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This Co-Star Shot at Gary Cooper When He Tried to Leave Her

The two actors started a rollercoaster relationship after starring in 1929's Wolf Song.

He had a long career and a long marriage, but before Gary Cooper met his wife, Veronica Balfe, he had a number of relationships and affairs with co-stars. He first came to fame as a silent film star before transitioning to talkies in the late 1920s. Around this time, he began a romance with a castmate that lasted for nearly three years and was volatile right through the very end. This co-star-turned-girlfriend is even said to have fired a gun at Cooper after he left her. Read on to find out more.

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They met filming a 1929 movie.

Lupe Vélez and Gary Cooper circa 1929
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Cooper starred opposite Lupe Vélez in the 1929 Western Wolf Song. The silent film is about a white man traveling through the west in the 1840s, who falls in love with and marries a Mexican woman. He then has to choose between life with his bride or a life of adventure.

At this point, Cooper had been acting onscreen for a few years. His breakout role in The Virginian, a talkie, also came in 1929. Vélez had been a stage performer up until 1927. He first feature film was The Gaucho in which she starred with Douglas Fairbanks.

They started a romantic relationship.

Lupe Vélez and Gary Cooper posing for a photo as Cooper holds an "Alibi Club" sign
Bettmann / Getty Images

After meeting on the set of Wolf Song, Cooper and Vélez began seeing each other. As reported by Los Angeles magazine, decades after they were together, Cooper wrote, "You couldn't help but being attracted to Lupe Vélez. She flashed, stormed, and sparked, and on the set she was apt to throw things if she thought it would do any good. But she objected to being called wild. She'd say, 'I am not wild! I am just Lupe.'"

According to Michelle Vogel, the author of Lupe Velez: The Life and Career of Hollywood's "Mexican Spitfire" (via Closer), "A reporter asked Gary what was the 'biggest thrill' he'd gotten from making movies. Without a second thought, he said: 'Lupe.'"

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The partnership was dramatic at best and violent at worst.

Gary Cooper and Lupe Vélez in 1929
Bettman / Getty Images

Cooper and Vélez's relationship was passionate but not always in a positive way. Vogel told Closer that Vélez "once stabbed Gary during a fight. He needed stitches." The actor herself is quoted as saying, "I think I will kill my Gary. Because he does not get angry when Lupe is angry with him." As for Cooper, he is said to have cheated on Vélez.

Cooper's mother was also in the mix and exchanged words with Vélez in the tabloids. "This was an interracial relationship in a time where society wasn't very accepting," Vogel explained. "[Cooper's mother] thought Lupe was low-class, vulgar, and tasteless."

Vélez shot at Cooper when he left her.

Lupe Vélez standing next to a train circa 1929
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

In 1931, Cooper and Vélez's tumultuous affair came to an end, but it didn't fizzle out quietly. According to Closer, Cooper tried to end the relationship by running away to Europe, but Vélez followed him to a train station and fired a gun at him. He wasn't hit by the bullet.

"It wasn't a sustainable love," Vogel told Closer. "But Lupe carried a torch for Gary until her dying day."

They went their separate ways.

Johnny Weissmuller, Adrienne Ames, Lupe Vélez, Veronica Balfe, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Cabot in 1934
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Following their relationship, Cooper married Balfe, a socialite and actor, in 1933. They remained married until his death in 1961; although there was a period of separation. Vélez married Olympic swimmer and actor Johnny Weissmuller, also in 1933. They divorced in 1939. Vélez died five years later of a drug overdose at the age of 36.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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