The Arbuckle Trial

By | Mar 24, 2008

When Roscoe Arbuckle left Los Angles to enjoy the 1921 Labor Day weekend in San Francisco he was at the top. He had just signed a million dollar a year contract with Paramount Pictures and he was more recognizable than the President of the United States.

Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle known by many by his character name Fatty was one of the biggest stars in the less than two decade old Motion Picture Industry. He was its most famous comic clown, even better known than Charlie Chaplin.

Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle

On this disastrous vacation in September 1921 he was hosting a party at his room. It was a time of prohibition, but there was plenty of bootleg liquor. Virginia Rappe, a young actress, was discovered sick in Arbuckle’s bedroom. Three days later she died of an inflammation of the lining of the pelvis.

Virginia Rappe

Mostly due to false newspaper reports claiming that Arbuckle had raped the young actress with either his weight or the act of rape with a foreign object causing the rupture of her bladder. Arbuckle was arrested of raping and murdering Rappe.

In all Arbuckle endured three trials. The first, with a charge of Manslaughter where Arbuckle took the stand, ended with a hung jury. The second trial also ended in a hung jury, perhaps due to the fact in this trial he failed to take the stand. In the third trial, it took only a couple of minutes for the jury to come back with a not guilty verdict. In fact the jury wrote a letter of apology to Arbuckle.

Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done him. We feel also that it was our only plain duty to give him this exoneration. There was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime.

He was manly throughout the case and told a straightforward story on the witness stand, which we all believed.

The happening at the hotel was an unfortunate affair for which Arbuckle, so the evidence shows, was in no way responsible.

We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgment of fourteen men and women who have sat listening for thirty-one days to the evidence that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame.

Even though he was acquitted of the crimes and having support from his closest Hollywood friends, the motion picture industry, partly through public opinion, declared his career over. He was able to work behind the scenes, under the name William B. Goodrich as a director and gag writer. He also performed on the vaudeville stage under his own name before his death in 1933 at the age of 46


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