The story of a beloved comedian turned pariah illuminates the mystery behind one of Hollywood’s most shocking events
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, hosted a party in San Francisco’s best hotel. As the party raged, he was alone in room 1219 with Virginia Rappe, a minor actress. Four days later, she died, and he was charged with her murder. Room 1219 tells the story of Arbuckle’s improbable rise and stunning fall—from Hollywood’s first true superstar to its first pariah. Simultaneously, it presents the crime story from the day of the “orgy” through the three trials. Relying on a careful examination of documents, the book finally reveals, after almost a century of wild speculation, what most likely occurred in room 1219. In addition, Room 1219 covers the creation of the film industry—from the first silent experiments to a studio-based system capable of making and, ultimately, breaking a beloved superstar.
“The sensational sex scandal that ended the career of one of Hollywood’s earliest superstars—and generated a tidal wave of public indignation that nearly destroyed the entire film industry—is brought to vivid life in this riveting true crime narrative. Dispelling the salacious myths and lurid legends that have accumulated around Fatty Arbuckle’s notorious ‘wild party,’ Merritt’s book will surely stand as the definitive work on a case that has fascinated and titillated for nearly a century.” —Harold Schechter, author of The Serial Killer Files and The Devil’s Gentleman
“Those who think they know everything about the tragic rise and fall of silent comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle should read Room 1219. It dissects in painstaking detail the myths surrounding the man who not only came to symbolize the bloated decadence of Hollywood in the 1920's, but who helped bring the wild partying of an industry and a decade to an abrupt and sobering end.” —Paula Uruburu, author of American Eve
“With the probing eye of a crime reporter and the vividness of Raymond Chandler, Greg Merritt plunges us back into the 1920s hotel suite where Hollywood infamy was born. Room 1219 is the compulsively readable last word on one of the most mythologized nightmares in film history.” — James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream
“Not just an informed look through the keyhole at Hollywood’s first great scandal, but also a fascinating view of the birth of the movie business and the players who helped create both the industry and the glamour. An enjoyable and instructive read.” —Howard Blum, author of American Lightning
"Merritt displays great compassion for all involved, especially the two principals, both of whom have suffered at the hands of both formal and informal biographers....The definitive account of one of Hollywood's most notorious scandals."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Lovers of film history, media studies, and true crime will enjoy the parallels between the film boom of the early 20th century and the tech boom of today."—Publishers Weekly