08 Aug 5 Scandals That Have Rocked Hollywood to the Core
Hollywood is synonymous with scandal because as long as the film industry has been around, there’s been a series of controversies surrounding it. The bright lights of Hollywood sound stages and the allure of fame and fortune serve as the perfect breeding ground for some of the world’s most amazing talents.
But thanks to its obsession with youth and beauty, and its promise of wealth, it’s also the ideal playground for every kind of predator and con artist imaginable. Simply put, there’s a reason the Hollywood sign is crooked. In this first part of our newest post, we detail five of the biggest scandals that have rocked the movie industry to its core.
This is NO life: The Frances Farmer Story
Frances Farmer was an actress born ahead of her time. However, although she was famous for her acting in the mid 20th century, today her story is infamous for its sudden twists and disturbing end.
Before things started to take a downward turn for Farmer in 1942, she landed a seven-year contract with Paramount pictures. Her talent and exquisite beauty made her an overnight sensation with her work opposite stars like Gary Cooper and Cary Grant in films like “Rhythm on the Range” and “Toast of New York.”
Unfortunately, as quickly as her star rose, it fell.
In 1942, Farmer was arrested after being pulled over for driving with her headlights on bright during a wartime blackout. Police discovered she was intoxicated, and she spent the night in jail. This arrest would be the start of a downward spiral for Frances.
Shortly after, Farmer was arrested for allegedly dislocating a hair dresser’s jaw. This time, she did not go down peacefully. During the court proceedings, she cried out that her civil rights had been violated and threw an inkwell at the judge. Frances was dragged off to jail, screaming, “Have you ever had a broken heart!”
Frances was then admitted into a hospital where she was diagnosed with manic depressive disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. There are reports that she had to endure an unapproved lobotomy while at the mental ward.
After these episodes, Frances would see some resurgence to her career after appearing on an episode of “This is Your Life.” She would later host her own show, “Frances Farmer Presents,” and continued to act in plays until her death in 1970. Her autobiography “Will There Really Be a Morning” was published posthumously, and it includes claims that while she was a patient at Western State Hospital, she suffered such atrocities as being forced to perform as a sex slave for orderlies, eating her own feces and being chained to a padded wall where she was gnawed on by rats.
Scales of Justice: The Fatty Arbuckle Case
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was one of the most famous and highest-paid silent movie stars of the early 1900s. He was a major player for Keystone pictures, and his career showed no signs of slowing down until one fateful night in 1921.
Wanting to take a break from his hectic schedule, Roscoe and two friends rented some rooms at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, where the star hosted a party.
One of the guests was a young actress named Virginia Rappe, who became severely ill during the night’s festivities. A doctor at the hotel diagnosed Rappe’s condition as having been the result of too much drinking. What the doctor didn’t know at the time was that Rappe suffered from cystitis, which would become irritated when she drank, causing her agonizing pain. The doctor gave her some morphine and went on his way.
Virginia was taken to the hospital days later and soon died. A friend of Rappe’s who had been at the party accused Fatty Arbuckle of sexually assaulting Virginia and subsequently killing her, though no evidence of rape had been discovered. Police suggested that Arbuckle, who was extremely overweight, had accidentally crushed Rappe’s bladder when he placed the weight of his body on top of her during the alleged sexual assault.
Arbuckle had a reputation as a kind and gentle man who was actually quite shy around women. Friends Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton spoke out in defense of his character and despite no evidence to suggest any crime had taken place, Roscoe had to endure three separate trials for rape and murder.
The first two ended in hung juries and the third in an acquittal with a formal apology issued by the court. Though he was found innocent on all charges, the damage had already been done. Roscoe had to resort to using an alias in order to continue working in Hollywood, and though he eventually was able to secure a contract with Warner Brothers, he died of a heart attack before he could stage his comeback.
Lana Turner’s Courtroom Drama
Lana Turner is one of classic Hollywood’s most famous actresses. She was first discovered at age 16 when she walked into a malt shop to purchase a soda. As an adult, she became a famous pin-up model before moving on to a career as a serious actress with her work in films like “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and in her Academy Award-nominated performance in “Peyton Place.”
Unfortunately, Lana’s life and that of her daughter Cheryl would be turned upside-down when Turner started dating infamous mobster Johnny Stompanato.
Stompanato courted Turner by finding out her phone number and sending her expensive gifts under the assumed name of John Steele so as not to frighten her away with who he really was. Turner was fascinated and soon the two began dating, but their whirlwind romance would become a tumultuous affair soon after Turner discovered who the mobster really was.
The couple started having frequent arguments, and though she tried to break the relationship off numerous times, Lana found herself going back to Johnny time and time again. It’s been reported that while Lana was on set filming in London, Johnny showed up with a gun and angrily confronted her, since Lana was allegedly trying to have him deported. Johnny was ultimately deported and Lana finished the movie without further incidents.
After returning to the states, Turner prepared for the Academy Awards, where she was both a nominee and presenter. Stompanato, upset that Turner had not taken him to the ceremony, later confronted her in her Beverly Hills home. That’s when he threatened murder.
