HELLO AMERICA!—As it was during the early part of the 20th century, the powerful draw of Hollywood has always been a powerful reason why thousands of innocents jumped on buses and trains as well as hitchhiking to reach the promise land of possible fame and fortune.
Upon the arrival of tons of star-struck young hopefuls easily ready to fall prey to established actors, agents, directors and producers who promised a big break in exchange for their souls or bodies, their former existence on small farms or a life they believed was left far behind them. The result was often ready and wide open for scandal.
Hollywood was all about publicity and it created stars whose public image was completely different from who they really are. A young virgin was quickly recognized as a fast-living sex kitten with a taste for drugs and alcohol. Conservative, rather likable family men were known for their sexual conquests and more than one hero who made the girls swoon, secretly found young men more to his liking.
Having spent quite a long and exciting life among the rich and famous, I realize that there is a tendency to look at the years gone by through rose colored glasses; as a result, it is rather easy to think of Hollywood scandal in terms of modern stars like the late Michael Jackson or Hugh Grant. However, those of us who have been around long enough remember that the so-called Golden Age of our beloved industry contained enough scandals of its own. Rape, adultery, alcoholism, drug addiction, murder and suicide. The shocking death of failed actress Peg Entwistle all featured heavily in the believed innocent days of early Hollywood. Yes, the names and faces have changed, but the habits and hungers have remained.
As many of you film lovers, Clara Bow was known as the “It Girl” and recognized as Hollywood’s first megastar, its international sex symbol. She wasn’t afraid to flaunt her sex appeal and as a result and known as the most talked-about star in Hollywood. Idolized by Louise Brooks in the 20s, Marilyn Monroe in the 50s, and Madonna in the 80s, Bow was an icon of sexual freedom for women around the world.
When discussing scandals in Hollywood, it is impossible to forget the name Roscoe Arbuckle who was a major gifted star of the silent film era. He was considered second only to Chaplin as far as talent goes. However, tragedy hit on Labor Day. Roscoe, in 1921 was arrested on a charge of manslaughter. The actor’s roommate had hosted a party in their site which was crashed by a young starlet named Virginia Rappe who fell seriously ill and died a few days later. The papers, led by the powerful Hearst group, made this incident Hollywood’s first truly major scandal.
The paper repeatedly with claims in screaming headlines, that Arbuckle had sexually abused Rappe to death with a coke bottle, a milk bottle, a champagne bottle, and even a chunk of ice. These unsupported charges served as a basis for a very hostile environment for holding a fair trial, despite evidence pointing to Arbuckle’s innocence. Two hung juries resulted. However, Roscoe’s career was finished as the press printed unfounded story after story about his supposed guilt, causing a public outcry of oral outrage.
When discussing Arbuckle with America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford who was also my sponsor as a student at U.S.C., she noted that in 1932, Warner Brothers gave Arbuckle an opportunity to star in a comedy short called “Hey, Pop.” The public loved the film, and its success led to five more talkie shorts for the actor. However, June 30, 1933, hours after completing his sixth Warner’s short and signing to make a feature-length film, he died of a heart attack. He was 46.
The current hullabaloo about Harvey Weinstein is nothing new. Having been around directors, producers, extremely famous actors generally, I’ve come to realize that the more successful one becomes in our industry, they never escape the person they were before their arrival in Tinsel Town. Money, success and all the rest of the glitter discovered is really relative to happiness. However, thousands of young girls from every corner of the world still arrive by air, train and bus seeking their place before the camera; they still with all the negatives, would do almost anything to see their name flash on the screen. I doubt very much if anything will change that kind of hungry determination. All they want to hear is: GOOD SHOT – IT’S A RAP!!!