Star of the silent film era, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was at the height of his fame when he made a decision that would bring his career in Hollywood to an abrupt end and land him in court. On September 5, 1921, the actor and comedian booked three rooms at the St. Francis Hotel, where he intended to throw a party. An aspiring actress named Virginia Rappe was one of the several women who were extended an invite, though it was an invitation she should never have accepted.
Rappe was found seriously ill in Room 1219 of the hotel, the room Arbuckle was sleeping in. After allegedly telling people Fatty had hurt her, the hotel doctor declared her simply intoxicated. She died four days later of a ruptured bladder. Opinion in the media was split, with some reports suggesting Arbuckle’s weight had caused the damage as he raped her, while others suggested that the actress’s recent abortion had simply gone wrong.
Arbuckle was arrested and charged with manslaughter, though the jury failed to reach a verdict and a mistrial was called. After a second trial yielded the same result, Arbuckle’s legal team stepped up their defense, making sure that the third one went in their favor. Arbuckle was acquitted, though his career was over nonetheless, with his films subject to bans and his reputation in tatters.