Roscoe “Fatty” Conklin Arbuckle was born March 24, 1887, in Smith Center, Kansas. One of nine children, the family moved to Santa Ana, California, in 1888. As a boy Arbuckle began singing at hotels, small theaters, and eventually in vaudeville as a singer, acrobat, and dancer. In 1908, Arbuckle married his first wife, Minta Durfee. In 1909 Arbuckle made his first film appearance in Ben’s Kid. Arbuckle continued to work for the Selig Polyscope Company until 1913 when he moved to Universal Studios and acted in the Keystone Cops comedy series. Arbuckle acted alongside Mabel Normand, Fred Sterling, and Charlie Chaplin. Arbuckle was so successful that he started the “Fatty and Mabel” series and Arbuckle became known for his slapstick comedies.
In 1917 Arbuckle opened his own production company called Comique, which produced Butcher Boy, Out West, and Back Stage. In 1921, Paramount Pictures offered Arbuckle a $1 million per year contract to star in six feature films. The end of Arbuckle’s career came in September 1921 when Arbuckle celebrated Labor Day weekend with a large party. Four days later Virginia Rapp, a well-known actress, was found dead from a ruptured bladder, which doctors say could have only happened from a large amount of physical trauma. Arbuckle was accused of rape and manslaughter and Hollywood was faced with one of the biggest scandals it had ever seen. Arbuckle was tried three times for the crimes, but was finally acquitted in 1922. Despite the court’s decision Arbuckle’s career was virtually ended. Arbuckle and Durfee were divorced in 1925. Arbuckle married twice more, but both marriages only lasted a few years. Several years after the scandal Arbuckle began to direct movies once again under the pseudonym Will B. Good, and in 1932 Arbuckle began once again to act. Even though Arbuckle was given a second chance he struggled with alcoholism and depression, and on June 29, 1933, Arbuckle died in New York City of heart failure.
Entry: Arbuckle, Roscoe
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: May 2012
Date Modified: July 2016
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