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The book: "Lupe Velez and Her Lovers" by Floyd Conner The buyer: Roselyn Sanchez

December 20, 2007|Josh Getlin | Times Staff Writer

Roselyn Sanchez ("Without a Trace") options "Lupe Velez and Her Lovers" by Floyd Conner, a biography of the legendary Latina actress who appeared in dozens of movies and was romantically linked to some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

Sanchez is represented by United Talent Agency and attorney Robert Wallerstein. The book was published in 1993 by Barricade Books, which owns the film rights.

They called her the Mexican Spitfire -- a passionate, fiery actress who rose from humble roots to become one of Hollywood's most notorious stars. Long before Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek, Lupe Velez was a crossover Latina embraced by Anglo filmgoers. And in a career spanning three decades, she in turn was embraced by screen lovers including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Gary Cooper and Johnny Weissmuller. She was a tabloid sensation who killed herself in 1944. Today, few remember her.

The deal

The players

The back story

Enter Roselyn Sanchez, who was born in Puerto Rico and has become one of the better-known Latina stars on television. She began reading about Velez after a friend suggested she look into the actress' turbulent life story. Soon Sanchez's growing interest turned into a crusade. She told her agents that she wanted to make a film about the actress and star in it -- to reintroduce Velez to a world that has forgotten her madcap black-and-white films. Optioning Conner's book, long out of print, was the first step.

"Velez was a talented and free-spirited person, very sexual, and it was incredible what she could do in Hollywood with such a thick accent, especially as talking films began," Sanchez said. "If I had a magic wand, I would do for her what Halle Berry did for Dorothy Dandridge, in her movie for HBO." More important, she added: "Hispanics have become the 'it' demographic these days, but Hollywood hasn't really catered to our demographic. I want to show people that we already had a presence in the '20s, '30s and '40s, and that we didn't just come out of nowhere. This is important history."

Carole Stuart, who runs Barricade Books, said the deal with Sanchez "is one of the few pleasures in the book world, because this book was essentially over. It's way down in our backlist. Then this whole thing came out of the blue. I hope it all comes together as a film, because I think she [Sanchez] was born to play this role."

josh.getlin@latimes.com

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