Fatty is Innocent!

           

      By the time the third trial rolled around, public hysteria had calmed enough to make a fair trial possible. This time the defense let Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle take the stand where he delivered a sincere and believable testimony. Several of the supposed eye witness accusers had fled the country rather than be prosecuted for perjury. The jury deliberated for only a few minutes before returning a verdict of Not Guilty. Not only that, the jury insisted on reading a formal apology to Arbuckle for the travesty of justice that he had endured.

      Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done him. We feel also that it was only our plain duty to give him this exoneration, under the evidence, for there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case, and told a straightforward story on the witness stand, which we all believed. The happening at the hotel was an unfortunate affair for which Arbuckle, so the evidence shows, was in no way responsible. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgment of fourteen men and women who have sat listening for thirty-one days to the evidence, that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free of all blame.

      So everyone lived happily ever after, right? Noooooooooo.

      You would think Fatty’s employer, Paramount, would have fallen on their knees with apologies for their despicable treatment of him. Instead, still trying to distance themselves from any hint of scandal, they banned all his films. As a direct result of the trials, Hollywood studios created a self-censorship morality board headed by Will Hays, who promptly banned Fatty from the motion picture business all together. (He rescinded the ban after a year or so.) Deeply in debt from lawyers’ fees and unable to work, he spiraled down fast.

      Buster Keaton, loyal to the last, paid his friend’s debts and defied the ban, hiring Arbuckle to direct his latest picture. Sadly, he was too depressed to function. His friends sent him on a long trip to get him out of the country and give him a chance to recover.

     By 1925, the Powers That Be decided Arbuckle could direct pictures as long as he used a pseudonym. So for a few years, “William Goodrich” directed comedies. Within the next few more years, he began acting in some films, but he always maintained a low profile.

      Vindication finally arrived in 1933, when Warner Brothers signed Arbuckle to a long term contract. He celebrated that night and died in his sleep. He was 46.

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