William Goodrich, the sad clown.
Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle was born in Smith Center Kansas on March 24, 1887. He died 46 years later in New York City on June 29, 1933. He was one of the most popular stars of the 1910s. And during his lifetime he mentored Charlie Chaplin and discovered Buster Keaton and Bob Hope. Sadly today he is only remembered for the rape trial which ended his career. It is said that Roscoe was a wonderful singer, and turned to vaudeville early in his life in order to support himself. It is reported that 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”. I love her Arbuckle’s silent comedies, he has much energy and is so light on his feet! However I recently read that he greatly disliked his screen nickname, “Fatty” and that some fans referred to him as “the Prince of Whales”.
By 1921 he had signed a contract with Paramount Pictures for an unprecedented $1 million! It was during this time when he decided to take a break from his hectic schedule and throw party. Over the course of the next seven months his life and career would be completely ruined. Though he was completely acquitted, he was but a shell of the man he was before. Even though he had always been somewhat of a heavy drinker, he seem to depend on it more after the trial. In the words of his first wife Minta Durfee, “Roscoe only seemed to find solace and comfort in a bottle”
Before his scandal Paramount had offered him $3 million to make up to 18 feature films over a three year period. The scandal robbed us of so much of his brilliant work, who knows what he could’ve turned out in that time because with Roscoe the sky was the limit! William Goodrich was an alias Arbuckle took on to continue directing films, even though he was cleared of all charges most exhibitors still refused to show his pictures. Although he made a brief come back in the early 30s his life was tragically cut short at the age of 46. When you watch Arbuckle’ Keystone comedies, and his stuff with Keaton you can truly see how brilliant he was. His timing is perfect and he never settles for a “cheap” laugh. One can only imagine to what heights his career might have arose to, had it not been cut short by scandal. Or what he could have accomplished after his comeback, had he not died so young. Even though he was anything but sad on screen, his life was very much the opposite. Minta Durfee always claimed he was the nicest man in the world, and that’s how I choose to remember him.