Recommended: I, Fatty

Jerry Stahl (2004)

You don’t have to be a fan of silent movies to appreciate this first-person account of the rise and fall of Fatty Arbuckle, one of Hollywood’s first super-stars. It’s hard to imagine now just how popular Fatty was in his day; unfortunately, most of his silent comedies are lost or forgotten, buried under the scandal that ended his career and ruined the man.

Fatty’s story is effectively told in retrospect, from the highs of performing in early motion pictures to the crashing end ushered in with a drunken party, a dead actress, and the resulting scandal when the screen star was charged with her rape and murder. He was later acquitted, but the damage was done, tarnishing Fatty’s star forever as well as Hollywood’s public image. Stahl’s book is as an entertaining behind-the-scenes glimpse into early movie making, vividly evoking what it must have been like when everything was new and they were making all the rules.

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