The Scandal of Fatty Arbuckle

OK, who can tell I’m catching up on my feeds? But there was a reason I left these for myself to read later with time–I’m unearthing some fascinating stuff!

When I was in middle school, one of my favorite books was Moviola by Garson Kanin*. It was an utterly enthralling, trashy, historical novel about Hollywood. I loved it. I read it again and again. One of the stories that moved me most was about what happened to the actor Fatty Arbuckle, once famous and now obscure.

So it was with geeky delight that I found a story about this, “Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Destruction of Fatty Arbuckle” at The Hairpin, linked to from ALoTT5MA

“Fatty” was just Arbuckle’s picture personality, the name given to his various characters in their endlessly hilarious approaches to “hayseed visits big city; hjinks ensue.” Off-screen, he refused to answer to the name, making explicit the distinction between textual and extra-textual persona that studio publicity worked so hard to obviate. Yet it was this off-screen persona that would eventually lead to his demise, when an alcohol-soaked weekend led to the most dramatic fall from grace in Hollywood history. I am not being overdramatic. This guy was ruined. On the surface, Arbuckle’s actions were the scandal. But as the details surrounding the event and its handling have come to light, it’s become clear that the true scandal was the willingness with which the studio heads threw their most prominent star under the figurative bus.

I would bet a dollar that Lizzie Skurnick, who wrote Shelf Discovery, read this too. This was part of the Judith Krantz/Jean Auel/VC Andrews/naughty Judy Blume stuff that I was devouring at the time.

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