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Arbuckle reading La Vie Parisienne, c. 1920. Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle (March 24, 1887 ? June 29, 1933).

The Destruction of Fatty Arbuckle

In the early heyday of Hollywood, Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle was one of Tinseltown?s favourite comedians. A large man, his stature helped to rocket him to success as he used it in his physical comedy. By 1921, Arbuckle signed a one million dollar contract with Paramount, the largest of its kind at the time.

Roscoe ?Fatty? Arbuckle wasn?t Hollywood-hot. He didn?t have any high-profile romances, and the gossip magazines never complimented him on his dashing evening wear. But he was one of the best physical comedians of all time, and from 1914 to 1920, he effectively ruled the movie business. He was, and remains, a marvel to behold. Here was a man who, despite his mass, seemed to float across the screen, and whose comedy had deftness and grace.

But ?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. 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 and the media threw the prominent star under the figurative bus.

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