Episode 2 Paul Merton's Birth of Hollywood


Episode 2

Paul Merton's journey through Hollywood reaches the 1920s when in prohibition America the cinema industry was on a collision course with its public because of a run of scandals.


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Transcript


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This is the Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles.

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Built in 1926, this picture palace gave

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its audiences a real taste of opulence.

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And their idols, the actors on the screen,

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were literally larger than life.

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These bright icons, 20 foot tall, black and white, mute,

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simultaneously appearing in darkened rooms throughout the world

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must have seemed like visiting gods.

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Cinema had created a new class of human being - the film star.

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Audiences were enraptured by this new phenomenon.

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They had their favourites who they wanted see again and again.

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Once producers realised the impact their stars were having

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on the general public, they were very keen to work with the press

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in order to keep those reputations spotless.

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Soon, Hollywood would become known throughout the world

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as a byword for glamour.

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But outside of Hollywood,

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the rest of America regarded it

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as a rather sinful, degenerate hellhole.

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A place of dubious morals.

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Mary Pickford, the biggest female star in the world, was

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desperately in love with leading film actor Douglas Fairbanks.

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They were married, but not to each other.

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Mary feared rejection from her fans if she became a divorced woman.

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Another prominent actor, Wallace Reid, was addicted to morphine.

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Others battled cocaine and alcohol.

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Hollywood certainly had a very relaxed attitude towards drugs.

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In this bad-taste comedy,

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Douglas Fairbanks plays a character called Detective Coke Ennyday.

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But some campaigning religious groups found the movies

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no laughing matter.

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They sought tighter controls, even censorship.

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And soon those forces would taste success,

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as scandal after scandal threatened the very existence of Hollywood.

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And their biggest scapegoat would be Roscoe Arbuckle.

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He worked under the name of Fatty Arbuckle, a name he disliked.

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His friends called him Roscoe.

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Roscoe was one of American cinema's earliest and greatest comedians,

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and one of its biggest stars.

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He was also a friend and champion to two of the best loved

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film comedians of all time - Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

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And in 1920, Roscoe was the highest-paid star in Hollywood.

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He was a lot more famous than many of the people whose names are cast

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in the cement outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

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But Roscoe's prints aren't here.

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He's missing.

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Why? What happened to him?

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Today if people are aware of his name,

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they wrongly believe him guilty of some terrible crime.

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But he was a totally innocent man.

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Roscoe was destroyed by the dark, ugly side of Hollywood,

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and what happened to him would change the movies

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for decades to come.

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By the mid-1910s, Hollywood's stars had become the driving force behind

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the motion-picture industry, and

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the most famous people in the world.

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Roscoe Arbuckle's visit to London

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was sufficiently newsworthy

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to be covered by a newsreel company.

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This was Roscoe's last carefree winter.

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Roscoe Arbuckle was at the height of his career,

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reportedly earning 1 million a year from Paramount Pictures.

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Roscoe could claim to be among the very first American film comedians

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to direct his own work. He could also claim that

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Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin all played

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supporting roles in Arbuckle films.

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This is Charlie Chaplin on the right,

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without his usual tramp make-up.

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And here's Buster Keaton, helping with the luggage.

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Roscoe was drawn to vaudeville from an early age,

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but couldn't always afford to go to the theatre.

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In the summer of 1895, Roscoe was playing around the stage door

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when a visiting producer saw him

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and grabbed him for a production that he was staging that week.

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They were short of an eight-year-old boy, and Roscoe fitted the bill.

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From then on in, he appeared in all the various shows

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that appeared in that theatre.

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One week he might be a hypnotist's assistant,

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another, playing a small but vital role in a Victorian melodrama.

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Roscoe would later parody small-town theatrical values

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in the film Back Stage.

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In 1899 Roscoe's mother died,

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and shortly after, he was abandoned by his father.

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The teenage Roscoe survived by doing odd jobs in a hotel.

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He was heard singing in the kitchens one day

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and it was suggested he should enter the local talent contest.

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He did, and he won.

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It was the beginning of his vaudeville career.

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In 1908, Roscoe married a fellow vaudeville performer,

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a singer called Minta Durfee.

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Within five years, he had joined

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Mack Sennett's Keystone Film Company.

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Roscoe quickly became the biggest comedian at the studios.

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He impressed a new young English comedian called Charlie Chaplin,

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who joined the studios a year later.

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Here, Charlie's improvisation gives

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his Keystone colleague a good giggle.

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The Keystone studios were just behind me here.

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Mack Sennett, the boss, had a great eye for talent.

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Most major comedians of the silent era worked for him

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at one time or another. But Roscoe stood out.

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Roscoe Arbuckle was a big man, but physically very adroit.

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Within a few months of joining Keystone,

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he was directing his own movies.

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Amidst the slapstick, Roscoe also introduced elements

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of quiet, gentle sentiment that played very effectively.

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That nearly went on!

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Here, Roscoe's shadow lightly kisses Mabel Normand.

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Mabel and Roscoe made a series

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of highly-successful comedy films together.

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These films were the forerunners of today's situation comedies.

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They were initially cast as a working-class couple,

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but as their fame grew, so did their social standing.

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Here, Mabel and Roscoe have clearly gone up in the world,

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with sophisticated sets and equally-sophisticated lighting.

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In 1915, San Francisco invited Mabel and Roscoe

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as guests of honour to view the World Trade Fair.

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The Mayor of San Francisco affords them

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the status of visiting dignitaries.

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This extremely-rare newsreel footage of Roscoe visiting London in 1920

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gives us a valuable glimpse of the man behind the screen character.

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Particularly his sense of fun.

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Keep your eyes on the cigarette.

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Film stars were now bigger than the films they appeared in.

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A publicity machine grew up to feed the public's hunger.

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Some of the stories were outlandish.

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For example, Roscoe Arbuckle was said to have met Pancho Villa,

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the Mexican revolutionary, in El Paso, Texas.

