as a performer, settling upon a niche in Hollywood films, and impact on the careers of others is also examined.

What might be most interesting is the reaction to her work and personality. Vogel draws from a myriad of period reviews for the former, and for the latter she sought out interviews performers who had worked with Velez. Actress Marjorie Lord (perhaps best known for playing Danny Thomas’s wife on TV during the 50s and 60s) recalled in a Classic Images piece:

…she was full of energy and her language was something. She was
an exhibitionist ….she went right through you. I liked her, but she
took over. You knew she was there.

Lupe Velez was one of those performers for whom the cliché "bigger than life" is an apt description. Her charismatic presence exploded onto the screen, even in smaller roles. The Laurel and Hardy sequence cited above is a particularly effective example of her versatility, her having to slow down to the pace of the comedy team and offer the subtler reactions conducive to their method helped make this one of the many iconic scenes of the duo’s career.

Vogel’s book concludes with a thoroughly annotated filmography, containing not only complete credit and story information, but often reviews and anecdotes. It is a book in itself.

Finally, this extensive look at Lupe Velez’s life and career is filled with rare photographs, some offered by family members, giving further illustration to the actress’ life.

Michelle Vogel has carved a firm and lofty niche among Hollywood biographers, noted for her thoroughness, accuracy, attention to detail, and readability. Lupe Velez -The Life and Career of Hollywood’s "Mexican Spitfire" may be her best work so far.