They were a pairing of opposites: High Noon star Gary Cooper stood 6-foot-3 and spoke softly and slowly. Tiny 5-foot Lupe Vélez was always erupting with laughter or screaming in anger. “You couldn’t help but being attracted to Lupe Vélez,” Gary said. “She flashed, stormed and sparkled.”

The couple met on the set of 1929’s Wolf Song and began an affair that lasted for nearly three tempestuous years. “She once stabbed Gary during a fight. He needed stitches,” says Michelle Vogel, author of Lupe Vélez: The Life and Career of Hollywood’s “Mexican Spitfire.”

Lupe attacked Gary in fits of jealousy (he was a serial cheater), but sometimes she just wanted a reaction. “I think I will kill my Gary,” Lupe declared. “Because he does not get angry when Lupe is angry with him.” But for a time, they couldn’t get enough of each other. “A reporter asked Gary what was the ‘biggest thrill’ he’d gotten from making movies,” says Vogel. “Without a second thought, he said: ‘Lupe.’”

Born into a wealthy Mexican family ruined by the revolution, Lupe turned to acting, but in Hollywood, she was largely relegated to stereotypical ethnic roles. Her romance with Gary drew disapproval. “This was an interracial relationship in a time where society wasn’t very accepting,” says Vogel, who notes that Gary’s mother even got into a tabloid war with Lupe in the press. “She thought Lupe was low-class, vulgar and tasteless.”

In 1931, Gary tried to end their romance by fleeing to Europe. Lupe met him at the train station, cursed him and tried to shoot him. Her bullet missed. “It wasn’t a sustainable love,” Vogel says. “But Lupe carried a torch for Gary until her dying day.”