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The story goes that Roscoe Arbuckle and Pancho Villa's men were

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throwing fruit at each other across a large body of water.

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At one point, Roscoe picked up a bunch of bananas,

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threw them across the water, knocked a bandit off his horse.

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Now, you read this story in all the histories of the period,

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but, of course, it's not true. Just think about it for a minute.

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How hard would you have to throw a bunch of bananas

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to knock a seasoned bandit off a horse?

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Quite hard, is the answer.

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But it's one of those stories that came up at the time

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because fans were eager to hear about their favourites,

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and it didn't matter if the story was made up.

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It was good publicity.

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The practice of making up newspaper stories would later

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have a much darker side.

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But for now, any publicity was good publicity.

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It brought people back to the cinema time and time again

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and helped generate unbelievable profits for the movie business.

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Roscoe himself was to earn 1 million a year

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when he switched studios to Paramount Pictures.

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He bought a mansion, and it was here that

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his sense of fun led to

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one of Roscoe's most celebrated practical jokes.

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Perhaps we should go in.

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Wow!

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This is how a movie star lived in the 1910s.

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It's extraordinary to be here.

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This is the dining room.

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I first read about this room when I was 13 years old. To be here is...

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Well, there's the kitchen through there.

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And look at this.

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It's like walking back 100 years.

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It's remained...

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I mean, look at this detail here, look.

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There's a sort of phone system for contacting people.

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What's does it say?

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"Guest room one, the garage, sitting room, master bedroom, boudoir."

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I mean, this is all...

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BELL RINGS

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There was a dinner party happened here once,

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a long time ago, and this kitchen was very much part of the story.

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'To help us restage this dinner party,

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'I shall play the part of a particularly-dumb waiter.'

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The guest of honour is Adolph Zukor.

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He is boss of Paramount Pictures,

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and Roscoe Arbuckle is now Paramount's biggest star.

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Zukor, a man who didn't see the point of a sense of humour,

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was bemused by the waiter's clumsy attempt at serving food.

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Roscoe apologised. Zukor understood.

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PLATES SMASH

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Zukor hated the entire embarrassing experience.

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PLATES SMASH

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What Adolph Zukor didn't realise was that this whole dinner party was

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a practical joke on him,

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and everybody around the table was in on it.

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The waiter had been played by Buster Keaton,

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who turned up as a guest about half an hour later,

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sat here next to Adolph Zukor,

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who recognised him as the waiter, and then realised he'd been had.

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THEY LAUGH

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Roscoe!

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Roscoe could afford to play a practical joke on his boss.

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He was making millions for Paramount,

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and was immensely popular.

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I'm standing by the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York.

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If you want some idea of how popular film stars were in 1918,

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have a look at this same scene with Charlie Chaplin, instead of myself,

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making a personal appearance.

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This is a rally to raise money

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for American troops in the First World War.

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Also with Charlie Chaplin were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks,

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who addressed huge crowds as they travelled round America.

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They were having an affair with each other at the time,

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but as they were both married, they had to keep this rather quiet.

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Being expected to behave in a moral way by their fans

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may have been inconvenient for Doug and Mary,

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but there was plenty of upside to being a huge star.

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Paramount had tempted Roscoe Arbuckle away from Keystone

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by setting him up with his own film unit.

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His first Paramount film, The Butcher Boy,

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featured a young comedian

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fresh from the vaudeville stage - Buster Keaton.

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Roscoe took Buster under his wing and generously taught him

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the intricate techniques of film comedy, such as how to react

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to a huge bag of flour hitting you in the face.

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This joke was captured in one take.

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Buster was told not to worry about the bag of flour -

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just turn, and it'll be there.

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Their film partnership led to a lifelong friendship.

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Less than a year after Roscoe acquired his own film unit,

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Charlie Chaplin was given his own purpose-built studio.

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We are at the Jim Henson Company, best known as the creators

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of Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Farscape and the Muppets.

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This studio has a very colourful history.

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It was built in 1918 for Charlie Chaplin

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by the First National film company.

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In exchange, Charlie promised eight short films.

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Rather optimistically, he hoped that First National would accept

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as one of those films a film about the building of this very studio.

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They didn't.

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The film, How To Make Movies, does offer up

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the only footage we have of Charlie directing.

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In just five years, Chaplin had gone from being

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a successful but fairly anonymous stage actor

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to becoming a studio boss with million-pound budgets

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and complete artistic freedom.

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He oversaw every aspect of production.

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This new studio inspired Charlie to greater heights.

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His second film for First National, Shoulder Arms,

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was noted for its artistic daring.

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A World War I comedy, set in the trenches,

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made while that war was still being fought.

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It was a worldwide smash hit, as well as being an artistic triumph.

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This fluid camera movement was way beyond

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the capabilities of a Keystone comedy.

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The authentic trench setting, with its attention to detail,

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gives the film a documentary flavour.

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The other actor is Sydney Chaplin, Charlie's brother.

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The film was so popular with the Allied troops,

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it was shown to injured soldiers in military hospitals.

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Shoulder Arms was made in this studio here.

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Look at the size of this place.

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In just four years, American screen comedy had come of age.

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Just think of all the masterpieces that were made in this room.

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For The Gold Rush, Charlie created a snowy landscape,

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extraordinary for the time, that made the impossible shot possible.

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As well as family films,

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Hollywood was putting material onto the screen that shocked

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the more conservative elements of American society.

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Their bete noire was director Cecil B DeMille, seen here on set.

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Cecil B DeMille understood that his audiences wanted glamour, sensation,

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as an escape from the humdrum reality of everyday life.

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And you can't get more anti-humdrum than this.

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Here, Cecil dresses his actors and his set in glass.

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Glass that does not reflect the real world.

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I saw him directing,

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and he had the most tremendous energy of anyone I've ever known.

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I always felt I had to give an absolute reason for being a woman,

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for being alive, for being there,

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for occupying air space.

