Roscoe ("Fatty") Arbuckle - Actors and Actresses

Nationality: American. Born: Roscoe Conklin Arbuckle in Smith Center, Kansas, 24 March 1887; family moved to Santa Ana, California, in 1888. Family: Married 1) the actress Minta Durfee, 1908 (divorced 1925); 2) Doris Deane, 1925 (divorced 1929); 3) Addie Oakley Dukes McPhail, 1932. Career: 1895—stage debut in Frank Bacon's stock company; 1902–08—toured in stock companies, and on vaudeville and burlesque circuits; 1908—worked as an extra for Colonel Selig's Polyscope Company while continuing to perform in vaudeville; 1909—film debut in Ben's Kid for Boggs; 1913—hired

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
by Mack Sennett to replace Fred Mace in Keystone film comedies; later that year, he appeared with Mabel Normand in the first of a successful series of shorts starring the pair; 1914—allowed to devise and direct his own films; 1917—joined producer Joseph Schenk and headed his own studio, the Comique Film Company, in New York; Buster Keaton joined Arbuckle's film company; later that year, the company moved to Long Beach, California; 1920—his first feature-length film released through Paramount; 1921—as a result of the scandal involving his arrest for the rape or manslaughter of a starlet, his films were banished from many theaters across the country though he was later acquitted; 1923—attempted comeback in Chicago nightclub; 1924—returned to vaudeville; 1925–32—directed films for Sennett's Educational film company under the name William B. Goodrich while continuing to headline in vaudeville under his own name; 1932–33—in a series of talking shorts for Vitaphone Division of Warner Brothers. Died: In New York, 29 June 1933.

Films as Actor:

(shorts unless otherwise noted; contribution as director indicated where known):


Ben's Kid (Boggs); Mrs. Jones' Birthday ; Making It Pleasant for Him


The Sanitarium ( The Clinic ) (Santschi)


Alas! Poor Yorick (Colin Campbell) (as player in female costume); The Gangsters (Lehrman); Passions, He Had Three (Lehrman); Help! Help!, Hydrophobia! (Lehrman); The Waiters' Picnic (Sennett); The Bandit (Sennett); Peeping Pete (Sennett); For the Love of Mabel (Lehrman); The Tell Tale Light (Sennett); A Noise from the Deep (Sennett); Love and Courage (Lehrman); Professor Bean's Removal (Lehrman); The Riot (Sennett); Mabel's New Hero (Sennett); Fatty's Day Off (Wilfred Lucas); Mabel's Dramatic Career (Sennett); The Gypsy Queen (Sennett); Mother's Boy (Lehrman); The Fatal Taxicab (Sennett); When Dreams Come True (Sennett); Two Old Tars (Lehrman); A Quiet Little Wedding (Wilfred Lucas); The Speed Kings (Wilfred Lucas); Fatty at San Diego (George Nichols); Wine (George Nichols); Fatty Joins the Forces (George Nichols); The Woman Haters (Lehrman); Fatty's Flirtation (George Nichols); His Sister's Kids (George Nichols); He Would a Hunting Go (George Nichols); Ride for a Bride (George Nichols)


A Misplaced Foot (Wilfred Lucas); The Under Sheriff (George Nichols); A Flirt's Mistake (George Nichols); In the Clutches of the Gang (George Nichols); A Rebecca's Wedding Day (George Nichols); A Robust Romeo (George Nichols); Twixt Love and Fire (George Nichols); A Film Johnnie (George Nichols); Tango Tangles (Sennett); His Favorite Pastime (George Nichols) (as fellow drunk); A Rural Dream ( A Rival Demon ) (Sennett and Lehrman); Barnyard Flirtations ( A Barnyard Flirtation ); Chicken Chaser (+ d); A Bath House Beauty (+ d); Where Hazel Met the Villain (+ d); A Suspended Ordeal (+ d); The Water Dog (+ d); The Alarm (+ co-d); The Knockout (Avery); Fatty and the Heiress (+ co-d); Fatty's Finish (+ d); Love and Bullets (+ d); A Rowboat Romance (+ d); The Sky Pirate (+ co-d); Those Happy Days (+ d); That Minstrel Man (+ d); Those Country Kids (+ d); Fatty's Gift (+ co-d); The Masquerader ( The Masquerade ) (Chaplin); A Brand New Hero (+ co-d); The Rounders (Chaplin); Lover's Luck (+ d); Fatty's Debut (+ co-d); Fatty Again (+ d); Their Ups and Downs (+ d); Zip, the Dodger (+ d); Lovers' Post Office (+ d); An Incompetent Hero (+ d); Fatty's Jonah Day (+ co-d); Fatty's Wine Party (+ co-d); The Sea Nymphs (+ d); Leading Lizzie Astray (+ co-d); Shotguns that Kick (+ d); Fatty's Magic Pants ( Fatty's Magic Party ; Fatty's Suitless Day ) (+ co-d); Fatty and Minnie He-Haw ( Fatty's Minnie-He-Haw ) (+ co-d); Our Country Cousin ; Caught in a Flue ; The Baggage Smasher ; Tillie's Punctured Romance (Sennett); Killing Horace ; The Bowery Boys ; Lover's Post Office ; How Hiram Won Out ; The Peddler


