1. The Fatty Arbuckle Trial: Hollywood's First Major Scandal
In the early 1920s, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was a titan of silent film, a comedian whose fame rivaled Charlie Chaplin's. But his career came crashing down in 1921 when he was accused of a heinous crime.
The incident occurred during a Labor Day party in San Francisco's upscale St. Francis Hotel. Arbuckle was accused of raping aspiring actress Virginia Rappe, who fell seriously ill at the party and died four days later due to a ruptured bladder.
The prosecution claimed Arbuckle caused Rappe's injuries during the assault, while the defense argued that Rappe had a pre-existing medical condition that led to her untimely death. Despite the lack of concrete evidence linking Arbuckle to the crime, the public opinion quickly turned against him, fueled by sensationalist press.
Arbuckle went through three trials. The first two resulted in hung juries, and the third ended in an acquittal. The jury took only six minutes to reach a decision and issued an apology to Arbuckle for the ordeal he endured.
But despite his legal vindication, the damage to his reputation was irreversible. Arbuckle was blacklisted from Hollywood, and his films were banned. Although he later found work behind the camera under a pseudonym, his career as one of Hollywood's brightest stars was over.
The Arbuckle scandal marked a turning point for Hollywood, leading to stricter enforcement of the industry's moral guidelines and the rise of the Hays Code, a set of moral guidelines that influenced American films for decades.