Friday, October 25, 2013
THE LAST DAYS OF FATTY ARBUCKLE
Arbuckle tried returning to filmmaking, but industry resistance to distributing his pictures continued to linger after his acquittal. He retreated into alcoholism. In the words of his first wife, "Roscoe only seemed to find solace and comfort in a bottle".
Buster Keaton attempted to help Arbuckle by giving him work on his films. Arbuckle wrote the story for a Keaton short called Daydreams (1922). Arbuckle allegedly co-directed scenes in Keaton's Sherlock Jr. (1924), but it is unclear how much of this footage remained in the film's final cut. In 1925, Carter Dehaven made the short Character Studies. Arbuckle appeared alongside Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and Jackie Coogan.
Eventually, Arbuckle was given work as a film director under the alias William Goodrich. According to author David Yallop in The Day the Laughter Stopped (a biography of Arbuckle with special attention to the scandal and its aftermath), Arbuckle's father's full name was William Goodrich Arbuckle. A persistent but unsupported legend credited Keaton, an inveterate punster, with suggesting that Arbuckle become a director under the alias "Will B. Good". The pun being too obvious, Arbuckle adopted the more formal pseudonym "William Goodrich".
During the middle and late 1920s and early 1930s, Arbuckle directed a number of comedy shorts under the pseudonym for Educational Pictures, which featured lesser-known comics of the day. Louise Brooks, who played the ingenue in Windy Riley Goes Hollywood (1931), told Kevin Brownlow:
"He made no attempt to direct this picture. He sat in his chair like a man dead. He had been very nice and sweetly dead ever since the scandal that ruined his career. But it was such an amazing thing for me to come in to make this broken-down picture, and to find my director was the great Roscoe Arbuckle. Oh, I thought he was magnificent in films. He was a wonderful dancer—a wonderful ballroom dancer, in his heyday. It was like floating in the arms of a huge doughnut—really delightful."
In 1929, Doris Deane sued for divorce in Los Angeles, charging desertion and cruelty. On June 21, 1931 Roscoe married Addie Oakley Dukes McPhail (later Addie Oakley Sheldon, 1905–2003) in Erie, Pennsylvania.
In 1932 Arbuckle signed a contract with Warner Bros. to star under his own name in a series of two-reel comedies, to be filmed at the Vitaphone studios in Brooklyn. These six shorts constitute the only recordings of his voice. Silent-film comedian Al St. John (Arbuckle's nephew) and actors Lionel Stander and Shemp Howard appeared with Arbuckle. The films were very successful in America, although when Warner Bros. attempted to release the first one (Hey, Pop!) in the United Kingdom, the British Board of Film Censors cited the 10-year-old scandal and refused to grant an exhibition certificate.
Roscoe Arbuckle had finished filming the last of the two-reelers on June 28, 1933. The next day he was signed by Warner Bros. to make a feature-length film. He reportedly said, "This is the best day of my life." He suffered a heart attack later that night and died in his sleep. He was 46. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean. The unhappy and tortured clown could finally rest at last...