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Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the…

Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia…

by Greg Merritt

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In the late teens and early 20's, Fatty Arbuckle was a well known and much loved silent film comedian, making more films in a year than Chaplin. By the end of 1921, he was accused of the death of a little known actress by rape. The author examines the rise of film and Arbuckle's early life while also examining what was going on at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco on Labor Day Weekend, 1921. At times, going back and forth between the history and the events of the weekend was a bit confusing but overall it worked well. Once the first trial started, the book unfolded as the events did over three trials. I felt the author was extremely objective in providing all of the evidence, the events that unfolded, and the backlash to Arbuckle and his career. From the bibliography and footnotes, it was evident that a great deal of research was done. Since no one will ever know what really happened, the author does provide some scenarios at the end of the book with evidence of why or why not that scenario would work. An excellent look at the Arbuckle scandal and the results that caused the rise of Will Hays and later, the Motion Picture Production Code. I would have liked more information on what happened to Arbuckle's main accuser, Maude Delmont, who did not testify at any of the three trials. I would have liked more information on Virginia Rappe's "fiance", Henry Lehrman, who actually married another after Rappe's death but yet is buried next to Rappe. I would have liked the author to tie up the loose ends with what happened to each of Arbuckle's three wives (he did this a bit but not as thorougly as I would have liked). However, this is the most objective book I have read on this subject and highly recommend it to anyone interested in this period of film or in Arbuckle. ( )
  knahs | Sep 26, 2013 |
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"Part biography, part true crime narrative, this painstakingly researched book chronicles the improbable rise and stunning fall of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle from his early big screen success to his involvement in actress Virginia Rappe's death, and the resulting irreparable damage to his career. It describes how during the course of a rowdy three-day party hosted by the comedian in a San Francisco hotel, Rappe became fatally ill, and Arbuckle was subsequently charged with manslaughter. Ultimately acquittedafter three trials, neither his career nor his reputation ever recovered from this devastating incident. Relying on a careful examination of documents, the book finally reveals what most likely occurred that Labor Day weekend in 1921 in that fateful hotel room. In addition, it covers the evolution of the film industry--from the first silent experiments to the connection between Arbuckle's scandal and the implementation of industry-wide censorship that altered the course of Hollywood filmmaking for five decades"-- "In 1921, one of the biggest movie stars in the world was accused of killing a woman. What followed was an unprecedented avalanche of press coverage, the original "trial of the century," and a wave of censorship that altered the course of Hollywood filmmaking. It began on Labor Day, when comic actor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, then at the pinnacle of his fame and fortune, hosted a party in San Francisco's best hotel. As the party raged, he was alone in room 1219 with Virginia Rappe, a minor actress. Four days later, she died, and he was charged with her murder. ROOM 1219 presents the crime story from the day of the "orgy" through the three trials. Relying on a careful examination of documents, the book finally reveals, after almost a century of wild speculation, what most likely occurred in room 1219. In addition, ROOM 1219 covers the creation of the film industry--from the first silent experiments to a studio-based system capable of making and, ultimately, breaking a beloved superstar"--… (more)

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