Another Hollywood Rape Frame-Up

        In 1929, just a few years after the Fatty Arbuckle rape trials, another Hollywood rape scandal exploded onto the front pages of the country’s newspapers—notably Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner. The names had changed, but much of the story was remarkably similar. Here it is:

       In 1928, Joseph Kennedy, father of the future president JFK, bought the Keith and Orpheum vaudeville theaters and merged them with his film distribution company, creating RKO (Radio Keith Orpheum). With the money he made from that deal, he decided to buy another famous vaudeville chain, the 63 top-quality theaters owned by Alexander Pantages.         

      Kennedy offered Pantages, $8 million. Pantages refused to sell. Always a ruthless businessman, Kennedy was not about to take No for an answer. First he stopped distributing RKO films to Pantages theaters. When that didn’t “persuade” Mr. Pantages, something unexpected occurred. Pantages was accused of rape by a 17-year-old vaudeville dancer.

Pantages (15-20 years before his trials)

       Eunice Pringle was her name and she claimed that Alexander Pantages had lured her to one of his theaters for an audition and raped her in a small side office. Sensationalist stories in the newspapers outraged the public: filthy old man (and a foreigner besides) rapes innocent schoolgirl. Pantages claimed he was being framed, but the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to 50 years in prison. His attorney appealed and won a new trial.

       Pantages was acquitted at his second trial after evidence showed that the elderly man was too frail to have forced such a strong, acrobatic young woman to do much of anything, that the broom closet in which she was allegedly raped could not hold 2 people, and that she, with her Russian manager/lover, had a past as a con artist and possibly prostitute. The lawyer pointed out that Pringle’s testimony at the two trials was delivered in exactly the same wording and manner, suggesting she had memorized her part to perfection. He also hinted that business rivals (aka Joe Kennedy) had put her up to it. Subsequent biographies of Joe Kennedy corroborate this tale, although there is no “smoking gun” evidence.

       So Pantages was free. Still, Kennedy won in the end.

       Just like Fatty Arbuckle, Alexander Pantages’ finances and reputation were destroyed by the ordeal, even though he was ultimately found innocent. He was forced to sell his theater chain to the highest bidder—guess who?—for a paltry $3.5  million, less than half what Kennedy had originally offered.

Alexander Pantages (15-20 years before his trials)

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  1. […] right, the place where the concession stand was apparently invented (as a cart) and a major rape scandal allegedly happened is now a place where diamonds are sold! Again, we couldn’t take pictures […]


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