At the time, it was considered unthinkable that a woman could really be raped. A woman who was pure of heart fought off her attacker. A woman who wasn't wanted the man. There was no middle ground. Even today, it is believed that as many as ten times as many women are raped as come forward. It's a shameful event for women, and of course the more so for men. It can be humiliating to pursue in court. And in this case, it was even worse than that, because the studio was against her. Her name was published. Her face was published. And in the ultimate act of unnecessary humiliation, her [i]address[/i] was published. Can you imagine? There was no possible reason for that, yet there it was, in black and white.
In 1937, MGM hosted a convention for its distributors. A party was held for them at Hal Roach's ranch, and some 120 women, mostly underage girls, received what they thought was a routine casting call to appear there. In fact, they were there to serve as "entertainment" for the conventioneers. One man took young Patricia Douglas out into the field and raped her. (According to Wikipedia, at least one other girl was raped at that same party, but details are awfully scanty.) Unlike many women, then and now, she came forward. The studio tore her to shreds, and they even got her mother to sell her out. A settlement was eventually made, but Patricia didn't see a dime of it. She spent literally decades in seclusion before filmmaker David Stenn tracked her down and finally got her to tell her story.
There are accusations that Stenn puts himself too much into the story. I can see that, frankly, but I'm not sure I myself have a problem with it. I think it's important to know how reticent Douglas was to tell her story. I think that phone call in the hotel room, telling him that she won't meet with him after all, is important to her story. She has spent, again, decades with this being a serious source of shame. It has been ripping her to shreds her entire adult life. She admits to never having fallen in love, never having really gotten close to anyone. I don't think we get close enough to that without seeing how she gets close to Stenn and then withdraws from him. There are repeated occasions where she declares that she doesn't want to talk to him anymore, and that's important to the story.
There is still remarkably litte information on this crime. It merits a paragraph in the Wikipedia article for Louis B. Mayer. There is no article for the film. There is no article for Douglas. The first Google result is an astrology blog talking about the position of the planets during the event. (And it falsely declares Douglas to have been 20 at the time, not 17.) The [i]New York Times[/i] declined to publish an obituary of Douglas when she died. Even her own daughter had little information on the crime, as her mother wouldn't talk about it unless forced. This should be more known. A similar search for "Tom Ince" draws many, many relevant searches to his death, but Douglas has vanished from history.
I don't know. I guess murder is more interesting to most people than rape. Maybe rape is a crime that society still cannot face, even after [i]The Accused[/i]. (Which Douglas, of course, could not make herself watch.) We do not have most of the details of her story even yet, because MGM destroyed most of the records. MGM maintained its own staff of police, its own doctors, which hid the story for many years. Even yet, I had not heard of the story until the documentary came to my attention. Patricia Douglas was raped in obscurity (though she herself could never say the word "rape"), had a flare of infamy during the failed prosecution, and lived the rest of her life in obscurity only to die in obscurity. History should treat her better.