So...that Fatty Arbuckle thing...

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Frederica

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PostFri Dec 05, 2008 7:23 pm

misspickford9 wrote:As for the movie versions thats what I meant; I just cant believe time and time again (with big names attached at that) the Fatty films have fallen through. I agree period pieces might not be hot sellers BUT when you throw in all that sex, drugs, scandal, fame, and murder well...one would think it'd be interesting!


Yes, but in the Arbuckle case, you'd have to subtract the sex and murder, so all you'd be left with is some depressing tawdry. I suppose you could add songs and make a musical out of it. Anyone up for composing the score? Rodney? Donald? Ben? Ken?

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Frederica

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PostFri Dec 05, 2008 7:35 pm

radiotelefonia wrote:Personally I am surprised that the big 3 (Olive Thomas, Fatty Arbuckle, and William Desmond Taylor) have never been of interest to film makers (or at least that I can find).


There is this forgotten film, which I don't really remember well: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104290/


"A rock video director moves into the house in which Wm. Desmond Taylor was murdered." :shock: He moved into the parking lot where the apartment court used to be? or perhaps the produce section of the grocery store connected to the parking lot?

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Rob Farr

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PostFri Dec 05, 2008 7:45 pm

If you are looking for movies about 1920s Hollywood murders that never happened, check out The Cat's Meow. It got OK reviews but flopped at the box office and ended up being the umpteenth nail in the coffin of Peter Bognodovich's theatrical film directing career. It was more interesting than the movie about intermittant wiper blades, but not by much. And I actually liked Nickelodeon! Why in the world did Bogdonovich think that Eddie Izzard could pass for Chaplin? Lee Evans is the only living actor who's got the chops for the role.
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Mike Gebert

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PostFri Dec 05, 2008 7:48 pm

It would interest me more than a film about a guy inventing intermittent windshield wipers...


Yeah, at least when Francis Coppola made the same movie, Tucker, it was about the whole car.
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PostFri Dec 05, 2008 11:04 pm

I don't think you can make a successful film out of old Hollywood scandals because the facts are always in dispute - even today. The studios did such a masterful job of covering up for their stars when they went astray that the public rarely knew the true sorid tales back then and time and hazy memories makes trying to recreate it by investigative journalists a jigsaw nightmare. Who should I believe? Which version sounds more plausible? It would be easy if you could look at the evidence that the police were dealing with back then but it sounds like nothing was rarely intact. The studio's would send in their Eddie Mannix's who would wipe the scene clean of evidence (just like 'The Cleaner' from "Pulp Fiction"), pay off the cops and plant their version of the story that they wanted to be heard. Then flash forward 30 years later and disembodied voices start speaking up saying "I was there....", "I heard from a friend who said...", "I've never spoken up before but......." and suddenly we are in Wonderland trying to figure out who is telling the truth, who is senile and all with very little to back it up.

Knowing how Hollywood worked back then and having a general sense of the characters involved many film historians have made an educated guess at the outcome of many of the scandals but it is still an educated guess. There is no concrete solution, which is ruinous to the screenwriter. Ambiguous endings can work in fictional dramas but a true life mystery on the big screen needs some kind of resolution. Take the afore mentioned "The Cat's Meow". The filmmakers went with the rumored version of Hearst accidently shooting Ince while trying to kill Chaplin for schtupping Marion. This resolution is going to piss off half of it's target audience who read up on these things and find that version balderdash. That leaves half an audience watching it and everyone else who doesn't know these people ignoring it all together.

I think the best movies that can be made on these subjects don't deal with any one true scandal but casts a light on a certain era by showing the corruption involved by studios and law enforcement, films like "L.A. Confidential". It's hard to get mad at a resolution of a piece of fiction.

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misspickford9

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PostSun Dec 07, 2008 6:54 pm

gjohnson wrote:I don't think you can make a successful film out of old Hollywood scandals because the facts are always in dispute - even today. The studios did such a masterful job of covering up for their stars when they went astray that the public rarely knew the true sorid tales back then and time and hazy memories makes trying to recreate it by investigative journalists a jigsaw nightmare. Who should I believe? Which version sounds more plausible? It would be easy if you could look at the evidence that the police were dealing with back then but it sounds like nothing was rarely intact. The studio's would send in their Eddie Mannix's who would wipe the scene clean of evidence (just like 'The Cleaner' from "Pulp Fiction"), pay off the cops and plant their version of the story that they wanted to be heard. Then flash forward 30 years later and disembodied voices start speaking up saying "I was there....", "I heard from a friend who said...", "I've never spoken up before but......." and suddenly we are in Wonderland trying to figure out who is telling the truth, who is senile and all with very little to back it up.

Knowing how Hollywood worked back then and having a general sense of the characters involved many film historians have made an educated guess at the outcome of many of the scandals but it is still an educated guess. There is no concrete solution, which is ruinous to the screenwriter. Ambiguous endings can work in fictional dramas but a true life mystery on the big screen needs some kind of resolution. Take the afore mentioned "The Cat's Meow". The filmmakers went with the rumored version of Hearst accidently shooting Ince while trying to kill Chaplin for schtupping Marion. This resolution is going to piss off half of it's target audience who read up on these things and find that version balderdash. That leaves half an audience watching it and everyone else who doesn't know these people ignoring it all together.

