Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle, also known as Fatty Arbuckle (March 24, 1887 – June 29, 1933), was an American silent film comedian, director, and screenwriter. Arbuckle is noted as one of the most popular actors of his era, but he is best remembered for a heavily publicized criminal prosecution that ended his career. Although he was acquitted by a jury with a written apology, the trial's scandal ruined the actor, who would not appear on screen again for another 10 years.
Early life and career
Born in Smith Center, Kansas, to Mollie and William Goodrich Arbuckle, he had several years of Vaudeville experience, including work at Idora Park in Oakland, California. One of his earliest mentors was comedian Leon Errol. He began his film career with the Selig Polyscope Company in July 1909. Arbuckle appeared sporadically in Selig one-reelers until 1913, moved briefly to Universal Pictures and became a star in producer-director Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops comedies.
Arbuckle was also a talented singer. After Enrico Caruso heard him sing he urged the comedian to "give up this nonsense you do for a living, with training you could become the second greatest singer in the world".
On August 6, 1908 he married Minta Durfee (1889 – 1975), the daughter of Charles Warren Durfee and Flora Adkins. Durfee starred in many early comedy films under the name Minta Durfee, often with Arbuckle.
Despite his massive physical size, Arbuckle was remarkably agile and acrobatic. Mack Sennett, when recounting his first meeting with Arbuckle, noted that he "skipped up the stairs as lightly as Fred Astaire"; and, "without warning went into a feather light step, clapped his hands and did a backward somersault as graceful as a girl tumbler". His comedies are noted as rollicking and fast-paced, have many chase scenes, and feature sight gags. Arbuckle was fond of the famous "pie in the face," a comedy cliché that has come to symbolize silent-film-era comedy itself. The earliest known use of this gag was in the June 1913 Keystone one-reeler A Noise from the Deep, starring Arbuckle and frequent screen partner Mabel Normand. (The first known "pie in the face" on-screen is in Ben Turpin's Mr. Flip in 1909. However, the oldest known thrown "pie in the face" is Normand's).
In 1914 Paramount Pictures made the then-unheard of offer of $1,000 a day/25% of all profits/complete artistic control to make movies with them. The movies were so lucrative and popular that in 1918 they offered Arbuckle a 3-year/$3 million contract.
Arbuckle disliked his screen nickname, which he had been given because of his substantial girth. However, the name Fatty (big buster) identifies the character that Arbuckle portrayed on-screen (usually, a naive hayseed) -- not Arbuckle himself. When Arbuckle portrayed a female, the character was named "Miss Fatty" (as in the film Miss Fatty's Seaside Lovers). Hence, Arbuckle discouraged anyone from addressing him as "Fatty" off-screen.
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