Walk of fame: The craziest scandals to rock old Hollywood
Hollywood scandals of yesteryear are always balls-to-the-wall crazy. We imagine it was because social media did not exist yet to document these crimes. There are secret family members, murder, blackmail, extortion, and a studio system that controlled the lives of these people with a celluloid fist.
Also, yachts are heavily featured in almost every scandal on this list.
We’ve gone through and compiled a list of the darkest, weirdest, strangest scandals involving those on the Hollywood walk of fame. Let us know in the comments below if we’ve covered all of them, or if there are more to include.
The murder of Virginia Rappe
Virginia Rappe was a model, dress designer, and actress during the silent film era. During a Labor Day party on September 5, 1921, in San Francisco, she experienced trauma and died four days later.
Arbuckle told investigators that during the party, Rappe said she could not breathe and started vomiting in the bathroom. Arbuckle and other guests tried to revive her, assuming she was intoxicated. However, medical examiners during the trial concluded she was suffering from an untreated bladder condition.
This would have been tragic in any other circumstance, but things became a million times worse due to the interference of Bambina Maude Delmont, who had met Rappe several days before and accompanied her to the party.
Delmont served as a witness for the prosecution (even though she never testified), stating that Arbuckle dragged Rappe into the bedroom and raped her.
The accusation sent shockwaves through the industry and across the country. William Randolph Hearst’s papers published lurid headlines on the accusation and the case itself, while Hearst himself was quoted as saying the scandal sold more papers than the sinking of the Lusitania.
Arbuckle did not say much of anything, at first. He turned himself in and sat in a jail cell for three weeks before his lawyers realized he needed to make a statement or he would lose in the court of public opinion. Arbuckle tried to tell his side of the story, but the papers and the country had turned against him.
It did not matter that Delmont had sent telegrams to attorneys in San Diego and Los Angeles with the message “WE HAVE ROSCOE ARBUCKLE IN A HOLE HERE CHANCE TO MAKE SOME MONEY OUT OF HIM,” and it did not matter that he was formally acquitted by a jury that apologized to him.
Despite the unheard-of apology from a jury, the damage was done. His career was over, and his reputation never recovered from the scandal.
It’s distressing that the one unfounded accusation is the only time Hollywood took a sexual assault case seriously.
MGM was a real dick to Judy Garland
During her tenure at MGM, Judy Garland was exposed to an onslaught of verbal and emotional abuse, because the thought of having a child star who wasn’t a waif was impossible to even consider for studio executives.
There were reports that executives, such as Louis B. Mayer, told her regularly she was so fat she looked “like a monster,” and some even would snatch food out of her hands whenever she tried to eat a meal. Her daily meal consisted of black coffee, chicken soup, diet pills every few hours, and around 80 cigarettes a day.
The harassment resulted in a lifetime eating disorder and substance abuse problem.
The mysterious death of Thomas H. Ince
A lot of these stories include mention of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, because people with that much money and that much power are destined to be villains. Movie producer Thomas Ince was credited as serving as the pioneer of the old studio system.
In November of 1924, he attended a party on Hearst’s private yacht which had a guest list that made up some of the most well-known stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, and movie columnist Louelle Parsons, among others.
Ince grew ill over the course of the evening after consuming salted almonds and champagne, and was eventually escorted home by a doctor, where he died the next day. That is the official story.
The unofficial story is that Hearst accidentally shot Ince after mistaking him for Charlie Chaplin, in the belief that Chaplin was attempting to seduce Hearst’s mistress, Davies. While this scandal has just the right amount of melodrama one would expect to take place on a yacht, it has been contested for years as gossip.
The reports claimed Ince had a gunshot wound to the head, but the family held an open casket viewing before his cremation to allow visitors to pay their last respects. A gunshot wound would have been a little hard to cover up in an open casket.
Yet another mysterious unsolved death
CBS’s Hogan’s Heroes made a star out of actor Bob Crane, who led the show as Colonel Robert E. Hogan. It is arguably the best sitcom based in a German POW camp to ever air (but, to be fair, it didn’t have a lot of competition in that category).
After the six-season run, Crane turned his focus to theater and the occasional guest-starring role in television. However, it was during a theatrical run of Beginner’s Luck in Scottsdale, Arizona, that everything turned weird.
Crane’s co-star Victoria Ann Berry entered his apartment on June 29, 1978, after he failed to show up for a meeting and found he had been bludgeoned to death. Investigators suggested it was a camera tripod, but the weapon has never been recovered. An electrical cord had been tied around his neck, but nothing was missing or taken from his apartment.
The police department for Scottsdale was almost laughably ill-equipped to handle such a high-profile homicide, but it was after his death that details of his life and the days leading up to his murder started to come out.
Crane liked to photograph and videotape his sexual experiences, often without informing his partners. The catalogue of material led investigators to John Henry Carpenter, a former Sony Electronics regional sales manager who helped Crane with his video equipment and later became a friend.
The two would often videotape their joint sexual encounters, but during the trial, Crane’s son Robert said his father had grown tired of the relationship and wanted to end it. Investigators searched Carpenter’s car and found several blood smears that matched Crane’s blood type, but it was still a long time before DNA testing would be invented, and the lack of a murder weapon and significant material evidence made it a difficult case to prosecute.
Lawyers during the trial suggested the murderer could have been one of the women he videotaped without consent, or an angry boyfriend or husband. Carpenter was acquitted and maintained his innocence until his death in 1998.
The murder remains unsolved to this day.
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John Carpenter killed Bob Crane.May 2, 2020