In 1921, one of the biggest movie stars in the world was accused of killing a woman. What followed was an unprecedented avalanche of press coverage, the original “trial of the century,” and a wave of censo......more
In 1921, one of the biggest movie stars in the world was accused of killing a woman. What followed was an unprecedented avalanche of press coverage, the original “trial of the century,” and a wave of censorship that altered the course of Hollywood filmmaking.
It began on Labor Day, when comic actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, then at the pinnacle of his fame and fortune, hosted a party in San Francisco’s best hotel. As the party raged, he was alone in room 1219 with Virginia Rappe, a minor actress. Four days later, she died, and he was charged with her murder.
Room 1219 tells the story of Arbuckle’s improbable rise and stunning fall—from Hollywood’s first true superstar to its first pariah. Simultaneously, it presents the crime story from the day of the “orgy” through the three trials. Relying on a careful examination of documents, the book finally reveals, after almost a century of wild speculation, what most likely occurred in room 1219. In addition, Room 1219 covers the creation of the film industry—from the first silent experiments to a studio-based system capable of making and, ultimately, breaking a beloved superstar.
Greg Merritt is the author of Film Production: The Complete Uncensored Guide to Independent Filmmaking and Celluloid Mavericks: A History of American Independent Film. He is a senior writer for American Media, Inc. and has written hundreds of feature articles for numerous magazines. He has an MFA from the American Film Institute.
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