A mysterious death, Fatty Arbuckle, and the night that changed Hollywood

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Silent film star Fatty Arbuckle was on top of the world in 1921. Under contract to Paramount for a million dollars a year, with seven films in theaters, he was  living a lavish life in the early days of Hollywood.

Then came the incident that changed everything: the mysterious death of a young actress after a night of Prohibition-era partying. A charge of murder against Arbuckle and a scandal that riveted the American public.

9781613747926_p0_v1_s260x420-199x300Though Arbuckle was ultimately acquitted in the death of Virginia Rappe, he was banished from the business and never quite regained his footing.

Writer and film historian Greg Merritt’s meticulously researched new book, “Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal that Changed Hollywood,” tells the tale in a way that brings alive the dawn of the film industry, and the nature of celebrity.

We talked to him about Arbuckle and fame in the age before Twitter.