Silent screen star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle had been one of America's favorite actors until he was charged with murder in the 1921 death of model Virginia Rappe.
Newspapers speculated that the 266-pound Arbuckle had raped the 25-year-old woman with a bottle during a drunken orgy at the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco. Arbuckle was tried three times and was finally acquitted, but his acting career faltered.
Blacklisted from appearing on screen, he continued directing comedies under the name of William Goodrich but didn't return to acting until 1932, when he appeared in a series of short comedies for Warner Bros. He had been signed to do a feature when he died in his sleep in 1933 at the age of 46.
Before the scandal, Arbuckle starred in and directed 14 films between 1917 and 1920 for Paramount's Comique under the auspices of producer Joseph Schenck, including "The Bell Boy," "The Butcher Boy" (which marks Buster Keaton's film debut), "Out West," "Moonshine" and "Hayseed."
"Arbuckle is considered one of the great pioneers in comedy," said film historian and Arbuckle expert David Pearson. "He's really been erased in the history books because of all the scandals."
Keaton learned everything about filmmaking from Arbuckle, according to Pearson. "Keaton is considered to be the comedy surrealist—a contemporary of Dali or Bunuel. In that context, Arbuckle is the comedy dadaist. He is doing wild and crazy things. Keaton is also doing wild and crazy things, but they were deliberate, with purpose."