California

Actress kills self rather than seek an abortion when the child’s father refuses to marry her

December 14, 1944
Los Angeles, California
Actress Lupe Vélez dies from an intentional overdose of sleeping pills

Vélez was four months pregnant at the time of her suicide. She left behind two suicide notes, one to her former lover and father of her child Harald Ramond, and the to her secretary and close friend Beulah Kinder. The notes expressed Vélez’s concern with the social stigma of being an unwed mother, and placed blame on Ramond for not marrying her.

In addition to the notes, Vélez had spoken with fellow actress Estelle Taylor about her pregnancy in the past. Taylor told reporters, “Lupe told me about the baby, and she said she had plenty of opportunity to rid herself of it. But she added, ‘It’s my baby. I couldn’t commit murder. I would rather kill myself. I am getting to the place where the only thing I’m afraid of is life itself.’”

Raymond, when told of Vélez’s suicide, stated, “I am so confused. I never expected this to happen. The last time I talked to Lupe I told her I was going to marry her any way she wanted. She said then she wasn’t going to have a baby, so we parted.” Raymond also admitted he had asked Vélez to agree that he was only marrying her to “give the baby a name,” but said he had only said it after a quarrel when he was “in a terrible temper.”

Vélez took an overdose of her prescribed sleeping medication and died on her satin sheets, with “her long black hair in disarray across her pillow” and sleeping pills scattered near her body. Her body was found approximately two hours after her death.

The suicide letter to Ramond 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 killing him. How could you, Harald, fake such a great love for me and our baby when all the time you didn’t want us? I see no other way out for me so goodbye and good luck to you, Love Lupe.” The note to Kinder read: “You and only you know the facts for the reason I am taking my life. May God forgive me and don’t think bad of me. Take care of your mother, so goodbye and try to forgive me. Say goodbye to all my friends and the American press that were always so nice to me.”

A more colorful account, which has become an urban legend and is often passed as fact, involves Vélez’s vanity. This legend suggested Vélez was so enamored by her own beauty that she believed a pregnancy was career-ending. Intent to leave a beautiful corpse, she took the overdose of barbiturates, dressed herself beautifully, brushed her hair, and rested on her bed. Before she managed to die from the overdose, however, she became violently ill. Vélez ran to the restroom, slipped on her own vomit, and hit her head on the toilet where she expired. Though this version of events is often repeated, it has never been verified.

Vélez’s suicide note to Raymond (Boston Globe. December 15, 1944).

Sources:

  • Frasier, David K. Suicide in the Entertainment Industry: An Encyclopedia of 840 Twentieth Century Cases. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2002
  • “Lupe Velez Found Dead After Over-dose.” The Sydney Morning Herald. December 16, 1944
  • “Lupe Velez Ends Her Life; Was an Expectant Mother.” Lansing State Journal. December 15, 1944
  • Morris, Mary. “‘If I Can’t Live This Way, I Don’t Want to Live at All’: Lupe Velez Gave Interviewer Vivid Picture of Her Bizarre Life.” The Boston Globe. December 15, 1944

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