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A deeply eccentric man,

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he ruled his movie sets with a rod of iron.

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One of the actresses who worked with the great one was

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Angela Lansbury, in Samson And Delilah.

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-One director that you worked with is Cecil B DeMille.

-Yes.

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I'd be very interested to hear what he was like.

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As the expression goes,

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as my mother in her Irish way would say, he kind of fancied himself as...

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The great director.

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The great director. Yes, he did.

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And could be quite frightening at times.

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He demanded a certain, you know...

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..a performance from everybody, and that went to everybody.

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Any person who worked on a set for DeMille,

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he noted, he knew, and he watched everything.

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There wasn't anything that he just took for granted.

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He never left things to other people,

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although he had a lot of assistants, you know?

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He had a man who was always there with a chair,

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-ready to shove it under his bottom.

-So if he decided

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just to sit down, the chair would have to be there?

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Yes, and it would always be there.

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And same with a microphone. He always had a microphone handy,

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cos he liked to make loud announcements,

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and he wanted everybody to hear.

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Quiet, quiet, quiet.

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We're trying to take a scene here.

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We've got 4,000 people on this set.

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Now keep quiet and attend to your business.

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In 1916, Gloria Swanson was co-starring with a dog

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in a Mack Sennett comedy.

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But three years later, Cecil B DeMille had transformed

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her screen image. Here, a naked Gloria is being helped into a bath.

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Film was now the dominant cultural force on the planet.

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People aspired to look like their favourite glamorous stars.

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They copied their hairstyles, the way they dressed.

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Female fashions particularly were influenced

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by what they saw on the screen.

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'If cinema was shaping fashion,

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'it was also changing people's perception of acceptable behaviour.'

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Cheeky moments like this in Male And Female

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outraged powerful conservative forces,

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who saw Hollywood as one big, sordid pit of sin.

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And they weren't just concerned that cinema audiences would start

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glancing at each other's ankles.

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Moral crusaders and social reformers had achieved a stunning victory

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in 1920 when the sale of alcohol was prohibited in America.

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It was an impossible law to police. Bootleg liquor supplied by gangsters

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found thirsty customers in illegal drinking dens, or speakeasies.

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But having secured prohibition,

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these campaigners looked to curtail Hollywood's excesses.

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Some strongly believed that films, like alcohol, could be banned.

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It happened briefly in New York in 1908,

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when the mayor had ordered all cinemas to be closed.

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Hollywood was worried.

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The voices calling for censorship were getting stronger.

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It didn't help that at just this moment Mary Pickford announced that

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she had divorced from her husband, Owen Moore.

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Many people considered divorce shameful.

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She swore that she would never marry again.

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26 days later, she married Douglas Fairbanks, also a divorcee.

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Other film stars kept their marital problems private.

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Roscoe Arbuckle was formally separated from his wife Minta,

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who now lived in New York.

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But his career was going from strength to strength.

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He made the move into feature films, adapting his style

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away from pure slapstick and into more thoughtful,

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carefully-plotted comedies.

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Paramount, astounded at the millions pouring in,

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had pushed Roscoe Arbuckle to make

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three separate feature films simultaneously.

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Upon their completion in the late summer of 1921, he needed a break.

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He left Hollywood behind and ventured out into the real world.

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Roscoe Arbuckle had been working extremely hard.

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He'd made six feature films in just seven months,

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and these films were enormously profitable for Paramount Pictures.

0:26:110:26:14

Nevertheless, Roscoe needed a break.

0:26:140:26:17

On September 3rd 1921,

0:26:170:26:19

he left Los Angeles in his luxury car, along with two friends.

0:26:190:26:23

They headed towards San Francisco.

0:26:230:26:25

They arrived here at the St Francis hotel late Saturday afternoon.

0:26:360:26:40

Roscoe Arbuckle and his two travelling companions,

0:26:400:26:43

Fred Fischbach and Lowell Sherman, checked into their rooms.

0:26:430:26:46

I've got exactly the same rooms nearly 90 years later.

0:26:460:26:50

I'm on the 12th floor of the St Francis Hotel.

0:27:060:27:09

The Arbuckle group hired three rooms -

0:27:090:27:12

a reception room with a single bedroom either side.

0:27:120:27:15

If you have any preconceptions about what happened in these three rooms,

0:27:200:27:23

wipe them from your mind now.

0:27:230:27:26

There have been countless lies, exaggerations and gross libels.

0:27:260:27:30

I, however, shall tell you the truth.

0:27:300:27:33

Follow me.

0:27:330:27:35

This is the Arbuckle reception room.

0:27:430:27:45

This is Lowell Sherman, and this is Fred Fischbach.

0:27:450:27:48

They're Roscoe's travelling companions.

0:27:480:27:51

Lowell's bedroom is off to the left,

0:27:510:27:53

and Fred is sharing with Roscoe off to the right.

0:27:530:27:56

And I'm standing in the reception room between the two bedrooms.

0:27:560:28:02

Prohibition had become law in 1920,

0:28:020:28:04

but had very little effect in San Francisco.

0:28:040:28:07

It was known as an open town.

0:28:070:28:09

In fact, many bars never closed

0:28:090:28:10

throughout the entire prohibition era.

0:28:100:28:13

Some time on Sunday morning, Roscoe put a call in to a local nightclub.

0:28:130:28:17

Within half an hour, there was a knock at his door,

0:28:190:28:21

and Roscoe takes delivery of a case of bootleg booze.

0:28:210:28:26

Roscoe exits into his bedroom.

0:28:300:28:33

At 11:00, a friend of Fred Fischbach arrives at the Arbuckle suite.

0:28:330:28:38

KNOCK ON THE DOOR

0:28:380:28:39

This man, a dress salesman, tells Roscoe that he's just seen

0:28:440:28:47

an actress called Virginia Rappe at his hotel,

0:28:470:28:50

and wonders if he knows her.

