Back to:- Cremated Celebrities - Celebrity Graves
"Fatty Arbuckle Biography"
Roscoe Conkling (Fatty) Arbuckle (March 24, 1887 – June 29, 1933) was an American silent film comedian. He was given the nickname Fatty (a name he detested and used only professionally) because he was fat. Arbuckle was one of the most popular actors of his era, but is best known today for his central role in the so-called "Fatty Arbuckle scandal."
Born in the small town of Smith Center, Kansas, to Mollie and William Goodrich Arbuckle; he had several years of Vaudeville experience, including work at Idora Park in Oakland, California, under his belt when he began his film career with the Selig Polyscope Company in July 1909.
He appeared sporadically in Selig one-reelers until 1913, moving briefly to Universal Pictures before becoming a star in the Keystone Kops comedies for producer-director Mack Sennett. On August 6, 1908, he married Araminta Estelle Durfee (1889-1975), the daughter of Charles Warren Durfee and Flora Adkins. Durfee played leading lady in numerous early comedy films under the name "Minta Durfee," often with
Arbuckle. Despite his size, Arbuckle was physically adept and surprisingly agile. His comedies are known for being rollicking, fast-paced, full of chase scenes and having many sight gags. Arbuckle was particularly fond of the famous "pie in the face," a cliché that has come to signify silent film comedy in general. In fact, the earliest known use of the "pie in the face" in a Hollywood movie was in the June 1913 Keystone one-reeler A Noise from the Deep, starring Arbuckle and frequent screen partner Mabel
Normand. A legend has Arbuckle creating the gag after a chance encounter with Pancho Villa's army on the Rio Grande during a Vaudeville appearance in El Paso, Texas. The story claims the Arbuckles, picnicking on the river, and the Villa men playfully threw fruit at each other across the river, with Roscoe knocking one of Villa's men off his horse with a bunch of bananas, to Villa's own extreme amusement.
Arbuckle gave Buster Keaton his first experience of film-making in his 1917 short, The Butcher Boy. The two men also became close friends off the set. The friendship between Arbuckle and Keaton never wavered, even when Arbuckle was beset by tragedy at the zenith of his career, and through the period of depression and downfall that followed. In his autobiography, Keaton described Arbuckle's playful nature and his love of practical jokes, including several elaborately constructed schemes the two successfully pulled off at the expense of various Hollywood studio heads and stars.
At the height of his career, Arbuckle was under contract to Paramount Studios for $1 million a year, the first such official salary paid by a Hollywood studio. On September 3, 1921, Arbuckle took a break from his hectic film schedule, driving to San Francisco with two friends, Lowell Sherman and Fred Fischbach. The three checked into the St. Francis Hotel, decided to have a party, and invited several women to their suite. During the carousing, one of the women, a 26-year-old aspiring actress named Virginia Rappe, became seriously ill and was examined by the hotel doctor, who concluded that she was probably mostly just intoxicated. Rappe died three days later of peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder. Rappe's companion to the party, Maude Delmont, implicated Arbuckle over his involvement in the matter, claiming that he'd crushed Rappe's innards while raping her. Arbuckle, confident he had nothing to be ashamed of, refused to be intimidated. Delmont then made a statement to the police in an attempt to get money from Arbuckle's attorneys, but the matter soon got out of her hands. Newspapers, particularly those controlled by William Randolph Hearst, made a fortune endlessly crucifying Arbuckle in spurious and surreally vicious articles and editorials (the New York Times stated that Rappe was lucky to be crushed to death during the rape before having to consciously endure "a fat man's foulness"). Roscoe Arbuckle's career is seen by many film historians as one of the great tragedies of Hollywood. The Arbuckle trial was a major media event, and stories in Hearst's newspaper empire made Arbuckle appear guilty. After two trials resulted in hung juries, the third resulted in an acquittal and a written apology from the jury—a gesture unprecedented in American justice. Although Arbuckle was completely cleared of the allegations involving Rappe, the resulting infamy destroyed his career and his personal life. During the trial, morality groups nationwide called for Arbuckle to be sentenced to death, and studio moguls ordered Arbuckle's friends in the industry not to come to his public defense. Charlie Chaplin was out of the country at the time on a triumphant return to England. Buster Keaton did, however, make a public statement in support of Arbuckle, calling Roscoe one of the kindest souls he had known.
The Arbuckle case was one of four major Paramount-related scandals of the period, the other three being the drug-related suicide, in Paris in 1920, of actress Olive Thomas, wife of matinee idol Jack Pickford; the still-unsolved 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor, which effectively ended the careers of actresses Mary Miles Minter and former Arbuckle screen partner Mabel Normand; and the drug-related death of actor/director Wallace Reid in 1923. Those four occurrences rocked Hollywood and led to calls for reform of the "indecency" being promoted by motion pictures and resulted in the creation of the Production Code, which set standards for decency in Hollywood films. The Hays Office banned all of Arbuckle's films, although Will H. Hays later issued a statement that Arbuckle should be allowed to work in Hollywood. Ironically, one of the very few of Arbuckle's feature-length films known to survive, Leap Year, had been one of two finished films Paramount held back from release at the time the scandal broke; while it was eventually released in Europe after the acquittal, it was never theatrically released in the United States nor in Britain.
Many of Arbuckle's films, including the feature Life of the Party, survive only as a print with foreign-language inter-titles; Life of the Party was released before the scandal, but no effort was made to preserve the original English-language prints. Arbuckle tried to return to moviemaking, but the ban on his pictures came too soon after his acquittal to allow for that, and he retreated into alcoholism—in the words of his first wife, "Roscoe only seemed to find solace and comfort in a bottle." Buster Keaton attempted to help Arbuckle by letting him work on Keaton's films. Arbuckle wrote the story of the Keaton short "Day Dreams." Arbuckle allegedly co-directed scenes in Keaton's Sherlock, Jr., but it is unclear how much of this footage made it through to the final film. Arbuckle also directed a number of comedy shorts for Educational Pictures featuring lesser-known comics of the day under the pseudonym William Goodrich. On January 27, 1925, he divorced Araminta Estelle Durfee in Paris. She had charged desertion. He then married Doris Deane on May 16, 1925. In 1929 Doris Deane sued for divorce in Los Angeles, charging desertion and cruelty. On June 21, 1931, Roscoe married Addie Oakley Dukes McPhail, later Addie Oakley Sheldon (1906-2003) in Erie, Pennsylvania. Shortly before that marriage, Arbuckle signed a contract with Jack Warner to star in six two-reel Vitaphone short comedies, using his own name. He finished filming the last of the two-reelers on June 28, 1933, and was signed by Warner Brothers to make a feature-length film just hours before he died. Arbuckle's six Vitaphone shorts, filmed in Brooklyn, constitute the only recordings of his voice. Silent-film comedian Al St. John (Arbuckle's nephew) and actors Lionel Stander and Shemp Howard each appeared with Arbuckle in one apiece of the six shorts. Sadly, when Warner Brothers attempted to release the first of these six shorts ("Hey, Pop!") in Britain, the British film board—citing the scandal of more than a decade earlier—refused to grant it an exhibition certificate. Roscoe Arbuckle died from heart failure on June 29, 1933, in Hollywood. He was only 46 years old. Buster Keaton stated repeatedly that Arbuckle died of a broken heart. The same day he died, he had just filmed two new comedy reels, and he was reported to say "This is the best day of my life." He was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.