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Part biography, part true-crime narrative, this painstakingly researched book chronicles the improbable rise and stunning fall of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle from his early big screen success to his involvement in actress Virginia Rappe’s death, and the resulting irreparable damage to his career. It describes how during the course of a rowdy party hosted by the comedian in a San Francisco hotel, Rappe became fatally ill, and Arbuckle was subsequently charged with manslaughter. Ultimately acquitted after three trials,...
Part biography, part true-crime narrative, this painstakingly researched book chronicles the improbable rise and stunning fall of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle from his early big screen success to his involvement in actress Virginia Rappe’s death, and the resulting irreparable damage to his career. It describes how during the course of a rowdy party hosted by the comedian in a San Francisco hotel, Rappe became fatally ill, and Arbuckle was subsequently charged with manslaughter. Ultimately acquitted after three trials, neither his career nor his reputation ever recovered from this devastating incident. Relying on a careful examination of documents, the book finally reveals what most likely occurred that Labor Day weekend in 1921 in that fateful hotel room. In addition, itcovers the evolution of the film industry—from the first silent experiments to the connection between Arbuckle’s scandal and the implementation of industry-wide censorship that altered the course of Hollywood filmmaking for five decades.
Posted April 11, 2014
I'm a movie fan, and love Turner Classic Movies for the amazing films from the golden age of Hollywood. Arbuckle's story precedes that time, coming from the silent era. I wish this book had been as well written as it was researched. Clearly a lot of time and effort went in to finding sources about the Arbuckle manslaughter case. But the book is poorly laid out, with chapters jumping back and forth so it is difficult to keep track of what is going on. I gave up reading it in order, and read the chapters about the case and trial only, to try to find logic in it. Sadly, the author states that the state's case against Arbuckle was the most likely truth, and that Arbuckle lied about the events in the room, which led to Virginia Rappe dying of peritonitis secondary to a ruptured bladder. Therefore, Arbuckle was guilty of at least involuntary manslaughter, and perhaps rape as well, but was acquitted in 3 trials. The author also states that Arbuckle lied about the events to save himself. There does not appear to have been any medical expert consulted for the book, which could have prevented an error like saying that Rappe was treated with antibiotics after the events - she could not have been in 1921, antibiotics only became available in the 1940s. It could have been noted that peritonitis also killed Valentino 5 years later because there was no effective treatment, and even now, there is a high mortality rate from it. So trying to make a case for doctors failing to save Rappe is not correct. Also, the author's conclusion that Arbuckle "suffered horribly" from the manslaughter case is a subjective opinion - he did not die in agony over 4 days, as Rappe did. The author does try to honor Rappe by refuting the claims that she had had an abortion, or that she was a prostitute, lies that were told in the course of the Arbuckle defense. And having seen her gravesite in Hollywood Forever Cemetary, it is clear that she was loved by those who mourned her. But to say that Arbuckle was likely guilty along the state's case and then state that he suffered horribly is confusing at best. He was the only person who could explain why a healthy young woman went into a hotel room alive and well, and emerged 4 hours later in agony, with a ruptured bladder, after being in a locked room with Arbuckle. Arbuckle had wealth and fame, and it looks like he told lies to hold onto these things, and so his actions resulted in the death of a 30 year old woman and the end of his film stardom - who suffered more? There is a better book yet to be written about the Arbuckle case, and it looks like the research materials are out there waiting for it.
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Posted April 6, 2014
Posted April 6, 2014