0:28:500:28:51

Roscoe does, and Fred Fischbach phones Virginia

0:28:510:28:53

and invites her over.

0:28:530:28:56

Virginia Rappe was a bit-part player

0:29:000:29:03

who was yet to achieve the giddy heights of fame and fortune.

0:29:030:29:07

Roscoe invites her into what was quickly becoming a party -

0:29:070:29:11

a party Roscoe didn't particularly want.

0:29:110:29:14

Waiting downstairs in the hotel lobby was a woman who Virginia had

0:29:140:29:18

only met the day before, one Maude Delmont.

0:29:180:29:22

Shortly after arriving herself,

0:29:240:29:26

Virginia phoned down to the lobby and invited Maude up to the suite.

0:29:260:29:30

'David Yallop was the first writer

0:29:350:29:37

'to properly investigate the Arbuckle case.

0:29:370:29:40

'He quickly focused on Maude Delmont.'

0:29:400:29:43

Her record before this party is that she's known as a bigamist.

0:29:440:29:48

She's into extortion, blackmail, a quite unsavoury person.

0:29:480:29:54

Yes, yes. I mean, not somebody

0:29:540:29:57

that you'd want to upset in particular areas.

0:29:570:29:59

I think the only crime I've found

0:29:590:30:01

that she hadn't committed was probably murder.

0:30:010:30:04

I think everything else, she was up for.

0:30:040:30:06

And certainly, in this she saw an opportunity

0:30:060:30:08

to make large amounts of money.

0:30:080:30:10

This woman, Maude Delmont, is the real villain of the piece.

0:30:120:30:17

All the major players are now in place.

0:30:200:30:22

Now, the tragedy can unfold.

0:30:220:30:26

MUSIC PLAYS

0:30:290:30:31

The party that Roscoe hadn't particularly wanted is

0:30:350:30:39

getting into full swing.

0:30:390:30:40

Other people, hearing that there is a gathering in Arbuckle's suite,

0:30:400:30:45

turn up uninvited.

0:30:450:30:46

After an hour or two of heavy drinking,

0:30:510:30:53

Maude catches the eye of Lowell Sherman.

0:30:530:30:56

He follows her into his bathroom.

0:30:560:30:58

After more alcohol is consumed, Virginia feels unwell and heads

0:31:020:31:07

for the bathroom adjoining Lowell Sherman's bedroom.

0:31:070:31:10

But Maude Delmont and Lowell Sherman are busy, and Maude tells Virginia

0:31:140:31:19

to use the other bathroom adjoining the other bedroom.

0:31:190:31:23

She passes through the living room and into Roscoe's bathroom,

0:31:280:31:32

where she's physically sick.

0:31:320:31:34

A few minutes later, Roscoe, who has an afternoon appointment,

0:31:370:31:42

makes his excuses and leaves the party.

0:31:420:31:46

He finds Virginia, assumes she's had too much to drink,

0:31:460:31:50

and places her on the bed.

0:31:500:31:51

He then shaves and has a quick bath in preparation for going out.

0:31:530:31:57

This takes ten minutes.

0:31:570:31:59

When he finishes, he sees that Virginia has been sick again,

0:31:590:32:02

and he quickly tells the other guests.

0:32:020:32:04

This girl is really sick in here. I think she needs some help.

0:32:040:32:07

Roscoe phones down to the front desk.

0:32:070:32:10

Lowell Sherman and Maude Delmont come from the other bedroom

0:32:130:32:17

to see what's going on.

0:32:170:32:19

The hotel doctor arrives and examines Virginia

0:32:190:32:23

and concludes that she is suffering from excess alcohol.

0:32:230:32:27

Later, a female nurse will also examine her

0:32:270:32:30

and find no evidence of any physical injury.

0:32:300:32:34

Nevertheless, Virginia's condition worsened,

0:32:340:32:37

but she was not taken to hospital for another three days,

0:32:370:32:42

where, 24 hours later, she died.

0:32:420:32:44

She was 27 years old.

0:32:460:32:49

But what did she die of?

0:32:490:32:51

To understand what happened to Virginia Rappe, I asked

0:32:550:32:58

a leading Californian physician, Dr Leslie Kaplan,

0:32:580:33:01

to examine the medical records of the time.

0:33:010:33:04

What was wrong with her? What was she suffering from, do you think?

0:33:040:33:08

As things go on and the doctors see her, we hear about her abdomen,

0:33:080:33:12

her stomach area, being very, very tender.

0:33:120:33:15

The doctors had referred to it as being an acute abdomen.

0:33:170:33:20

An acute abdomen with a fever means usually

0:33:200:33:24

what we call a perforated viscous.

0:33:240:33:27

That means some internal organ has exploded, usually from infection,

0:33:270:33:33

but it can be from other things.

0:33:330:33:35

In a young woman, there are several different things that can happen.

0:33:350:33:40

So, one of them is appendicitis.

0:33:400:33:42

Appendicitis will show up with a high fever,

0:33:420:33:45

abdominal pain, a rigid abdomen and sometimes fever to delirium.

0:33:450:33:50

So will an infection in the female tubes,

0:33:500:33:52

what's called a tubo-ovarian abscess.

0:33:520:33:55

So, between the uterus and the ovary there's a tube

0:33:550:33:58

called the fallopian tube, and if it gets an infection in it,

0:33:580:34:02

that can rupture, and that can leak into the abdomen,

0:34:020:34:06

cause peritonitis and an acute abdomen.

0:34:060:34:08

An ectopic pregnancy, so a pregnancy stuck in the tube,

0:34:080:34:12

can also rupture and do the same thing.

0:34:120:34:15

But whatever Virginia was suffering from,

0:34:150:34:18

she was taken to the wrong kind of hospital.

