As part of an ongoing book cull, I’ve just read Andrea S Walsh’s Women’s Film and Female Experience 1940-1950‘ (oh! the 80s worthiness of that title…). The following quote from p.46 sums up what I struggled with:
‘”Fatty” (Roscoe) Arbuckle was accused of the manslaughter of Virginia Rappe, a Hollywood starlet, at a party. Allegedly, Ms Rappe died as a result of Mr. Arbuckle’s cruel and unusual sexual practices.”
It was the use of ‘allegedly’ that rankled. That sense of wrecking someone’s reputation without putting your head above the parapet. Couldn’t she have balanced it with pointing out that he was acquitted (at the third trial) with the following statement from the jury: ‘Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done to him… there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime.’
Although they wouldn’t be the first jury to get something wrong, and the wikipedia account probably goes too far the other way in its unsympathetic portrayal of Virginia Rappe, at least it offers some necessary context.
On a cheerier note, it was good to discover that Buster Keaton was one of the very few people (keeping your head below the parapet being part of a long tradition) to make a public statement in Arbuckle’s defence. So, not only one of my heroes and heart-throbs, but an honourable man too!
However, to be fair to Andrea, it was great to be reminded of some old favourites I’d love to see again (His Girl Friday; Now, Voyager; Only Angels Have Wings; Letter from an Unknown Woman) and some shameful omissions that I need to track down soon (Gaslight; Adam’s Rib; Woman of the Year).