Today in History – The Day the Laughter Stopped



Mon, 11 Sep 2017 - 06:30 GMT


Mon, 11 Sep 2017 - 06:30 GMT

Fatty Arbuckle - via Wikimedia

Fatty Arbuckle - via Wikimedia

CAIRO – 11 September 2017: On September 11, 1921, Paramount’s shining star, the comedic silent actor Fatty Arbuckle, was arrested following accusations that he had raped a young woman in a hotel, an act so brutal it led to her death in a hospital.

Arbuckle had been on top of the world just before it all came crashing down for him, having enjoyed a successful career as a vaudeville actor since 1913. He was beloved nationwide for his comedic antics, which involved pie-throwing and other acts of slapstick. Arbuckle helped turn Buster Keaton from an unknown into a famous comedian, and had even mentored the legendary Charlie Chaplin.

Yet, his time on top was not to last; while on vacation at the St. Francis hotel, Arbuckle met a young woman named Virginia Rappe, who suffered from a chronic kidney problem and was ill after drinking.

According to Arbuckle’s side of the story, he had helped her into bed and gone into the bathroom. When he left, she was screaming in agony and had to be rushed to a hospital, where she died. It was a guest at the hotel named Maude Delmont who started the accusations against Arbuckle, which lead to his arrest and the shattering of his once perfect reputation.

Charged with first-degree murder and later manslaughter, the news of Arbuckle’s arrest caused a massive scandal in the public, with people calling for the death penalty for Arbuckle. At that time, the reputation of actors amongst the public was consistently positive, and now came word that a beloved comedian had been accused of an utterly heinous crime.

It had threatened to turn the entire industry’s reputation on its head.
Lawyers defending Arbuckle were able to find holes in Delmont’s story and had discovered her criminal reputation, such as her dealing with blackmailers, along with a message she left at the hotel that admitted to her framing Arbuckle.

After two mistrials, Arbuckle’s third time at court eventually led to him receiving a not guilty verdict, and he was issued an apology. Unfortunately, it was not enough; the damage was done, and Arbuckle was unable to ever return to the fame he once basked in. He was temporarily banned by the U.S. film industry, though by the time he could work there again, it was too late.

Under the pseudonym of William B. Goodrich, Arbuckle worked behind the scenes directing movies. Sadder still, in 1933, Warner Brothers had offered Arbuckle a feature-film contract, his chance at last to return to the spotlight; a chance he would never enjoy, for Arbuckle soon passed away of a sudden heart attack, aged 43.



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