0:34:180:34:20

The fact that she was taken rather than to a hospital

0:34:220:34:26

to a more of a maternity sanatorium,

0:34:260:34:31

where she eventually died,

0:34:310:34:35

and then when an autopsy was done at that maternity hospital

0:34:350:34:41

and her remains then were returned to the coroner,

0:34:410:34:45

it appears that all of her pelvic organs had been removed

0:34:450:34:48

at the maternity hospital

0:34:480:34:50

prior to her being presented back to the coroner.

0:34:500:34:53

Does that suggest anything?

0:34:530:34:55

Well, it would suggest possibly an illegal abortion

0:34:550:35:00

as being the cause of her injury.

0:35:000:35:04

If the internal organs are removed,

0:35:040:35:06

you're destroying the evidence of that.

0:35:060:35:09

It surely seems that way in terms of...

0:35:090:35:11

As I say, that's the information that we have,

0:35:110:35:13

and that to me is kind of the smoking gun.

0:35:130:35:15

Why else would the people at the maternity hospital,

0:35:150:35:18

when they released the body back to the coroner,

0:35:180:35:21

not provide the organs that might have been injured at such a time

0:35:210:35:27

and might identify that as a cause?

0:35:270:35:30

So, definitely an illegal autopsy,

0:35:300:35:33

possibly to cover up an illegal abortion.

0:35:330:35:36

When Virginia Rappe died, Roscoe was back home in Hollywood.

0:35:400:35:44

The last time he had seen Virginia

0:35:440:35:45

at the St Francis Hotel in San Francisco,

0:35:450:35:47

he, like everybody else present, thought

0:35:470:35:50

she'd simply had too much to drink.

0:35:500:35:53

He'd made his way back home

0:35:530:35:54

thinking that she had received adequate medical care.

0:35:540:35:58

When Virginia died, Maude Delmont took centre stage.

0:36:010:36:06

I've not seen that shot of her before. There she is there.

0:36:060:36:09

As you say, she's always pretty grim-faced.

0:36:090:36:12

So, what was the story that Maude was putting across

0:36:120:36:15

once Virginia died?

0:36:150:36:16

It was the beauty and the beast. It was a man weighing in

0:36:160:36:19

at about 266lbs, and this waif of a little girl there.

0:36:190:36:22

He violated her, he lay on her and burst her bladder.

0:36:220:36:26

That was the kind of story that you would hear.

0:36:260:36:28

Maude Delmont's the source of all these stories.

0:36:280:36:31

Who did she first tell this story to?

0:36:310:36:33

Anyone that would listen. Preferably if they'd got a uniform.

0:36:330:36:37

And the police believed it - took it hook, line and sinker.

0:36:370:36:41

This is how her story first appeared in the press.

0:36:470:36:51

Remember, when Virginia first fell ill at the party, Maude Delmont was

0:36:510:36:56

in Lowell Sherman's bathroom with a busy reception room in between.

0:36:560:37:01

She couldn't possibly have heard screams from Arbuckle's bedroom.

0:37:010:37:05

People who were much nearer heard nothing.

0:37:050:37:09

When Roscoe returned voluntarily to San Francisco

0:37:100:37:13

to be questioned about the St Francis hotel party,

0:37:130:37:17

he must have thought it would be a simple matter to clear up.

0:37:170:37:20

He had no involvement in the girl's death,

0:37:230:37:26

and was shocked by the hysteria that greeted him.

0:37:260:37:29

Women's groups stormed the courthouse,

0:37:290:37:31

appalled by the stories they had read.

0:37:310:37:34

The police, caught up in this public mood of vengeance,

0:37:360:37:39

arrested Roscoe without a shred of evidence against him.

0:37:390:37:43

He was charged with murder.

0:37:430:37:46

Roscoe Arbuckle was facing the fight of his life.

0:37:520:37:55

If found guilty of murder, he'd be sentenced to death.

0:37:550:37:59

If he looked over San Francisco Bay,

0:37:590:38:01

he couldn't help but notice the island of Alcatraz.

0:38:010:38:04

On that island there's a prison,

0:38:040:38:07

and in that prison an electric chair, ready and waiting.

0:38:070:38:11

This photograph was taken moments after Roscoe was charged.

0:38:110:38:16

And one powerful man who wanted

0:38:160:38:18

to make the charge stick was Matthew Brady.

0:38:180:38:22

Brady was District Attorney.

0:38:240:38:25

He was out of town when it happened, so he comes back

0:38:250:38:28

to this madness where they've already charged him with murder.

0:38:280:38:31

He doesn't stop and evaluate the evidence,

0:38:310:38:33

he just jumps on this because Brady, I think, had a different agenda.

0:38:330:38:36

He was a political animal. I think he saw that if you attached yourself

0:38:360:38:39

to this case and were successful,

0:38:390:38:41

he could become Governor of California.

0:38:410:38:43

He might even make a run for the White House.

0:38:430:38:46

I definitely believe that that applied in this man's thinking.

0:38:460:38:50

On Monday September 12th 1921,

0:38:540:38:56

Matthew Brady's name was all over the newspapers.

0:38:560:39:00

Perhaps now realising that there was no credible evidence against Roscoe,

0:39:000:39:04

he elected to fight the case in the press as well as the courtroom.

0:39:040:39:10

The papers were more than happy to continue the gross fiction,

0:39:100:39:13

particularly those published by the Hearst Corporation.

0:39:130:39:17

Brady had a very powerful ally in press baron William Randolph Hearst.

0:39:180:39:24

At his peak, Hearst owned

0:39:240:39:26

nearly 50 newspapers, magazines and periodicals.

0:39:260:39:30

The Hearst newspapers faked this photograph of Roscoe,

0:39:300:39:35

painting prison bars across his face.

0:39:350:39:38

The public believed this was a genuine photo.

0:39:380:39:42

Hearst realised there was

0:39:440:39:46

an enormous profit to be made from the Arbuckle case.

0:39:460:39:50

Hearst often boasted that the Arbuckle story sold more newspapers

0:39:500:39:54

than any other single event since the sinking of the Lusitania,

0:39:540:39:59

which had brought America into the First World War.

