Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The forgotten genius of silent comedy
September 11, 2006 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. He was a comic actor, who, despite his girth, was capable of acts of astounding physical grace (link goes to tiny Quicktime clips). But what Fatty Arbuckle is best remembered for is scandal. On Labor Day of 1921, Arbuckle hosted a party that ended with the death of an actress, Virginia Rappe. On this day in 1921, Arbuckle was arrested for her rape. Although he was acquitted twice, the event would ruin his career. (Previously.)
posted by Astro Zombie (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, what does this have to do with planes flying into buildings?

*rim shot*

But seriously folks, Arbuckle was a talented fellow, it's really sad what happened to him. (I already knew about all this, basically, but now I'm gonna go look at your links and fill in the blanks. Thanks, Astro!)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:21 AM on September 11, 2006


FYI, the "rape" link just references this MeFi post.
posted by mosk at 7:24 AM on September 11, 2006


metafilter stop raping my wife!
posted by snofoam at 7:29 AM on September 11, 2006


Whoops. Supposed to go here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:33 AM on September 11, 2006


"Arbuckle's life would surely make for a great film, and at different times the idea has circulated around Hollywood with John Belushi, John Candy and Chris Farley each rumored to be attached as star. Well, this time there is no actor linked to the part of Arbuckle, but Johnny Depp is apparently very interested in making a film about him."

Watch your back, Depp. Just sayin'
posted by hal9k at 7:35 AM on September 11, 2006


Yeah, Arbuckle's is the tragedy that just keeps on giving.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 AM on September 11, 2006


As usual, that's a great crimelibrary article:

Sadly, Arbuckle is often remembered today as “the man who raped a girl with a Coke bottle” or “the man who tried to rape an actress and killed her.” He was neither of these things. Sometimes people recall him, correctly, as falsely accused of a murder.

I'm pretty sure one of sources most responsible for Fatty's "Coke bottle rapist" rap was Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon. I remember the chapter on Arbuckle as being really unfair.
posted by mediareport at 7:41 AM on September 11, 2006


The trumpeter Dave Douglas is someone else interested in rehabilitating Arbuckle's reputation. He had and album out earlier this year called Keystone -- music for a couple of the shorts; it comes as two discs, a CD of the music, and a DVD with the music as accompaniment.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2006


I think Depp would probably be better as Keaton, who will surely have a big role in the film. Keaton started out in Arbuckle's film. I mean, Depp doesn't exactly have the 'arbuckle build'

And, here's Depp doing his best Keaton from Benny and Joon.

Great post, thanks.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:42 AM on September 11, 2006


How does one get acquitted twice? I thought there were two mistrials and an acquittal. The two mistrials are probably the reason people have trouble remembering he was found innocent.

I think the Scots have an interesting judicial construction with the 'not proven' verdict.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2006


You're right -- two hung juries and then an aquittal.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:18 PM on September 11, 2006


Last year, Jerry Stahl (of Permanent Midnight fame) wrote I, Fatty, a book about Arbuckle.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:43 PM on September 11, 2006


Arbuckle was Keaton's great friend and mentor, and apparently a good guy. Arbuckle's sudden infamy and death were a huge blow to Keaton and part of why he sank into the alcoholism that would ruin his marriage and career.

Love that clip of Johnny Depp doing the Keaton routine. If you haven't seen Keaton's stuff, do -- he's a genius, better than Chaplin, I think, in that I find K's stuff has aged better. There's also a set of the early Arbuckle/Keaton comedies on DVD... I think available from Kino.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:55 PM on September 11, 2006


he's a genius, better than Chaplin, I think, in that I find K's stuff has aged better.

Yeah (and this is a bit of a derail, sorry), it's hard to remember now that at the time the order of popularity was Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton a distant third. His reputation as "old stoneface" seems weird now, but when you compare it, you realize that he was the first western actor to realize that film didn't require the same amount of over-expression that stage did. That's one of the reasons the French new-wave directors idolized him.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:05 PM on September 11, 2006


*enjoys a coke*
posted by Smedleyman at 3:13 PM on September 11, 2006


at the time the order of popularity was Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton a distant third

Actually, for a couple of years around 1920, it was Larry Semon who was the 2nd most popular film comedian, right behind Chaplin.
posted by mediareport at 5:38 PM on September 11, 2006


Two acquittals? Looks like he just beat the Rappe.
posted by anthill at 5:57 PM on September 11, 2006


As an interesting side-effect, the inverse after-image of viewing this page for any appreciable amount of time causes Metafilter Blue to be Metafilter Turqouise.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
posted by neckro23 at 9:44 PM on September 11, 2006


If you haven't seen Keaton's stuff, do -- he's a genius, better than Chaplin, I think, in that I find K's stuff has aged better. There's also a set of the early Arbuckle/Keaton comedies on DVD... I think available from Kino.

Absolutely; Keaton is the best of the silent comedians. I picked up a collection of Keaton shorts (1917-1923) from Arte Video, and the first disc is all Keaton and Arbuckle shorts (The Butcher Boy, The Cook, etc).
posted by Paragon at 11:36 PM on September 12, 2006


« Older Economic Freedom of the World: 2006 Annual Report...  |  The Baylor Religion Survey (PD... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments