Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

Highest Rated: Not Available

Lowest Rated: Not Available

Birthday: Mar 24, 1887

Birthplace: Smith Center, Kansas, USA

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was an American actor, writer, and director who escaped a neglectful childhood to become a vaudeville sensation, and then arguably the biggest star of the silent film era (certainly the highest paid), only to watch it all come crashing down due to his rumored involvement in one of Hollywood's most notorious scandals. Even when he was exonerated by the legal system, his once bright and shining career never recovered. He was born Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle on March 24, 1887, in the small town of Smith Center, Kansas. One of the nine children born to Mary E. "Mollie" Gordon and William Goodrich Arbuckle, the boy had it rough from the moment he was born: Arbuckle weighed more than 13 lbs at birth, and since both of his parents were of slim build, William believed that the child was not his. Out of spite, he named the baby after then notorious Republican senator Roscoe Conkling, a known philanderer. When Arbuckle was two, the family moved to Santa Ana, California. From a very young age, it was apparent that the young man had a natural gift for singing and performing, and with his mother's encouragement, he began performing with the Frank Bacon company when he was eight years old. This continued until 1899, when his mother suddenly passed away. His father, whose animosity towards the boy had not cooled down over time, refused to support his passion for performance, and forced him to work odd jobs in a local hotel to help support the family. However, Arbuckle would sing while he worked, and one customer, a professional singer, invited the young man to perform in a local talent show. Arbuckle did some singing and dancing, as well as some physical gags, but the audience was unimpressed. Just as the shepard's crook was about to pull him off the stage, Arbuckle panicked, and somersaulted into the audience. The crowd loved it, and Arbuckle won the competition. From there, Arbuckle began performing in vaudeville full time, starting in 1904 with a stint at Sid Grauman's Unique Theater in San Francisco. Arbuckle toured the West Coast as part of the Pantages Theatre Group, and headlined Portland, Oregon's famed Orpheum Theater in 1906. Arbuckle married actress Minta Durfee on August 6, 1908, and the pair would soon become regulars in early comedy films, largely due to the disparity in their looks: Durfee was a short, petite woman, while her husband tipped the scales at 300 lbs. The following year, Arbuckle made his move from stage to screen, when he appeared in the comedy short "Ben's Kid" (1909) for the Selig Polyscope Company. He worked sporadically in Selig one-reelers until 1913, then enjoyed a brief tenure at Universal Pictures, before cementing his star status in Mack Sennett's "Keystone Cops" comedies. Arbuckle's strengths as a comedic performer were largely related to his amazing physicality: despite his massive girth, he was surprisingly nimble and acrobatic. His films were known for reflecting this quality, they were fast-paced, with many chase scenes, and chock full of sight gags, most notably, Arbuckle's one-reeler "A Noise From the Deep" (1913), features the earliest known pie to the face gag in film. Arbuckle also made sure his weight was never the butt of the joke. Though the name "Fatty" would become his onscreen persona (similar to how Charlie Chaplin was known as "The Little Tramp"), Arbuckle despised the name, and if anyone called him "Fatty" off-screen, he was always quick to correct them. Nevertheless, audiences were in love with his naive hayseed persona, and in 1914, Paramount Pictures offered Arbuckle a contract of $1,000-a-day, plus 25% of all profits and complete artistic control to make films for the studio alongside his regular costar, Mabel Normand. This was an unheard of deal in that day and age, and it quickly made Arbuckle the highest paid actor in Hollywood at the time. Though the films he made with Normand were lucrative hits, Arbuckle began experiencing some bad luck around this time: in 1916, he nearly lost a leg to a severe carbuncle, and became addicted to morphine as a result. Following this health scare, Arbuckle and Joseph Schenck founded their own film company, Comique, which would go on to produce some of the most successful short pictures of the silent age (sadly, the majority of them are lost today). In 1918, Paramount once again made Arbuckle an offer he couldn't refuse: $3 million to make up to 18 films for the studio over the next three years. Arbuckle sold his controlling interest in Comique to his friend and protégée, Buster Keaton, and went back to work at Paramount. By 1921, Arbuckle was exhausted, and decided to take a quick break from the pictures. On September 5, Labor Day weekend, Arbuckle and two friends, Lowell Sherman and Fred Fishback, drove up to San Francisco and took three rooms at the St. Francis Hotel: 1219 for Arbuckle and Fishback, 1221 for Sherman, and 1220 as a party room. They invited several women to the suite, and caroused all weekend. Accounts as to what exactly happened have varied over the years, but at some point during the party, Arbuckle set his sights on Virginia Rappe, an aspiring actress, model, and fashion designer. He invited her back to his room, and a few hours later, Rappe became seriously ill, tearing at her clothes and howling in pain. The hotel doctor examined her and gave her morphine. When her condition did not improve after two days, Rappe was finally hospitalized, and died the next day. Cause of death was listed as peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder. Rappe also suffered from chronic cystitis, which was exacerbated by imbibing alcohol, and had caused her to tear at her clothing in the past. However, a friend of Rappe's, Maude Delmont, told Rappe's doctor at the hospital that Arbuckle had raped her friend. When the doctor found no signs of rape on Rappe's body, Delmont went to the police with her claim, and they concluded that Rappe's bladder had ruptured due to the impact of Arbuckle's massive weight on top of her. Arbuckle publicly denied any wrongdoing, but many of his closest friends in Hollywood (with the major exception being Charlie Chaplin) refused to publicly defend him, out of fear of negative press. However, one actor, William S. Hart, who had never worked with or met