If you've never heard of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, a look at his IMDb page will give you an idea that back in the early days of film, this guy was a gigantic star. He starred in more than 100 shorts, with almost 50 in 1914 alone (think about that schedule the next time you spend a whole afternoon painstakingly crafting a single message board post). By 1921, he was earning $1,000,000 a year making features for Paramount, back when that was ridiculous money.
A dog at the dinner table? Old movies sure are zany.
Shortly before their deaths, John Belushi, Chris Farley and John Candy were all considered for the role of Arbuckle, the original "Live Fat, Die Young" screen comic. This has led some to suggest that the role is cursed, although this particular curse is probably more closely related to Big Macs and/or cocaine.
If you look at the IMDb credits, right after 1921, you see this huge hole in Fatty's list. All at once, like flipping a switch, the parts dried up. What happened?
Well, Arbuckle and two friends spent Labor Day weekend in San Francisco. Virginia Rappe, an actress, became ill at a party in Arbuckle's hotel room and died four days later of an infection caused by a ruptured bladder.
The newspapers went nuts, and rumors ranged from the portly Arbuckle crushing Rappe during sex to some non-slapstick activity with a Coke bottle. Arbuckle was tried for manslaughter three times, with shaky prosecution evidence and witness coercion leading to two hung juries and finally an acquittal, with the last jury even issuing him a written apology for the "great injustice." For Arbuckle, he must have thought that finally, the nightmare was over.
It wasn't. Hollywood went ahead and banned Arbuckle from moviemaking and had his films withdrawn from circulation. Mind you, this happened less than a week after he was acquitted.
Though that ban would be lifted within a year (under heavy public protest), the studios weren't exactly lining up to sign him, with his IMDb page telling the sad story. There's the silence of 1922-23, a small part in a lost Valentino film in 1924, the same year he began directing under the pseudonym "William Goodrich." In 1925, there was a small uncredited part in a film by his old partner, Buster Keaton.
And then, the saddest damn listing in the whole database. In the film Listen Lena, he plays "Fat man with strategically covered face--(uncredited) (unconfirmed)."
OK, he returned to acting shortly before his 1933 death (he actually died after a party celebrating a new contract), but... Jesus. An uncredited and unconfirmed fat man with strategically covered face. If that doesn't say it all, the poor fat bastard.