0:39:590:40:02

The public's reaction to Arbuckle's indictment was immediate.

0:40:020:40:06

Whipped up by a sensational press and various pressure groups,

0:40:060:40:09

the public no longer saw Roscoe as a loveable fat man,

0:40:090:40:12

but instead saw a gross monster.

0:40:120:40:14

The judge ruled that Arbuckle could be charged with first-degree murder.

0:40:140:40:18

Later, that charge was dropped to manslaughter.

0:40:180:40:21

Roscoe's friends stood by him.

0:40:240:40:28

Buster Keaton wanted to give evidence as a character witness,

0:40:280:40:31

but was told by Roscoe's lawyers that

0:40:310:40:33

San Francisco was so anti-Hollywood that if Keaton appeared in court,

0:40:330:40:38

his own career could be at risk.

0:40:380:40:40

Charlie Chaplin, visiting London, was asked

0:40:410:40:44

about Roscoe's arrest.

0:40:440:40:45

Charlie said, "I simply cannot believe it, and I cannot believe

0:40:450:40:50

"that Roscoe had anything to do with Miss Rappe's death.

0:40:500:40:52

"I know Roscoe to be a genial, easygoing type

0:40:520:40:56

"that would not hurt a fly."

0:40:560:40:57

Chaplin's words went unreported in America.

0:41:010:41:04

They didn't fit the way the story was unfolding.

0:41:040:41:07

When the trial began, Maude Delmont was considered

0:41:120:41:16

such an unreliable witness, she was never called to the stand.

0:41:160:41:21

Here is Roscoe photographed in the courtroom, giving his testimony.

0:41:210:41:25

The jury believed him -

0:41:250:41:27

apart from one member,

0:41:270:41:30

a Mrs Helen Hubbard, who said in the jury room

0:41:300:41:34

Arbuckle was definitely guilty, and nothing would change her mind.

0:41:340:41:38

In this photograph of the jury,

0:41:380:41:40

Mrs Hubbard hides her face from the camera, perhaps in shame.

0:41:400:41:45

It later emerged that her husband was an attorney

0:41:450:41:48

with connections to Matthew Brady's office.

0:41:480:41:51

The trial ended with a hung jury.

0:41:530:41:56

Roscoe Arbuckle would have to undergo a second trial.

0:41:560:41:59

His legal team then made an horrendous mistake.

0:41:590:42:03

Believing that Roscoe had proved his innocence in the first trial,

0:42:030:42:07

they saw no reason to call him to testify in the second.

0:42:070:42:11

This decision did not impress the jury.

0:42:110:42:13

This time, they voted 8-4 in favour of guilty, another hung jury.

0:42:130:42:20

At the third Arbuckle trial,

0:42:200:42:22

Virginia's medical history was revealed for the first time.

0:42:220:42:25

A series of abortions had ruined her health from an early age.

0:42:250:42:30

A doctor's report made it clear that

0:42:300:42:32

Virginia Rappe had not been injured in any way consistent with assault.

0:42:320:42:37

Arbuckle was acquitted at the third trial.

0:42:410:42:44

The foreman of the jury read out a written apology,

0:42:440:42:47

an apology unprecedented in American legal history.

0:42:470:42:51

It read, "Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle.

0:42:510:42:56

"We feel that a great injustice has been done him.

0:42:560:42:59

"There was not the slightest proof produced to connect him in any way

0:42:590:43:02

"with the commission of a crime.

0:43:020:43:04

"He was manly throughout the case,

0:43:040:43:06

"and told a straightforward story which we all believe.

0:43:060:43:10

"We wish him success, and hope that the American people will take

0:43:100:43:13

"the judgment of 14 men and women

0:43:130:43:16

"that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame."

0:43:160:43:21

Here, the jury members are proud to be photographed with an innocent man

0:43:210:43:27

who was clearly immensely relieved.

0:43:270:43:31

It must have seemed Roscoe's troubles were over.

0:43:310:43:34

His Hollywood friends had never doubted him.

0:43:380:43:41

Charlie Chaplin stood by him.

0:43:410:43:43

And so did Buster Keaton.

0:43:450:43:48

But outside this loyal circle of friends,

0:43:480:43:51

the real power in Hollywood lay

0:43:510:43:52

in the hands of ruthless businessmen,

0:43:520:43:55

men such as Adolph Zukor, head of Paramount Pictures, who had been

0:43:550:44:00

the unwitting stooge and the butt of the joke at Roscoe's dinner party.

0:44:000:44:06

Zukor and other producers were determined at any cost to protect

0:44:060:44:11

their hugely-profitable industry from outside interference.

0:44:110:44:15

By the time of Roscoe's acquittal in 1922, the federal government

0:44:170:44:23

and 36 states were considering enacting laws

0:44:230:44:27

against the movie business.

0:44:270:44:29

Banks were withholding credit.

0:44:290:44:31

The powerful lobbyists that had successfully prohibited

0:44:340:44:38

the sale of alcohol were gunning for Hollywood.

0:44:380:44:42

A nervous film industry decided to regulate itself.

0:44:420:44:46

They needed the right man to help them fend off censorship,

0:44:460:44:50

and they decided on William H Hays.

0:44:500:44:52

Once chairman of the Republican Party,

0:44:520:44:54

Hays had served in government as Postmaster General.

0:44:540:44:58

Some people said he had the appearance of an anxious rabbit.

0:44:580:45:02

As a teetotaller and a church elder, he was the ideal head

0:45:020:45:05

of the newly-formed Motion Picture Producers and Directors Association.

0:45:050:45:10

He was paid 100,000 a year to stop individual states banning films.

0:45:100:45:17

And sitting next to him is Adolph Zukor.

0:45:170:45:21

On April 18th 1922, six days after the acquittal,

0:45:250:45:29

Will Hays, the man appointed to help clean up Hollywood,

0:45:290:45:33

banned Roscoe Arbuckle's films from the screen.