Arbuckle, became an outspoken opponent, and made many damaging public statements which alleged that Arbuckle was guilty. On September 17, 1921, Arbuckle was arrested and arraigned on charges of manslaughter. The San Francisco District Attorney, Matthew Brady, had originally attempted to have Arbuckle charged with rape and first-degree murder, but the judge decided those charges were too harsh in light of the little evidence against Arbuckle. The trial, which began on November 14, 1921, was a media circus. William Randolph Hearst, who published many exaggerated and sensationalized stories painting Arbuckle as a lecherous creep, would later brag that the trial "sold more newspapers than any event since the sinking of the Lusitania." Brady produced a number of witnesses, including fellow partygoers (one of whom, Zey Prevon, claimed she heard Rappe say "Roscoe hurt me.") and medical experts, who alleged that Arbuckle was smiling after the alleged rape had occurred, and that Rappe's ruptured bladder could've been caused by outside force. Arbuckle's defense attorney, Gavin McNab, dismantled each of these arguments one by one: he got one partygoer to admit that Brady had threatened to charge her with perjury if she didn't testify against Arbuckle, discredited a criminologist who had claimed to find fingerprints on the doorknob to Arbuckle's room by questioning the maid who had "thoroughly cleaned" the room before the investigation began, and maintained that the hotel doctor never heard Rappe claim that she had been assaulted while he was treating her. The defense's final witness was Arbuckle himself, who claimed that he was giving a friend, Mae Taub, a ride into town during the timeframe of the alleged assault, and that he had allowed Rappe to rest in his room when she became ill. Testimony lasted for about two weeks. On December 4, 1921, the jury returned after 44 hours of deliberation, deadlocked with a 10-2 not guilty verdict, and a mistrial was declared. On January 11, 1922, the second trial began, this time with an all new jury. This new trial was even more damning for the prosecution: Zey Preston admitted that Brady had pressured her into lying under oath, a former security guard who claimed that Arbuckle pressured him into giving him the key to Rappe's room, was found to be testifying in exchange for Brady reducing his sentence in an unrelated sexual assault case, and the criminologist recanted his story, now claiming that the fingerprints on the doorknob were likely fake. Arbuckle's defense team were so convinced of their imminent victory that they didn't call him as a witness, and made no closing argument to the jury. This proved to be a fatal mistake, as the jury took this as a sign that the defense team knew that Arbuckle was guilty. The jury returned on February 3, once again deadlocked, but this time, it was with a 9-3 guilty verdict. Another mistrial was declared. By the time Arbuckle's third trial began, on March 13, 1922, most theaters across the country had banned his films, and the star had been cast as yet another example of the perversions of Hollywood. Meanwhile, Maude Delmont, whose earlier claims had long since been discredited as an attempt to extort Arbuckle and his defense team, was now touring the country giving one-woman shows, warning the good people of America against the evils of the movie industry. Once again, Arbuckle's defense team aggressively disassembled all of the arguments against their client, showed how flawed the case was from the beginning, and argued that Brady was only using the trial to further his political aspirations, and to save face after being duped by Maude Delmont's outlandish accusations. On April 12, the jury took only six minutes to return with a unanimous not guilty verdict, and even took the unprecedented step of drafting a formal statement of apology to Arbuckle for putting him through such an ordeal. In the end, Arbuckle was cleared of all culpability in the death of Virginia Rappe, and only had to pay a $500, since the consumption of alcohol at the party was in violation of the Volstead Act. However, the damage to Arbuckle's career had already been done. The scandal, along with the substance-related deaths of stars Olive Thomas and Wallace Reid, the mysterious death of producer Thomas Ince, and the still unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor, had earned Hollywood a bad reputation that it was desperately trying to shake. So, on April 18, 1922, six days after his aquittal, Arbuckle was banned by the newly created Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America, headed up by censor board leader Will Hays, from working in Hollywood ever again. Although the ban was eventually lifted six months later after public outcry, studios were still squeamish about working with Arbuckle. He and Minta Durfee divorced in 1924, and Arbuckle married actress Doris Deane the following year. For the next eight years, Arbuckle would occasionally work in a minor capacity on some of Buster Keaton's films, and directed a number of comedy shorts and features under the alias William Goodrich. None of these films were hits, and by all accounts Arbuckle was a shell of his former self while on set. The former star fell into a deep depression, and developed a crippling addiction to alcohol. However, as the 1930s rolled around, Arbuckle seemed primed to mount a comeback. He and Deane divorced, and he married his third wife, actress Addie McPhaill, in 1932. That same year, Arbuckle signed a contract with Warner Bros. to star in a series of six two-reel comedies under his own name, to be filmed at Vitagraph studios in Brooklyn. The change of scenery and working with new talent, especially Lionel Sander and Shemp Howard, proved to be a boon for Arbuckle, and the shorts proved to be very successful in America. On June 28, 1933, Arbuckle went out to dinner to celebrate his one year wedding anniversary and the completion of his final two-reeler under the Warner Bros. contract. The next day, the studio offered him a role in a feature-length film, which he happily accepted. Arbuckle apparently told friends, "this is the best day of my life." Sadly, it was not to be: that night, Arbuckle suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep, and never woke up. He was 46 years old. Though the Virginia Rappe scandal would continue to follow Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle around, even in death, today his indispensable influence on American slapstick comedy is undeniable.