Mabel and Fatty's Wash Day (+ d); Mabel and Fatty's Simple Life ( Fatty and Mabel's Simple Life ) (+ d); Fatty and Mabel at the San Diego Exposition (+ d); Mabel, Fatty, and the Law (+ d); Fatty's New Role (+ co-d); Mabel and Fatty's Married Life ( Fatty and Mabel's Married Life ) (+ d); Fatty's Reckless Fling (+ d); Fatty's Chance Acquaintance (+ d); Love in Armor (+ d); That Little Band of Gold (+ co-d); Fatty's Faithful Fido (+ co-d); When Love Took Wings (+ d); Wished on Mabel (+ d); Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World's Fair at San Francisco, California (+ d); Mabel's Wilful Way (+ d); Miss Fatty's Seaside Lovers (+ d); The Little Teacher ( Small Town Bully ) (Sennett); Fatty's Plucky Pup (+ d); Fatty's Tintype Tangle (+ d); Fickle Fatty's Fall (+ d); The Village Scandal (+ d); Fatty and the Broadway Stars (+ co-d); Rum and Wallpaper ; Colored Villainy ; Among the Mourners


Fatty and Mabel Adrift (+ d); He Did and He Didn't ( Love and Lobsters ) (+ d); The Bright Lights ( The Lure of Broadway ) (as cook, + d); His Wife's Mistake (as janitor, + d); The Other Man (+ d); The Waiters' Ball (+ d); His Alibi (+ d); A Cream Puff Romance ( A Reckless Romeo ) (+ d)


The Butcher Boy (+ d, sc); The Rough House (+ d, sc); His Wedding Night (+ d, sc); Oh, Doctor! (+ d, sc); Fatty at Coney Island (+ d, sc); A Country Hero (+ d, sc)


Out West (+ d, sc); The Bell Boy (title role, + d, sc); Moonshine (as Chief Revenue Officer, + d, sc); Good Night, Nurse! (+ d, sc); The Cook (+ d, sc); The Sheriff (title role, + d, sc)


Camping (+ d, sc); The Pullman Porter (+ d, sc); Love (+ d, sc) (as farm boy); The Bank Clerk (+d, sc); A Desert Hero (+ d, sc); Back Stage (+ d, sc); The Hayseed (+ d, sc); The Garage (as fire chief, + d, sc)


The Round-Up (Melford—feature) (as Sheriff Slim Hoover); The Life of the Party (Henabery) (as Algernon Leary)


Brewster's Millions (Henabery—feature) (as Montgomery "Monty" Brewster); The Dollar-a-Year Man (Cruze—feature) (as Franklin Pinney); The Traveling Salesman (Henabery—feature) (as Bob Blake); Gasoline Gus (Cruze—feature) (title role); Crazy to Marry (Cruze—feature) (as Dr. Hobart Hupp)


Leap Year (Cruze—not released in U.S.) (as Stanley Piper); Freight Prepaid (Cruze—feature, not released in U.S.) (as Erastus Berry)


Hollywood (Cruze—feature) (as man in casting office)


Go West (Buster Keaton—feature) (as fat woman in department store)


Hey, Pop!


How've You Been? (feature); Buzzin' Around ; Close Relations ; Tomalio (Ray McCarey); In the Dough

Films as Director Only:


The Moonshiners (directed under name William B. Goodrich)


Sherlock, Jr. (co-d with Buster Keaton)


The Movies ; The Tourist


Cleaning Up ; The Fighting Dude ; Home Cured ; My Stars ; His Private Life ; Fool's Luck ; One Sunday Morning


Peaceful Oscar ; The Red Mill (feature); Special Delivery


Won by a Neck ; Three Hollywood Girls ; Si Si Senor ; Up a Tree


Crashing Hollywood ; The Lure of Hollywood ; Windy Riley Goes Hollywood ; Queenie of Hollywood ; Honeymoon Trio ; Ex-Plumber ; Peat and Repeat ; Marriage Rows ; The Back Page ; That's My Line ; Up Pops the Duke ; Beach Pajamas ; Take 'em and Shake 'em ; That's My Meat ; One Quiet Night ; Once a Hero ; The Tamale Vendor ; Smart Work ; Idle Roomers


Hollywood Luck ; Anybody's Goat ; Moonlight and Cactus ; Keep Laughing ; Bridge Wives ; Mother's Holiday ; Niagara Falls ; Hollywood Lights ; Gigolettes ; It's a Cinch


On ARBUCKLE: books—

Keaton, Buster, with Charles Samuels, My Wonderful World of Slapstick , New York, 1960.

