Lon Chaney and Lupe Velez in a still from “Where East Is East,” listed on EBay with bids starting at $35.
For my money, Lupe Velez has it all over Garbo—she was just as beautiful, and not only a great dramatic and comedic actress, but she could sing and dance like nobody’s business. Sadly, after a great start out of the gate, Lupe found herself typed as “the sexy funny-accent girl,” like Carmen Miranda, Lyda Roberti, the Gabors, Fifi D’Orsay, and today’s Sofia Vergara. We all know of her sad ending: unmarried, pregnant and Catholic, she killed herself in 1944, aged 38 (and no, she did not drown in her toilet—gawd, Kenneth Anger has a lot to answer for).
Here she is burning up the stage in a number from the very pre-Code The Half-Naked Truth (1932), the film that really made her name as a comedienne:
Five years later, here she is clowning around with Robert Woolsey in the utterly charming little 1937 B-comedy High Flyers (Woolsey’s last film; he died the following year):