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Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal That Changed Hollywood
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Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal That Changed Hollywood

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  407 ratings  ·  77 reviews
In 1921, one of the biggest movie stars in the world was accused of killing a woman. What followed was an unprecedented avalanche of press coverage, the original “trial of the century,” and a wave of censorship that altered the course of Hollywood filmmaking.

It began on Labor Day, when comic actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, then at the pinnacle of his fame and fortune, hoste
Hardcover, 440 pages
Published September 1st 2013 by Chicago Review Press
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Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Most people of this generation don't know who Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is and what he was famous for. Hell, most people nowadays barely know anything about silent film and only recognize the iconic names (such as Charlie Chaplin, [maybe] Mary Pickford, etc.). What they don't realize, is that Fatty was a major comedy star pre-scandal and at one point was more famous than Chaplin! He also gave Buster Keaton, another name that lives on, a leg up into the business and they were really great friends. ...more
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Greg Merritt's Room 1219 is probably the best book I've read all year. It's incredibly well-organized, insightful, thoughtful, unbiased, thorough, clear and well-written. I was very interested in the Arbuckle-Rappe scandal but was worried that I would be overwhelmed with boring information about the three trials. My experience was quite the opposite. I was enthralled and found myself not wanting to let the book go.

The key to the book's success is Merritt's organization of the chapters. Each chap
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a tragic just tragic story
This man had it all and he fought to have the life of a "Hollywood star"!! But a false story totally crippled not only his career but destroyed his life!!
It's sad how a fun loving man could close everything to a harlot that had clanked false accusations before

Just a sad tragic story
Tracy Sherman
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal That Changed Hollywood by Greg Merritt (a god-awful title by the way) does something that no other book on Roscoe Arbuckle has done before, it presents its subjects, both Roscoe and Virginia, as actual human beings.
If most people know these names at all, and I'd lay 10 to 1 that most people do not, it has to do with scandal, misinformation, and demonization of these two unfairly maligned people.
Katherine Addison
Merritt's book is a biography of Roscoe Arbuckle (he put up with the nickname "Fatty" for his career, but no one who knew him called him that), and of Virginia Rappe (pronounced "rappay"), insofar as Merritt was able to unearth information about her; it is also, therefore, an excellent book about silent movies and the beginnings of Hollywood. But mostly it is the terrible story of the point where Arbuckle and Rappe's lives intersected and the consequences thereof. Merritt is passionately interes ...more
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have been hoping for a coherent and somewhat balanced book on this particular topic for a very long time, and thank goodness this one was well researched and thought out. This case has interested me since I was a kid--I first came across Roscoe Arbuckle in the saddest of places--Hollywood Babylon--that book fascinated and repelled me for as long as I can remember. As a kid I could not possibly have known it's origins and falsehoods, only pictures of the movie stars that I already adored and so ...more
Jun 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting and informative book. Not only did it clear up the "raped by a Coke bottle" legend that has been attached to Fatty for 90 years but it also described both Fatty and Virginia Rappe as human beings. I thought the court proceedings were a little drawn out but I can't believe it took 3 trials to acquit this man and I feel bad that his career was over and he was blackballed. If only we could blackball the Kardashians!

The book also gave great history about Hollywood, how
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars. Room 1219 is a highly entertaining & informative look at the very first "Trial of the Century". Before O.J. or Jodi Arias the world was obsessed with silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle who was accused of killing actress Virginia Rappe. I learned a lot from this book, like the fact that forensics were already being used in 1921. This book also tried to separate fact from rumor. As a fan of silent films I really enjoyed the portrait of early Hollywood the author painted. I would recomm ...more
Michael Ritchie
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting book on the lives of silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and model/starlet Virgina Rappe, whose fates were sealed over Labor Day weekend 1921 when Rappe was taken seriously ill at a party hosted by Arbuckle and subsequently died. Because of rumors and some loose talk from Arbuckle himself, he was arrested and charged with manslaughter. Though he was eventually acquitted, his career never recovered. The author argues that both of them had their images tarnished and presents an ev ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Poor Fatty Arbuckle. First, he had to become famous by naming himself Fatty - reclaiming and empowering himself with the name that bullies had given him during his dirt-poor, peripatetic childhood. Second, he tried to have a Prohibition-era good time one Labor Day and it basically ruined his life. Mondays, right?

This book is probably one of the most even-handed of the books on the Incident. Not that I've read others, but the book has many good references, and it was essentially just conveyed in
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and tragic story about a man destroyed at the height of his career by the media and a poor police investigation. Merritt explores in painstaking detail the case of Fatty Arbuckle and the murder he was accused of and will be forever associated with. The thing that surprised me most was that there was really no evidence and he was finally acquitted after 3 trials. The media served as a kind of lynch mob destroying his reputation and career and fostering a view of Hollywood as immoral ...more
Kelsey Hanson
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book gives a a descent overview of the Virginia Rappe case. It's hard to tell exactly what occurred, but either way the consequences pretty much destroyed Arbuckle's career. The book covers the history of Arbuckle's early career and the aftermath of Virginia Rappe's death pretty thoroughly. I was kind of hoping that they could provide a more conclusive answer on what caused Virginia Rappe's death, but this does provide a pretty solid overview of a case that I was not familiar with. ...more
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read about the rise and fall of early Hollywood's biggest star. It probably could have been pared down a bit (how many times and in how many different ways do we need to be told that nobody knows what really happened in room 1219?), but there are so many interesting details in this story, I couldn't help but get swept away by the scandal. ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I really expected to like this more, but something about the style didn't appeal to me. Perhaps the author's dry tone or something. Couldn't put my finger on it.

