Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was a man ahead of his time. Not in his work as a silent movie comedian, which was completely of its time, but in the fact that his career and life were destroyed by a sensational trial. In 1921 Arbuckle was accused of raping and causing the death of aspiring actress Virginia Rappe, who died of peritonitis from a ruptured bladder. The police initially said that Arbuckle had blown out her bladder by laying his fat body on top of her; later Rappe’s manager said that Arbuckle had caused internal injuries to Rappe by fucking her with a piece of ice. The newspapers of the time, in their wisdom, morphed the ice into a Coca Cola bottle.
After three trials Arbuckle was found not guilty, but his films had been banned by an outraged public and his career was destroyed. His wife left him. He eventually directed some shorts under a pseudonym, made a brief comeback in the 30s and then died the same day he signed a full length feature contract with Warner Bros. He supposedly said ‘This is the best day of my life,’ just hours before his heart failed him on June 28, 1933.
These days Fatty’s scandal is seen as one of the first in Hollywood history, and it’s what’s he’s most famous for.
HBO will be adapting a book about Arbuckle, The Day the Laughter Stopped (what a fucking trite title, huh?), and Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family will be playing Fatty. Barry Levinson is attached to direct, and John Adams scripter Kirk Ellis will be writing. According to Vulture, who broke the story, The Day the Laughter Stopped will be about more than just Fatty’s life:
Instead, the goal is to tell the tale of how America transformed from the exuberance that followed the end of World War I into a more repressive, conservative place during the era of prohibition. The film will also touch on Washington’s relationship with Hollywood, as well as the role of media in modern society.
Can’t a fake Coke bottle rape movie just be a fake Coke bottle rape movie?
By the way, this won’t be the first time the Fatty Arbuckle story has hit the screen. The movie version of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon depicts the Rappe/Arbuckle business as softcore smut. It’s a pretty weird movie.