Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

Active - 1912 - 1981  |   Born - Mar 24, 1887 in Smith Center, Kansas, United States  |   Died - Jun 29, 1933   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Bruce Lawton

Actor, director, producer and screenwriter, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was one of the most loved then reviled personalities of early films, The large but agile performer began in travelling shows and vaudeville and started appearing in films around 1910. He signed with comedy producer Mack Sennett in 1913 as a member of the Keystone Cops and rose to prominence while performing and collaborating with Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin in Keystone Comedies. By the mid-teens Arbuckle was a full fledged director and writer of his own and other comics films. 1917 found him with his own production company and a promising protégé: Buster Keaton.

Sadly, his success was short lived as he fell victim to one of the most infamous of Hollywood scandals. In late 1921, Arbuckle threw a party which was crashed by a starlet named Virginia Rappe who fell seriously ill and died a few days later. Arbuckle was accused of rape and charged with manslaughter for which he was acquitted in 1923. Nevertheless, the press made much of Arbuckle's supposed guilt, causing a public outcry of moral outrage. Worried for their future, Hollywood's powerful mogels started the Hays Office to protect the image of the film industry and used Arbuckle as their first "sacrifice." Several friends in the industry helped Arbuckle to find work as a director under a pseudonym. By 1932 he was allowed to make a comeback and starred in six comedy shorts for Warner Brothers before his death on June 29, 1933.

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  • Mentored up-and-coming performers including Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in the 1910s.
  • Ruined by accusations of manslaughter in the 1921 death of actress Virginia Rappe at a hotel party in San Francisco. Arbuckle was acquitted after three widely-publicized trials.
  • Banned from having his films distributed for the better part of a decade.
  • Directed films (after the scandal) under the name William Goodrich, taken from his father William Goodrich Arbuckle.
  • Suffered a fatal heart attack just hours after signing a contract with Warner Brothers that signaled his return to the big screen in 1933.