Useful for a research tome, but probably won't be reading it again.
Bill Tyroler
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
"Asked about the difference between American and British comedy, Eric Morecambe replied that in America they had funny lines but no funny men." ( Well, that can't always have been true, and next to Charlie Chaplin, the comedic Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was the biggest star of the Silent Era. At least until Virginia Rappe died after partying in Arbuckle's San Francisco hotel suite, leading to a manslaughter trial. Trials, actually: two hung juries, then a s ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it
What should have been a gripping and fast-paced true crime book ended up slow drudgery by the end. A significant part of the problem is that Merritt thinks he is creating interest by jumping back and forth from the beginnings of Arbuckle's career, to the trial, but the reality is it just makes for a confused and abrupt narrative. Merritt also comes down very heavily on the "Arbuckle definitely did it" side for a long, nearly interminable portion of the middle of the book, before reverting back t ...more
Lynne M
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What I like is that this book did not vilify Virginia Rappe or Arbuckle, the way they both have been in the past. Most people today don't know about Arbuckle, but to fans of Old Hollywood (like me) he is well-known as perhaps the first big name screen comic. I never knew that he played a big role in helping Buster Keaton (another legendary screen comic) gain a foothold in Hollywood, and that later on, Keaton would help him do the same when his reputation became tainted.

It's amazing to me that A
Heather Babcock
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This fascinating book details the lead up to, events of and aftermath of Labor Day, 1921: a day of infamy which led to the end of one life, the ruination of another and to Hollywood's first scandal. The principals of this notorious (and mysterious) case, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe, certainly have a friend in biographer Greg Merritt who tells their story with empathy and compassion. In particular, I was quite impressed by the book's fair and detailed treatment of Ms. Rappe - it wa ...more
Tammy Buchli
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this very readable account of the life and hard times of silent film star Fatty Arbuckle. I am not a 'celebrity person' as a rule, but I have always made an exception for silent screen stars. I find them endlessly fascinating and, consequently, have been reading about this scandal since the 1970s. This account was the best I have read. I enjoyed the format, with the chapters switching back and forth between the life stories of the principals (both Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe) an ...more
Georgia Stone
Oct 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are many books about the sensational death of Virginia Rappe and the resulting scandal that turned Roscoe Arbuckle from beloved comedy star to archetypal monster. None come anywhere close in detail and analysis to Merritt's account. This is as close as we will ever get to understanding what really happened during a 1921 party, but he also understands how the Arbuckle case has continued to resonate for nearly a century. It's fascinating history, but also thoughtful and relevant account of t ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Part whodunnit, part old Hollywood historia. Merritt's way of juxtaposing early Hollywood with the excess of the Jazz Age made for an intriguing and enjoyable experience. We already know some of the players, such as Chaplin and Keaton. But here we have a figure in Arbuckle who's either largely forgotten, or remembered for tragic reasons.

Merritt paints a very complete picture of the court proceedings, the night in question, and who Arbuckle and Rappe were. And we can't help but see parallels in t
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An in depth look at Fatty Arbuckle

I thought this book did an excellent job of telling readers the story of the life and trials of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. The author looks deeply into his life and the death of Virginia Rappe. I had heard about the case in reading Hollywood Babylon and Karina Longworth's podcast (You Must Remember This). So I thought I knew the story. I was not completely correct. There is a lot more to the case and trials than can be described here. I feel that now I have a more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
I really enjoyed reading this biography of Fatty Arbuckle and the event that has come to be synonymous with his name—the events that took place in Room 1219 of the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco. While a few reviews have suggested there’s nothing new about his “solution” their missing the point. This book presents solid research and context from original resources, tells Virginia Rappe’s story for the first time and presents this all in an engaging fashion.
Kenneth Murray
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fatty Arbuckle’s story takes place in Hollywood when silent movies and their stars reigned. A different time and era from today, but perhaps not so much. This book combines biography of Arbuckle with the crime story that ultimately shaped his life. It also shows the power of Hollywood to blackball and inflict punishment far greater than the legal system. This is a well written and researched book about a man largely unknown today. A good read.
Jeanne Beaudet
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great depiction of a truly tragic scandal that left one participant dead and another forever scarred. Fatty Arbuckle was one of the biggest stars of the silent film era. One Labor Day weekend party and one death four days later destroyed his reputation and career. The author brings both the scandal and its players to life plus provides interesting history of the silent film era.
Chuck White

I've know of the famous Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle case for close to 40 years, with my introduction to it including the infamous "bottle" anecdote. Either you know what I mean, or you need to read this book.

This is a fascinating and well-researched telling of Hollywood's first major scandal. Questions are answered, theories analyzed and rumours/myths demystified.

Highly recommended.

Sheldon L. Theodore
The Decline and Fall of a Giant

Room 1219 is not a bad book. It's simply not a good book. About half is written interestingly, the rest seems overly repetitive. For movie buffs, and those interested in the true story about a screen idol who was involved in what was probably Hollywood's biggest scandal, this book sheds light on all aspects of that scandal.
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know I needed this book until I finished it! An in depth look at the Arbuckle/Rappe case, which also includes, or more accurately is interwoven, with the history of comedy, Hollywood, films, the Hays office, and celebrity culture. It's an astonishing array of information imparted brilliantly, and simply. A must for fans of old Hollywood and/or true crime.
Devon Moody
Sep 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book felt more like opinion than fact, often inserting unnecessary adjectives to make Fatty Arbuckle seem like this fat monster. I really did not enjoy the author's writing style and skipped to the end to see what his conclusion was. ...more
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