Birth: March 24, 1887
Smith Center, KS
Death: June 29, 1933
New York, NY
Cause: Heart Attack
Burial Location: Cremated, Ashes Scattered At Sea
Biography: Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle was born on March 24, 1887 in Smith Center, Kansas. Born into a very poor family, the family moved several times before finally settling in California when Roscoe was 1 year old. Being a stocky child, the other children dubbed him “Fatty” which stuck with him for the rest of his life.
Arbuckle began singing in his early teens and performed in dance halls regularly. In 1912, Fatty met Mack Sennett, owner of the Keystone Film Company. Mack saw great promise in Fatty as a slapstick comedian. He starred him in several films that were an immediate success. As his popularity grew, Fatty was starred with the keystone cops, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
In 1912, Fatty moved to Paramount Studios with the promise of artistic control of his films. As his fame grew, the Comique Film Corporation was created to accommodate. By 1921, he was offered a three year film deal with 1 million dollars a year salary, an unheard of amount of money for one actor at the time.
By September 1921, Fatty was in desperate need of a break from the grueling film schedule he was keeping. He labor day weekend, he and several friends went to San Francisco for the weekend. They arrived at the San Francisco Hotel and began two days of drinking, partying and alleged fornication. Several others joined the party during the weekend including starlet Virginia Rapp.
Rapp complained of abdominal pain during the weekend and went to the bathroom to vomit. At this point, the details of what happened are an area of speculation. Fatty enter the bedroom and found Virginia on the floor and put her to bed. He applied ice to her abdomen but she died three days later of a ruptured bladder.
On September 10th, Fatty Arbuckle was arrested on suspicion of murder. The media went crazy with stories of her death being caused by the crushing weight of Arbuckle rupturing her bladder during sex. Other stories became more lurid, suggesting she was raped by Arbuckle. An immediate ban on all Fatty Arbuckle movies went into immediate effect as the trial of the century began.
The first trial began November 18, 1921 and the jury was finally dismissed due to a mistrial. Fatty was tried a second time in January, 1922. This jury could not come up with a verdict either and a third trial was set for March 1922. The third jury deliberated for 6 minutes before finding his innocent on all accounts of manslaughter.
Unfortunately, the damage of the scandal had already done enough damage to Fatty’s career. He was never able to make movies again under his given name. In the late 1920’s, he found work behind the camera as a director and attempted to work his way back to acting.
Fatty Arbuckle died of a heart attack June 29, 1932 at 46 years of age.