Durgnat, Raymond, The Crazy Mirror: Hollywood Comedy and the American Image , New York, 1966.

Yallop, David A., The Day the Laughter Stopped: The True Story of Fatty Arbuckle , London, 1976.

Parish, James Robert, The Funsters , New Rochelle, New York, 1979.

Edmonds, Andy, Frame-up: The Untold Story of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle , New York, 1991.

Oderman, Stuart, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle: A Biography of the Silent Film Comedian, 1887–1933 , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1994.

Young, Robert Jr., Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle: A Bio-Bibliography . Westport, Connecticut, 1994.

On ARBUCKLE: articles—

Obituary in New York Times , 30 June 1933.

Durgnat, Raymond, "World of Comedy," in Films and Filming (London), July—December 1965, and January 1966.

Peeples, S. A., "Films on 8 & 16," in Films in Review (New York), February 1973.

Zito, S., "Hollywood Versus the Press," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), May 1978.

Oderman, Stuart, "Fatty's First," in Classic Film/Video Images , in 15 parts, beginning with no. 64, July 1979 (note: publication changed title to Classic Images in 1980).

Oderman, Stuart, "The Abduction of Minta Arbuckle," in Films in Review (New York), August/September 1985.

Kobal, John, "Silent Laughs," in Films and Filming (London), December 1987.

Le Fanu, Mark, "Vitagraph and the Great Arbuckle," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1987/88.

Telotte, J. P., "Arbuckle Escapes: The Pattern of Fatty Arbuckle's Comedy," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Winter 1988.

Neibaur, J. "Rocoe Arbuckle at Viatphone." Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), no. 268, October 1997.

* * *

Among the many shorts created by the Mack Sennett comedy mill, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's movies remain significant contributions to the pioneer period of the one- and two-reel humorous cinema. After an apprenticeship in vaudeville and in short films for the Selig Polyscope Company as early as 1908, Arbuckle went on to such renown that eventually he was supervising his own films for Keystone. In 1913 he starred (often with Mabel Normand) in 47 films. As an actor, he enjoyed a fame second only to that of Chaplin, who began directing and playing leading roles in 1914, the same year that Sennett gave Arbuckle charge of a unit at Keystone.

Arbuckle had the right combination of obesity and agility to become a member of Sennett's company. He was fleet-footed enough to dash about in the many chase scenes, and he could execute the frequent pratfalls that occurred in the frantic comedy of the Sennett studio. Early in his career he developed a charisma (the fat man as leading comic figure) that was almost as appealing as that projected by the much-loved John Bunny, a skillful actor who played middle-aged roles in genteel comedies. Arbuckle could play a variety of types: a likable country oaf, a lovesick suitor, a philandering husband. Eventually he moved away from the more primitive Keystone caricatures to a more solid comic creation: the young man next door trying to succeed.

Arbuckle developed a more independent style when he left Sennett to work for the Comique Film Corporation. There he created many effective two-reelers and introduced Buster Keaton to the screen as his supporting comedian. He left directing when he graduated to features in the early 1920s starring in Brewster's Millions and Traveling Salesman .

Forced from the screen as a result of his involvement in one of Hollywood's great sex scandals, Arbuckle became a filmmaker for Educational under the assumed name of William Goodrich. Such two-reelers as Cleaning Up in 1926 were minor efforts, but in 1927 he directed his first feature, The Red Mill (adapted from the musical by Victor Herbert). As an actor, the scandal that plagued him allowed him a chance at only bit parts. In the second period he created shorts for Educational and made a modest comeback by starring in some of them. Warner Brothers, under the subsidiary corporation Vitaphone, starred him in Hey, Pop! , Buzzin' Around , How've You Been? , and Tomalio in the early 1930s. The latter film was a broad farce set in South America. Director Ray McCarey, creator of Hal Roach shorts and a Laurel and Hardy feature, Pack Up Your Troubles , did little to help Arbuckle in what might have been a comeback. There were other problems too. A poverty of gag invention plagued this cheaply made two-reeler. Also, the comedian lacked the vocal skills necessary for the sound medium. In the climatic sequence, an obese man engaging in a foot race, the humor is crude. With such weak films Arbuckle did not have much of a chance, but had he been able to move on from such ventures to better parts in better films, he might have been a star again. Unfortunately, he died in 1933.

Arbuckle made a real contribution to the comedy film in his Keystone and Comique days. Also, he taught Buster Keaton all phases of filmmaking, and his student became one of the most important comedians the screen has known.

—Donald McCaffrey

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