Fearing for her mother’s life, Chery rushed into the room with a knife and stabbed Stompanato, who later died of his injuries. In court, Lana tearfully testified about the abuse she had endured and the events leading up to Stampanato’s death.
Due in part to Lana’s testimony, her daughter was found to have acted in self-defense. Though Turner continued to act, this scandal would follow her for the rest of her life. Some have even suggested that it was Turner who actually killed Johnny and had her daughter take the blame.
Many have also speculated that the best performance of Turner’s career was on the witness stand that day.
Polanski: Where Sympathy Ends
Roman Polanski is one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, having directed such instant classics as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Repulsion” and “Chinatown.” In March 1977, however, Roman Polanski would make a decision that would forever change his life and the life of a 13 year-old girl.
Roman Polanski was born in 1933 in Paris to polish parents. When he was three, his family moved back to Poland, and this is where Polanski experienced the first of what would be many tragedies in his life.
The Nazi occupation of Poland in the late 1930s led to Roman’s parents being sent away to concentration camps. During the time of his parent’s capture, Polanski experienced many horrors, from being used as target practice by the Gestapo to seeing a woman being shot to death right in front of his eyes. Unfortunately, his pregnant mother died in a concentration camp, but Roman was eventually able to reunite with his father.
Roman’s love of films began soon after the war ended. Movies were a way for him to escape the life he had known. Unfortunately, he would continue to experience horror and adversity throughout much of his life.
In 1949, for example, a 15-year-old Roman suffered an attack to the back of the head while he was trying to sell a bicycle to a stranger. As luck would have it, the stranger, who looked suspicious with blood-stained clothes, was spotted by a garbage man. Roman was found and rushed to the hospital. It turns out the man who attacked him was a serial killer the police had been looking for. He had attacked eight other young boys, killing three.
After becoming a successful director, Polanski met and fell in love with actress Sharon Tate, whom he later married. While filming on location for “The Day of the Dolphin,” Polanski left his pregnant wife under the care of good friends with plans to return before the birth of their child. On August 9, 1969, Tate and friends were murdered by members of the Manson family.
Still, despite the sympathy one could have for all the suffering that Polanski had to endure leading up to the murder of Sharon Tate, it does not excuse his actions toward a 13-year-old girl in 1977, actions that would embroil him in controversy.
Polanski was commissioned by a magazine to take photographs of young girls for a feature they were writing. One of the models was named Samantha Geimer. During their first photo shoot, he asked Samantha to change her clothes and snapped topless pictures of her.
A few weeks later, he picked up Samantha again for a second photo shoot, drove her to his friend’s home and gave her a glass of champagne and a Quaalude. He then instructed her to get into the Jacuzzi, where he began to snap pictures of her. When Samantha began feeling woozy from the effects of the drugs, Roman told her to go into the bedroom and lie down. It was then that he sexually assaulted her.
The police arrested Polanski the next day at his hotel, where they found Quaaludes and pictures of the young girl.
Wanting to avoid the trauma of having to relive her assault in court, Samantha and her family agreed to a plea deal. Polanski served a 90-day prison sentence that involved a psychological evaluation. After serving just half of his sentence, he was released on probation, but fearing that he would be ordered to complete his sentencing, Polanski fled to Europe, where he currently lives in exile. Polanski continues to make movies. In 2002, amid controversy, he won the Academy Award for best director for his film “The Pianist.”
Me Too, Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein has produced some of the most critically acclaimed movies in Hollywood history, everything from “Pulp Fiction” to “Shakespeare in Love,” as well as some of the most popular Broadway plays and musicals like “The Producers” and “August: Osage County.” But despite the important work he helped to produce, it does not in any way cleanse him of the crimes he committed against several women.
In October 2017, the New York Times publishes an article written by Ronan Farrow (son of actress Mia Farrow and director Woody Allen) accusing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. Two of the women the article mentions by name are actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd. After the article’s publication, over 80 other women came out with their own stories regarding Weinstein, also accusing the producer of sexual improprieties. Weinstein admitted to causing a lot of women harm but denied all allegations of rape.
Even after he was fired from his own company, Weinstein maintained that though he behaved inappropriately, he never raped anyone (although at least three women have accused him of having done so). Eventually, more accusations mounted from such Hollywood A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie.
If there is a silver lining to find in this case then, it’s through the #meToo and #timesUp movements it helped to spark. Feeling fed up by the status quo, women and many allies have formed a united front to stand up against misogyny and sexism, and Weinstein would be the first of many abusers to topple.
The #meToo movement, which began in 2006 when civil rights activist Tarana Burke began using it to bring awareness of sexual abuse against women, would find new life when actress Alyssa Milano encouraged other women who had been sexually harassed to use it as a hashtag.
The hashtag would soon give birth to the #timesUp movement, which has raised over $20 million to help victims of sexual abuse. Harvey Weinstein’s years of terror against women may also find some legal justice. As of May 2018, he has been charged with rape and other counts of sexual abuse.