Funnyman FATTY ARBUCKLE was the biggest thing in Hollywood literally but when he was accused of the heinous rape and murder of a notorious party girl his adoring public wanted him strung up!
HE was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and adored by millions. But silent film funnyman Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s good life burst like a balloon when he was charged with murdering aspiring actress Virginia Rappe after a shocking orgy.
“I don’t understand it,” Arbuckle said at the time. “One minute, I’m the guy everybody loves, and the next, I’m the guy everybody loves to hate.”
His world turned upside down on Sept. 5, 1921, when party girl Rappe fell seriously ill at a San Francisco bash thrown by the rotund actor, who was the first movie star to earn $1 million a year.
Ailing Rappe was examined by a doctor who concluded she was suffering from alcohol poisoning after drinking too much bootleg liquor.
But when she died four days later, Rappe’s friend Bambina Maude Delmont, accused Arbuckle of raping the brunette beauty and accidentally crushing her bladder during a drunken sex session!
And newspapers of the day propelled by scandal sheet moguls William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer ran reports that Fatty had penetrated her with a Coke Bottle and/or a champagne bottle.
Neither claim was true and it took three trials to prove it.
The penny dreadful one-sheets portrayed Arbuckle as a gross pervert who used his weight to overpower innocent girls. In reality, Arbuckle was so shy with women that he was regarded by many, "the most chaste man in pictures".
The prosecutor, San Francisco District Attorney Matthew Brady, an intensely ambitious man, made public pronouncements of Arbuckle’s guilt before the trial and pressured witnesses to make false statements. His star witness, Bambina Delmont, had a long criminal record with convictions for racketeering, bigamy, fraud and extortion and allegedly worked the “badger game” – luring men into compromising positions and capturing them in photographs, to be used as evidence in divorce proceedings or for blackmail.
Ultimately, the judge found no evidence of rape.
“Arbuckle’s weight will damn him,” predicted friend Earl Rogers. “He’ll no longer be the roly-poly, good-natured, funny 350-pound fat man everybody loves. He’ll become a monster. They’ll never convict him, but this will ruin him.”
And the prediction proved tragically true.
Arbuckle endured two trials that ended with hung juries before he was acquitted in April 1922 by a jury that also signed a statement of apology for the “great injustice” he had suffered.
However, Hollywood was far less forgiving as Fatty turned to alcohol for comfort. Said his first wife Araminta: “Roscoe only seemed to find solace and comfort in a bottle.” The only person who would employ Fatty was his former protégée Buster Keaton.
Then on June 28, 1933, Arbuckle finally signed a new film contract with Warner Brothers. “This is the best day of my life,” he crowed. Unfortunately, his joy was short-lived. The penniless comedian died that night at age 46 from a heart attack.