0:45:330:45:36

Despite his total innocence, Hollywood needed a scapegoat.

0:45:360:45:41

And Roscoe was hung out to dry.

0:45:410:45:44

When Hays banned him, that would have been unbelievable.

0:45:480:45:54

After what you've just achieved, which is total exoneration

0:45:540:45:57

of your career, your reputation,

0:45:570:45:59

everything has been given back to you,

0:45:590:46:01

"No, actually, Roscoe, we lied about that.

0:46:010:46:03

"We had our fingers crossed when we said you were innocent,

0:46:030:46:06

"cos we really want to make you guilty,

0:46:060:46:08

"and Mr Hays wants to make you guilty,

0:46:080:46:11

"because he doesn't really want to see this job that he's got,

0:46:110:46:15

"which is going to get even more wealthy for him,

0:46:150:46:17

"more money will be generated for him..."

0:46:170:46:20

And this industry that Mr Zukor and his friends...

0:46:200:46:23

They don't care a crap now about Roscoe.

0:46:230:46:25

He's got to be cut off, he's got to be removed from the body, hasn't he?

0:46:250:46:29

-Amputated.

-Amputated, yes, I like that.

0:46:290:46:32

And you know, "If we see him in the street, we'll say hi,

0:46:320:46:35

"but we might not say hi."

0:46:350:46:36

Roscoe was a broken man.

0:46:430:46:45

He had separated from his wife Minta

0:46:450:46:47

a few years before the San Francisco party, and although she stood by him

0:46:470:46:51

in the courtroom, they went their separate ways

0:46:510:46:53

at the end of the trial.

0:46:530:46:55

He no longer had his big salary, and he was forced to sell his big house,

0:46:570:47:01

which once rocked with laughter, to pay legal bills.

0:47:010:47:04

His friends were appalled by Arbuckle's treatment,

0:47:040:47:08

and pressure was put on Hays to lift the screen ban,

0:47:080:47:11

which he did towards the end of 1922.

0:47:110:47:14

But the damage had already been done.

0:47:140:47:17

The negative publicity had been so intense

0:47:210:47:24

that Roscoe never made another appearance

0:47:240:47:27

on the silent screen - with one exception.

0:47:270:47:30

In Go West, director Buster Keaton places Roscoe Arbuckle,

0:47:300:47:35

dressed in drag, in the very centre of this shot.

0:47:350:47:39

And at the back of this one, too.

0:47:390:47:42

Then, a little more riskily,

0:47:460:47:47

Buster goes to a mid shot,

0:47:470:47:50

where, for a moment, Roscoe is recognisable.

0:47:500:47:52

The lift goes up. When it comes down, Roscoe isn't there.

0:47:540:47:59

He's been replaced by an actress who looks nothing like him.

0:47:590:48:03

Even his great friend Buster Keaton couldn't risk

0:48:030:48:06

putting a close-up of Roscoe Arbuckle into his film.

0:48:060:48:10

In that same year, 1925, Charlie in The Gold Rush paid

0:48:120:48:16

his own discreet tribute to Roscoe.

0:48:160:48:19

In 1918, Roscoe had invented this piece of comic business,

0:48:190:48:23

mimicking Charlie's distinctive walk with two bread rolls.

0:48:230:48:27

Charlie remembered the gag, and embellished it further.

0:48:300:48:34

Although Roscoe couldn't expect to find work as a film actor,

0:48:400:48:44

he did as a director.

0:48:440:48:46

Working behind the camera,

0:48:460:48:48

using the pseudonym William Goodrich kept him employed in the industry.

0:48:480:48:52

In this film directed by him,

0:48:540:48:56

we first see a country boy preparing for a big trip to the big city.

0:48:560:49:01

We then see the farm, the rustic setting.

0:49:010:49:05

The father runs over.

0:49:050:49:07

And then...

0:49:070:49:09

Whilst Roscoe was directing others,

0:49:270:49:29

Will H Hays was still doing his best,

0:49:290:49:31

in his anxious, rabbit-like way,

0:49:310:49:34

to tell the rest of America how wonderful Hollywood was.

0:49:340:49:37

Last year, 115 million persons every week attended

0:49:370:49:42

the motion-picture theatres in the United States.

0:49:420:49:46

This was nearly three times as great

0:49:460:49:49

as the 40 million weekly attendance in 1922.

0:49:490:49:53

Such an endorsement from the American people could only have come

0:49:530:49:58

to a form of entertainment essentially wholesome

0:49:580:50:02

and responsive to the needs of the public.

0:50:020:50:04

Hays introduced the stipulation that put a morality clause into every Hollywood contract.

0:50:050:50:11

If an actor's off-screen behaviour reflected badly on his employer,

0:50:110:50:15

that actor's contract could be terminated for bringing the studio into disrepute.

0:50:150:50:21

Around the time of the Arbuckle trial,

0:50:220:50:24

other Hollywood scandals emerged.

0:50:240:50:27

Actor Wallace Reid became addicted to morphine, after

0:50:270:50:31

being prescribed it by a studio doctor following a painful injury.

0:50:310:50:35

He died in a sanatorium in 1923.

0:50:350:50:39

His widow made a film called Human Wreckage, attacking drug use.

0:50:410:50:45

Hays gave it his full support.

0:50:450:50:48

Later, Hays brought in on-screen regulations.

0:50:500:50:54

Married couples' beds could not be nearer than 21 inches.

0:50:540:50:59

No kiss could last for more than three seconds.

0:50:590:51:02

One, two, three...

0:51:020:51:04

And women could not be seen drinking -

0:51:050:51:07

although this was later relaxed.

0:51:070:51:10

This self-censorship would last nearly 40 years.

0:51:100:51:13

Some Hollywood directors like Cecil B DeMille

0:51:140:51:17

had long been getting round this moralising climate

0:51:170:51:20

by dressing sex and sadism up in a bit of history.