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

Movies

Credit
No Score Yet No Score Yet Buzzin' Around Cornelius (Character) - 1933
No Score Yet 67% The Red Mill Director - 1927
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Iron Mule Director - 1925
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Movies Director,
Screenwriter
- 1925
No Score Yet No Score Yet Curses Director,
Screenwriter
- 1925
No Score Yet 57% Leap Year Stanley Piper (Character) - 1924
No Score Yet No Score Yet Traveling Salesman Unknown (Character) - 1921
100% No Score Yet Brewster's Millions Unknown (Character) - 1921
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Round-Up Slim Hoover (Character) - 1920
No Score Yet No Score Yet Life of the Party Algernon Leary (Character) - 1920
No Score Yet 71% Back Stage Stagehand (Character),
Director
- 1919
No Score Yet No Score Yet Love Fatty (Character) - 1919
No Score Yet 50% The Hayseed Mailman (Character),
Director
- 1919
No Score Yet 66% The Cook Chef (Character),
Director,
Screenwriter
- 1918
No Score Yet 47% Good Night, Nurse! Fatty (Character),
Director
- 1918
No Score Yet 62% The Bell Boy Bellboy/Barber (Character),
Director
- 1918
No Score Yet No Score Yet Moonshine Unknown (Character),
Director,
Screenwriter
- 1918
No Score Yet 50% Out West Train Rider/Bartender (Character),
Director
- 1918
No Score Yet 50% The Butcher Boy Fatty/Saccharine (Character),
Director,
Writer
- 1917
No Score Yet 22% Coney Island Fatty (Character),
Director,
Screenwriter
- 1917
No Score Yet 22% Oh, Doctor! Dr. Fatty Holepoke (Character),
Director
- 1917
No Score Yet 38% The Rough House Mr Rough (Character) - 1917
No Score Yet No Score Yet His Wedding Night Drugstore Soda Clerk (Character),
Director
- 1917
No Score Yet No Score Yet He Did and He Didn't The Doctor (Character),
Director
- 1916
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Waiters' Ball The Cook (Character),
Director
- 1916
No Score Yet No Score Yet Fatty and Mabel Adrift Fatty (Character),
Director,
Screenwriter
- 1916
No Score Yet No Score Yet Miss Fatty's Seaside Lovers Unknown (Character),
Director
- 1915
No Score Yet No Score Yet Mabel's Wilful Way Fatty (Character),
Director
- 1915
No Score Yet No Score Yet Fatty's Tintype Tangle Fatty (Character),
Director
- 1915
No Score Yet No Score Yet Fatty's New Role Hobo (Character) - 1915
No Score Yet No Score Yet That Little Band of Gold Fatty (Character),
Director
- 1915
No Score Yet No Score Yet Fatty and Mabel at the San Diego Exposition Fatty (Character),
Director
- 1915
No Score Yet 37% The Masquerader Unknown (Character) - 1914
No Score Yet No Score Yet A Flirt's Mistake The Husband (Character) - 1914
No Score Yet 26% Charlie the Actor Unknown (Character) - 1914
No Score Yet 25% The Tango Tangle Clarinetist (Character) - 1914
No Score Yet 42% The Knockout Unknown (Character) - 1914
No Score Yet 5% His Favorite Pastime Shabby Drunk (Character) - 1914
No Score Yet No Score Yet Leading Lizzie Astray A Farm Boy (Character),
Director
- 1914
No Score Yet No Score Yet His New Profession Unknown (Character) - 1914
No Score Yet 56% The Rounders 2nd Reveller - Charlie's Neighbor (Character) - 1914
No Score Yet No Score Yet Mabel's New Hero Fatty (Character) - 1913
No Score Yet No Score Yet Fatty Joins the Force Fatty (Character) - 1913

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