Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle, born on March 24, 1887, and passing away on June 29, 1933, was an American silent film actor, director, and screenwriter. Beginning his career at the Selig Polyscope Company, he later joined Keystone Studios, collaborating with notable figures such as Mabel Normand, Harold Lloyd, Al St. John (his nephew), and mentoring the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Monty Banks, Bob Hope, and Buster Keaton.
Arbuckle emerged as one of the most popular silent film stars in the 1910s, achieving significant acclaim and becoming one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood. In 1920, he signed a groundbreaking contract with Paramount Pictures for $1,000,000 annually (equivalent to $14.6 million in 2022).
Arbuckle faced a devastating scandal when accused of the rape and manslaughter of actress Virginia Rappe in 1921. Despite three highly publicized trials, including two resulting in hung juries, Arbuckle was acquitted in the third trial. The jury went beyond the norm by issuing a written apology for the injustice Arbuckle endured.
However, the scandal severely impacted Arbuckle’s career. Adolph Zukor, president of Famous Players–Lasky, at the urging of industry censor Will H. Hays, banned Arbuckle’s films, leading to public ostracization. The ban was eventually lifted, but Arbuckle’s career never fully recovered. He worked sparingly in the 1920s and returned to acting in short comedies for Warner Bros. in 1932–33.
Arbuckle’s life was cut short when he died in his sleep of a heart attack in 1933 at the age of 46. Despite the tragedy and controversy, he left behind a legacy as a pioneering comedian and significant contributor to early Hollywood cinema.
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