0:51:200:51:23

In these films, sinners are punished for their excesses.

0:51:240:51:27

In Manslaughter, DeMille compared the habits of modern youth

0:51:280:51:32

with orgies in ancient Rome.

0:51:320:51:35

AGNES DeMILLE: I think he was filming his own daydreams.

0:51:400:51:44

He really DID like voluptuous young women.

0:51:440:51:47

He really did like them all rolling around in these beds.

0:51:470:51:51

I think it's extraordinary - but then I'm not a man, you see.

0:52:010:52:04

I don't know, I mean, maybe men like that sort of thing.

0:52:040:52:07

Women rolling around bulls...

0:52:070:52:09

Then he finally hit on the formula

0:52:220:52:25

of extreme religious fervour and interest in God

0:52:250:52:30

with extreme sexuality -

0:52:300:52:33

and of course, it's almost irreplaceable as a combo.

0:52:330:52:37

It would be in the Bible

0:52:370:52:40

that DeMille found his greatest inspiration.

0:52:400:52:43

Cecil B DeMille announced that his next production would be his biggest and most ambitious to date.

0:52:450:52:50

The Ten Commandments, filmed here at the Guadeloupe sand dunes,

0:52:500:52:54

150 miles from Hollywood.

0:52:540:52:57

The Ten Commandments gave the director a chance to play God,

0:52:580:53:02

to film miracles.

0:53:020:53:04

Here, he parts the Red Sea...

0:53:040:53:06

Cecil B DeMille built a movie set that still boggles the imagination.

0:53:160:53:21

The location was spread over 25 square miles.

0:53:210:53:25

2,500 people were employed to build the costumes and the props.

0:53:250:53:30

16 miles of cloth, three tonnes of leather...

0:53:300:53:33

They built 250 wooden chariots -

0:53:330:53:36

to say nothing of the imposing structures

0:53:360:53:38

that emerged all around it.

0:53:380:53:40

1,600 craftsmen constructed a temple 800 feet wide and 120 foot tall,

0:53:440:53:51

flanked by four 40-tonne statues of the Pharaoh Rameses II.

0:53:510:53:58

When location filming was over,

0:53:580:54:01

Cecil B DeMille had a massive problem -

0:54:010:54:03

what to do with the gigantic sets?

0:54:030:54:05

It would be too expensive to transport them back to Los Angeles,

0:54:050:54:08

but he couldn't leave the sets just standing around here

0:54:080:54:11

because another rival film company

0:54:110:54:13

might come along and make its OWN biblical epic.

0:54:130:54:15

So, what they did was they dug a 300-foot trench,

0:54:150:54:20

and buried the set underneath the sand.

0:54:200:54:22

And the best part of a century later,

0:54:240:54:26

the elements have revealed what remains of the Pharaoh's kingdom.

0:54:260:54:31

And like that kingdom, Roscoe Arbuckle's film career

0:54:430:54:46

had been covered over, lost in the sands of time.

0:54:460:54:50

But ten years after his acquittal,

0:54:530:54:55

Roscoe was given an opportunity to return to the screen.

0:54:550:54:59

Roscoe Arbuckle signed a contract with Warner Brothers

0:55:030:55:06

to make six short comedies,

0:55:060:55:08

using his own name on screen for the first time in ten years.

0:55:080:55:12

The films were successful - so much so that on June 28th 1933,

0:55:120:55:17

he signed a contract to make a feature film.

0:55:170:55:20

That night, he celebrated, went home, went to bed...

0:55:200:55:24

..and died of a heart attack in his sleep.

0:55:260:55:28

He was 46.

0:55:280:55:30

But he died knowing that he was back at the top of the profession that he loved so much.

0:55:300:55:36

His ashes were scattered here, in the Pacific Ocean.

0:55:360:55:40

And Roscoe Arbuckle did finally make it to the Walk of Fame.

0:56:020:56:07

Ah...

0:56:080:56:10

Here it is. Here's Roscoe Arbuckle's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame...

0:56:100:56:14

'..unveiled in 1960, nearly 30 years after he died.'

0:56:140:56:19

So let's remember Roscoe Arbuckle this way.

0:56:210:56:25

This was the man Hollywood studio bosses stabbed in the back,

0:57:050:57:08

and made a scapegoat

0:57:080:57:10

so they could brush aside criticisms of excess and decadence

0:57:100:57:13

by saying, "Hey, look - we got rid of Arbuckle."

0:57:130:57:17

Once Roscoe was out of the pictures, the industry could breathe a sigh of relief.

0:57:180:57:24

By the mid-1920s, the Hollywood ship had been steadied.

0:57:240:57:27

Film stars stood on the upper deck

0:57:270:57:30

and took in their privileged elevated views.

0:57:300:57:34

From their giddy vantage point, these stars must have thought that

0:57:350:57:39

their destiny was assured - fated to shine like diamonds for ever.

0:57:390:57:44

But, in the next part of our story, the growth of the big studios

0:57:440:57:48

with their iron grip on the industry,

0:57:480:57:50

they had much more to say about the future of Hollywood.

0:57:500:57:52

And all the stars could do...was twinkle.

0:57:520:57:56

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:260:58:29

Paul Merton's journey through early Hollywood reaches the 1920s when in prohibition America the cinema industry was on a collision course with its public because of a run of drink, drugs and sex scandals.

Having cynically used the popular press to promote its stars and keep their reputations spotless, it now faced a media obsessed with exposing the dark and decadent side of their glamour.

The programme tells the story of the rise and fall of the lost comic genius of silent Hollywood - Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle - who was charged with the murder of a young actress after an illegal drinks party went wrong. Paul Merton makes a powerful case that Arbuckle was an innocent man, an unfortunate victim of a new type of fame created by the Hollywood studios which had been turned against them. In their rush to clean up their act they were prepared to make the genial Arbuckle a sacrificial victim.


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