They found actress Virginia Rappe screaming in pain on the bed, with famed comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle by her side.
It was September 5, 1921 — and the death of the silent film actress days later would be forever known as Hollywood’s first sex scandal. In her dying days, Virginia whispered the words: “He did this to me.”
Arbuckle, Hollywood’s first one-million-dollar star, was later charged over Rappe’s death — and then later, acquitted.
But as Los Angeles-based film historian Cari Beauchamp told the BBC in 2011: “This was the first scandal in Hollywood with box office implications”.
“Everyone had believed the stars were covered in fairy dust. Now that illusion was shattered and studio bosses were terrified it would destroy Hollywood itself.”
But Hollywood lived — and so did the casting couch, a term which describes the trading of sexual favours for career enhancement. Often these ‘favours’ were not traded willingly. And from what we know, the latest revelations about Weinstein are just the tip of the iceberg.
Harvey Weinstein faces multiple allegations of sexual abuse and harassment from some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Picture: John CarucciSource:AP
Actresses Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have spoken out against Weinstein.Source:AP
Almost 100 years on from Virginia’s death, Hollywood’s leading ladies have come out swinging against the famous mega-producer Harvey Weinstein and the world is learning yet again that Tinseltown is less glam than sham.
Thandie Newton has detailed how a director “had a camera shooting up my skirt, and asked me to touch my t*** and think about the guy making love to me in the scene”.
Charlize Theron told Marie Claire in 2005 she once turned up to an audition when she was 18 at a director’s house to find him “in his Hugh Hefner pyjamas”.
“I go inside and he’s offering me a drink, and I’m thinking, ‘My god, this acting stuff is very relaxed.’ But it soon becomes very clear what the situation was.”
Perhaps Marilyn Monroe said it best when she described Hollywood in her memoir, My Story:
“I met them all. Phoniness and failure were all over them. Some were vicious and crooked,” she wrote.
But, according to Monroe, “they were as near to the movies as you could get”.
“So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes — an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses,” she wrote.
Charlize Theron was new in Hollywood but knew the warning signs when she went to an audition. Picture: Arthur MolaSource:AP
In the first scandal to shake Hollywood, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle attended a wild party in San Francisco in 1921 that ended in the death of starlet Virginia Rappe.Source:AP
A burgeoning film industry and global adoration for its stars in the early 20th century soon ignited a powerful shift towards Tinseltown and the executives who kept the business booming — and soon enough, its stars were being used and abused by the bigwigs.
Countless stories have been told from decades gone of even the biggest legends of the silver screen forced into compromising situations.
Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM Studio, used to clutch Judy Garland’s left breast while telling her: “You sing from the heart”.
In her memoir, Child Star, Shirley Temple alleged an MGM producer unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her — when she 12.
Joan Collins says she lost the role of Cleopatra because she wouldn’t sleep with the head of the studio.
“I had tested for Cleopatra twice and was the frontrunner,” she told People.
“He took me into his office and said, ‘You really want this part?’ And I said, ‘Yes. I really do.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘then all you have to do is be nice to me.’ It was a wonderful euphemism in the Sixties for you know what.”
Judy Garland was pawed and propositioned for sex by studio bigwigs at MGM, including Metro Goldwyn-Mayer studio head Louis B. Mayer, between the ages of 16 and 20, according to author Gerald Clark.Source:AP
In her memoir Shirley Temple claimed that an MGM producer known to have an “adventuresome casting couch” unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her during their first meeting in 1940.Source:AP
Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan are among the actresses who have spoken out against Weinstein. The New Yorker reports 13 women now claim the former co-owner of the Weinstein company sexually harassed or assaulted them between 1990 and 2015.
“Since the establishment of the first studios a century ago, there have been few movie executives as dominant, or as domineering, as Harvey Weinstein,” wrote Ronan Farrow, son of actress Mia.
In the New York Times, television anchor Lauren Sivan alleged Weinstein cornered her in a Manhattan restaurant — it was closed at the time — and masturbated in front of her.
After she rejected his advances, he said: “Well, can you just stand there and shut up.”
When questioned by Megyn Kelly on Today in the US over why she didn’t go public, Ms Sivan answered: “At the time I had this great job, I was an anchor, I was living with my boyfriend in the city, I was lucky enough to never have to deal with him again.”
She tweeted: “For those asking why I waited? You try telling that story 10 years ago. Only possible now because of women with bigger names far braver than me.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 9, 2017
Hollywood’s reaction to this modern take on an old classic has been criticised heavily in recent days with Rose McGowan tweeting that the silence was deafening.
“For four long days, the news of his misconduct was met with eerie silence from Hollywood’s biggest stars. Most of them still haven’t addressed it and you can bet Weinstein’s accusers, such as actress Rose McGowan, have noticed,” wrote news.com.au’s Sam Clench.
If inside sources are anything to go by, the future for feminism looks bleak.
“Much is often forgiven of talented men: witness how Roman Polanski’s career has flourished, despite his admission of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old in the Seventies,” lamented The Telegraph’s Rosa Silverman.
“There is a sense among some that certain figures are unassailable.”
Marilyn Monroe poses over the updraft of New York subway grating while in character for the filming of The Seven Year Itch in New York in 1954. Picture: Matty ZimmermanSource:AP
One reporter said the reason allegations had been kept hushed was that it was almost too difficult to nail Weinstein; people still cared a lot about movies and the casting couch still held a romanticised notion.
Despite the fact that Weinstein’s notorious ways were earning him a reputation, people felt “they would never be believed,” New York Magazine’s Rebecca Traister wrote.
“I remembered what it was like to have the full force of Harvey Weinstein — back then a mountainous man — screaming vulgarities at me, his spit hitting my face. That kind of force, that kind of power? I could not have won against that.”
Actor Russell Crowe, producer Harvey Weinstein and actress Renée Zellweger attend the after-party for Cinderella Man in 2005. Picture: Pascal Le SegretainSource:Getty Images
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