Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Star of the Month-Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle



BIRTH: March 24, 1887

DEATH: June 29, 1933

AGED: 46 years

DIED FROM: Heart Failure in his sleep

NICKNAME: Fatty…he hated this nickname

MARRIED: 3 times to actresses 1. Minta Durfee 2. Doris Deane 3. Addie Oakley Dukes McPhail


FAMOUS PARTNERS: Mabel Normand, a gifted comedienne and very famous in her day

TALENT: an excellent singer who, when Enrico Caruso heard him sing, told him to leave his current job because he could become a famous singer

KNOWN FOR: his dexterity and finesse despite his weight. He got the very first pie in the face by Mabel Normand. He was known to be a great pie thrower as well.

Most people reading this post will have no clue who this man was but, if it wasn’t for him, we would not have Charle Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Bob Hope and the classic pie in the face. If any of you do know of him, it might be due to that horrible trial he went through, sorry, trials…3 for the same event…the so called “murder” of starlet, Virginia Rappe. The 3rd trial, he was finally found not guilty after a 5 minute deliberation by the jurors who composed a letter of apology to him and which he kept until the day he died. 

He was born the youngest of 9 and was such a large baby, anywhere from 13 to 16lbs, from what I have read, that his father did not believe it was his because both he and his wife were of slight build. When his mom died, 11 yrs later, his dad disowned him and he had to strike out on his own. He hit the vaudeville circuit and found his niche in slapstick comedy. In fact, despite his 300 pound girth, he was amazingly nimble, quick and delicate in his style. He made sure he never had a comedic take on his weight because he was quite self-conscious about his weight and hated his nickname “Fatty”. He helped the careers of Chaplin and Keaton (plus others) and Keaton never forgot this helping Arbuckle when many turned their back on him. In fact, in the mid 20s, he saw Bob Hope and told Bob Hope to go West and gave him som great pointers that Hope took and helped him in his career. 

Arbuckle was known to be shy around women and was always amiable even though he liked to party. One fateful Labour Day weekend in 1921, there was a big party hosted by Arbuckle and a couple of his friends in San Francisco during which Virginia Rappe died. The bottom line, Rappe was known to have had more than one abortion( apparently) and, sadly, they probably screwed up her body. She drank when she shouldn’t have  since she had been suffering from VD and Cystitis. Her bowels ruptured and she died 2 days later from peritonitis. From there all hell broke loose because Hearst newspapers saw gold in making Arbuckle out to be a murdering, sexual brute, Matthew Brady, the district Attorney, was very ambitious  bullying people to lie so he could get a name for himself and this bitch, Maude Delmont, made a name for herself lying so she could be in the papers. The people lapped it up and branded Arbuckle everything you can think of and his weight did not help because it was said he broke her bowels because of his weight….simply disgusting. Due to this scandal ( and others), Will Hays was brought in to bring in “morality” into Hollywood. The studio decided to turn their back on Roscoe because of Hays and the code. Roscoe started directing under William Goodrich and called himself “Will B. Good”. Sadly, he had just signed to make a feature film and had just signed a contract when he died in his sleep of a heart attack. 

For all the men who do abuse women and use them for their own measures, he was not one of them. I wish he was better known. 


1. For The Love Of Mabel-1913

2. Fatty’s Day Off-1914

3. Mabel & Fatty’s Wash Day-1915

4. Mabel & Fatty’s Married Life-1915…I love this one..nothing changes even 100 yrs later

5. Fatty’s Faithful Fido-1915

6. Mabel’s Wilful Way- 1915

7. He Did and He Didn’t-1916

8. The Waiter’s Ball-1916

9. Coney Island-1917

10. Love-1919

Now, if you have time to kill and want to see how the censors came to stay in Hollywood, watch this episode( from a 13 part series on Early Hollywood…it is an amazing documentary that talks about the early days, directors, stuntmen, cameramen and stars) which details this event as well as others. I think it’s worth a watch.

Here is the link https://youtu.be/1nUIx1WXJbs?si=fv_mEP-4Jjo-2a2L


  1. Hi, Birgit!

    I'm back double-dipping at the BBC, dear friend!

    I certainly remember Fatty, although I haven't seen many of his films because I tend to avoid Hollywood's silent era. It was fascinating to learn that the chubby actor/singer pioneered the pie in the face slapstick comedy trope copied for decades by many others in movies and TV sketches. Also interesting that he helped several bigger name show business stars launch their careers.

    Three trials for the same alleged crime? Sounds like an overzealous prosecutor. I never heard of jurors composing an apology letter to a defendant. It's good to know that justice prevailed, but the scandal wrecked Fatty's reputation, career and life.

    I enjoyed watching Mabel & Fatty’s Married Life. It was a sign of the times to see coppers wielding batons and whacking offenders. I was happy when the short ended on a such a sweet and satisfying note.

    Thanks for remembering Fatty, an important "figure" of silent films who was apparently a much better person off camera than his reputation led people to believe. I'm up and running with a new post at Shady's and hope you can swing by and see me in the next three days while I am on active duty.

    Have a wonderful day, dear friend BB, and please give my buddy Harley a hug and a possum-flavored treat for me!

    1. Yeah, I wrnt really early in films because my heart always went out to this actor. If you watch the documentary you will see you hit the nail on the head with that prosecutor. He is the same guy tgst wad part of the Scopes Monkey trial. He wanted to win at any cost do he forced people to lie, suppresse evidence and outright lied. . I'm glad I see you here and enjoyed the read.

  2. Hi Birgit,

    What an interesting choice. I have read quite a bit about Fatty's troubles and that period in film. It's a terrible thing that he was railroaded. However, and this holds true for many of the early silent stars, he was foolishly imprudent and careless in his excesses thinking that he was invulnerable from consequences to his actions. I can see in those freewheeling times and the protected atmosphere of the nascent studio system how that would be an easy pattern to fall into but it sure did provide a death blow to him when the tables turned.

    As far as his films go I would describe myself as respecting and understanding his talent without being able to say I'm a huge fan. He was a deft comic, and truly light on his feet for such a large man but his brand of frantic nonsense isn't something I love. He and Mabel Normand (she was a massive, very screwed up, talent) had a wonderful connection that added a little something extra to their pictures together.

    1. Oh yes, these youngins were in a small place, they were young, stupid and had money. This was a soup mix for drinking, drugs and debauchery. You should watch that Hollywood documentary as I know you will love this. Viola Davis is one of my favs and she talked about her and her boyfriend, aerial stuntman, Ormer Locklear, took her up in his Jennie and go down the main street and she'd throw her old lipsticks at the people.
      Many ended up dead like Mabel. I just felt bad for this man who went through so much crap because he was obese. If he looked like Cary Grant, I doubt he would have gone through this. I know the comedy is not your cup of tea but I also know you appreciate it.

  3. I have heard of him, but yeah, mostly due to the scandals. He sounds like he was a great guy. Tough life.

    1. He wad nice and wouldn't have gone through this if he looked like George Clooney

  4. I remember reading this story in the book, Hollywood Babylon, and they slanted it towards him being guilty. How awful that he was framed! I'm checking out the 13 part series, for sure! Thanks for the link.

    1. You will love the series. It's one of my favourites and I have the VHS SERIES. it's so well done. That book is dreck! They capitalized on the crap not the reality. I hope you check out the documentary