Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton films


Jan 7, 2002
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I just watched an amazing collection of silent comedies starring the team of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Buster Keaton.
In the early days of silent film, this was a match made in heaven.
The movies covered the years 1917-1920.
As far as I'm coincerned, the Arbuckle/Keaton films were much funnier than any of the Harold Lloyd or Charlie Chaplin films.
By 1920, Fatty Arbuckle had a million doallar a year contract- a fortune back then (akin to the ridiculously high salaries of actors today).

But scandal destroyed his career. Around 1921, Arbuckle was entertaining some friends at a hotel, and a young female came calling...she was soon rushed to a hospital and died, due to a ruptured bladder & infection.
The press assumed Arbuckle raped her, and his 250 pound weight crushed her- he was arrested, tried for murder-but was found not guilty.
The press tore him to shreds....
Hollywood dropped him like a hot potato...
But Buster Keaton went on to have a very successful career...
Any other Arbuckle/Keaton fans?

Regards


Tarn Stephanos
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Keaton yes, Arbuckle not really.

Poor Virginia Rappe (who you can see in Isle of Love which has survived and is available on video) was held in her room at the St. Francis, by her friends, for two or three days before medical help was summoned. By the time she was taken to the hospital she was suffering from overwhelming sepsis and, semi coherent, asked her nurses where she could get a good abortion. Which would have been her eighth. One can venture a guess as to what really happened before she collapsed at that party.

Hollywood didn't exactly drop Fatty. His career was beginning to slide even before the scandal. Post trial, the studios were ambivalent about his return. Ultimately $ won out, for there was no great public demand for his comeback. He made a depressing cameo in Hollywood (1923) appearing in a scene in which the young hopeful heroine is waiting on line at a studio- the head of the casting department brusquely informs her "no work" and slams his window shut. She turns to the next person on the line, who is Fatty Arbuckle playing himself, and he shrugs sadly. The scene did not test well with audiences and was cut.
 
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Thanks for the info Jim!
Virginia Rappe had 8 abortions? So much for the theory some people hold that the gilded age was an age of 'innocence'.
Did Keaton ever reflect on his impressions of his time working with Arbuckle?
I wonder of they got along, or were they like Abbot and Costello, who off camera hated each other?
Buster Keton must have had the strength of a horse..his flips and movements could rarely be duplicated by even the fittest of athletes..
Jackie Chan regards him as a great influence...

There is a great Twilight Zone episode starring an elderly Buster Keaton (involving time travel),and the 1890s sequences were filmed in the same style as the early silent Keaton films.
What was Keaton's first solo starring role?


You might know this Jim- What was the silent Keaton film where he is inside a ship in rough waters, and the cabin keeps flipping over and over?

regards


Tarn Stephanos
 

Jim Kalafus

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>Virginia Rappe had 8 abortions? So much for the theory some people hold that the gilded age was an age of 'innocence'.

Virginia Rappe was a rather sad woman. In addition to her multiple abortions she had at least one out of wedlock child. Minta Durfee, silent star (and the first Mrs Arbuckle) mentioned, often, that after Virginia did bit work at Sennett they had to fumigate the studio because of a certain "problem" she introduced. The woman who brought her to the party, Maude Delmont, was a "professional correspondent" which- in those days- meant a womam who could be paid to testify against your husband in a divorce trial or, if need be, be "caught" on film in a compromising position with said husband for sure fire divorce fodder. Several delivery men claimed that Virginia had "enticed" them and then screamed rape. Fatty did not want her, or Maude Delmont at the party and tried to have them ejected at least twice. Virtually all of his friends later said the same thing, that their reaction was "with HER?" (with an EWWWW inflection) when the story broke. In some of her film work she is quite attractive, in others (the easily found Isle of Love comes to mind) she has a puffy quality one associates with too much alcohol. The year before she died she was voted "Best Dressed Girl in Pictures," but whether she could have gone from featured player to star is hard to tell from what survives. Much of what was written about her in 1921/22/23 was sentimental garbage, most of what has been written about her since the rediscovery of the original case files has been judgmental and, at times, quite vicious....some authors have forgotten that, whatever her morals may have been, she did not deserve to be kept in a hotel room away from doctors (by Maude Delmont, not Fatty) until she was too sick to be saved.
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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Thanks for giving that background on the Fatty Arbuckle story, Jim. There's some material on the crimelibrary.com site:

http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/classics/fatty_arbuckle/1.html

For years I'd heard that his acquittal was a travesty of justice, but it seems that most evaluations of the case now uphold it. Agreed that it was a tragedy all around - both for the terrible circumstances of her death, and for allegations made against Arbuckle.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Hello, Inger: It is hard to understand why, other than for publicity, Fatty was pursued with such vigor. True, Virginia had collapsed in his room while saying "he did this to me" in front of witnesses, but with overwhelming evidence suggesting a botched abortion, and the contributory factor of Maude Delmont keeping her away from a hospital until she was near death (Virginia's face had turned black and she was grossly swollen before outside help was summoned) suggesting that she was probably the one who arranged it, the case could have been in and out of court in less than a week- probably less than a day.

If you watch the footage of Virginia Rappe in Isle of Love, available as part of Kenneth Brownlow's Hollywood series (Episode: Single Beds and Double Standards) the unknown Rudolph Valentino can be seen sitting beside her as a dress extra. It is difficult to assemble a filmography for Virginia Rappe- most of her parts were of the "Pretty Woman at Hotel Desk" variety (ornamental walk-ons) and when viewing films vintage 1917-'21 one frequently sees visually striking onscreen women who MAY be her. Since Virginia went unbilled it is impossible at this point to determine if it is or is not she.

Her name, just as a BTW, was pronounced "ra-PAY" although her surname was actually Rapp. As a final twist, her fiance called a press conference where, close to tears, he blasted Fatty and described Virginia as a "good girl" who would have fought hard for her honor. Rumor has it that he then refused to pay her funeral or burial expenses.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Oh, and Tarn- The Keaton film set aboard a ship was "The Navigator." Quite a charming film, and easily located on video or DVD. If you get the chance, watch the Keaton segment of Brownlow's Hollywood series. Contains the footage of him breaking his neck doing a stunt involving a railroad water tower, with him describing the incident in voice over.
 
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When the Titanic Exhibit was shown at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry (2000), "the Navigaotor" was shown on an unending loop in a nearby wing of the museum. Very funny film!
I wonder what the reaction would have been had it been aired inside the Titanic exhibit wing?

regards


Tarn Stephanos
 
Mar 20, 2000
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A writer in California is working on a biography of Virginia Rappe. I was surprised to find she had been a fairly successful fashion designer before becoming an actress. Her story definitely is one that needs a thorough and objective looking into.
 
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I wonder how many films fatty made in total?
I would love to see a dvd box set with all of his films, digitaly remastered- It's still a hoot to think it was arbuckle, not Chaplin, that came up with the famous 'walking potatos' scene..


regards

Tarn Stephanos