I think the best movies that can be made on these subjects don't deal with any one true scandal but casts a light on a certain era by showing the corruption involved by studios and law enforcement, films like "L.A. Confidential". It's hard to get mad at a resolution of a piece of fiction.

Gary J.


While I do agree that everything was covered up, and it is impossible to know the real bonafide truth, Im not sure I agree with that theory. Maybe something like Ince or Fatty would have a good chunk of fans who would go 'well no thats not the theory I agree with' but to most of the viewers these people are probably brand new. Obviously being a film its hard to tell the exact truth; but like I said I think theres enough interesting to make it viewable without becoming 'Hollywood Babylon' slanderous. I think the reason previous projects failed was because they just werent that good the way they were presented (directing, costuming, script, etc). Course that goes for any film...based on a real story or not.
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Jack Theakston

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PostMon Dec 08, 2008 2:58 am

Trust me, the facts have NEVER gotten in the way of Hollywood making the film. Quite the opposite. In thought of recent historical biographies, anyone who has seen THE AVIATOR, great film as it is, and knows a single thing about Howard Hughes knows the film took quite a few liberties.
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Frederica

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PostMon Dec 08, 2008 8:47 am

Jack Theakston wrote:Trust me, the facts have NEVER gotten in the way of Hollywood making the film. Quite the opposite. In thought of recent historical biographies, anyone who has seen THE AVIATOR, great film as it is, and knows a single thing about Howard Hughes knows the film took quite a few liberties.


History isn't their business. Print the legend.

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Bob Birchard

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PostSun Dec 28, 2008 12:57 pm

misspickford9 wrote: Personally I am surprised that the big 3 (Olive Thomas, Fatty Arbuckle, and William Desmond Taylor) have never been of interest to film makers (or at least that I can find). I mean Thomas Ince over these 3? Or several Valentino biographies all sexed and made up to be interesting? Hell you dont even have to embellish these scandals...their juicy enough!

That being said Id love to work on all 3 someday. But Im no big shot so a...look for such a film on youtube circa 2025 LOL!!! ANNNYWAYS I would also like to know more about Maude. If she is the villian, alongside the DA...how and why? What did she do after all this stuff? DId she go around giving lectures or was that a Hollywood Babylon thing?

Very interesting indeed...


There has been plenty of interest in all these Hollywood tales through the years, but they've never come to the screen--except for that rotten Bogdanovich movie about Ince.

I think there are several reasons why the stories remain intriguing but unfilmed. One is that movies about movies historically have never done well at the box-office. Also, while these stories fascinate film buffs the wider audience has no knowledge of who these people are today, nor do they have a real perspective on their popularity and/or importance to the picture business. The stories are also rather seamy and not likely to be general audience fare. Period pictures tend to be more expensive than modern dress films, and with the historically poor performance of movies about movies adding the curse of being a period picture makes it considerably less likely these stories will be brought to the screen in a big-budget manner (again the Ince picture was done on the CHEAP!)

But beyond any of these consideratons, there are really no satisfactory solutions to these stories. Was Thomas's death an accident, a suicide? perhaps even a murder?

What actually went on behind those doors between Roscoe and Virginia? Bladders do not spontaneously rupture. Did she fall off the bed? Slip in the bathroom? Was she assaulted?

And, finally: Who Killed Bill? Sidney Kirkpatrick's book is about 90% balderdash. So, if Mary's mother didn't do it, was it Mary hersself? Mabel--the last person to see him alive? Margaret Gibson--she of the deathbed confession? Or did WDT meet his death at the hand of another person or persons unknown?

The only time I've ever seen an attempt at doing a "Rashomon" on a Hollywood scandal story was "Hollywoodland," quite an admiarble film IMHO even if historically questionable--but once again--no one went to see it.

If they didn't flock to see the story of TV's Superman with the series still in syndication and available on DVD and with the recent on-going Superman movies and TV series like Smalleville and Lois and Clark, who will go see films about Taylor, Arbuckle and Thomas?
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PostSun Dec 28, 2008 3:08 pm

Jack Theakston wrote:Trust me, the facts have NEVER gotten in the way of Hollywood making the film. Quite the opposite. In thought of recent historical biographies, anyone who has seen THE AVIATOR, great film as it is, and knows a single thing about Howard Hughes knows the film took quite a few liberties.

Interestingly I am currently on a Howard Hughes book reading extravaganza, I am about seven books down and three to go, the whole Spruce Goose thing is fascinating from these shores along with all his shennanigans in business etc, I know this is asking to shift the emphasis from films sort of, but, what is the American take on Howard Hughes and his history of film making and his lifestory. Over here in Britain, we only get so much of an overview as to make book reading the only source of information, hence the number of books I read on the subject.
I know enough to tell you that 'The Aviator' was a load of Hollywoodised bunkum and they can stick it, but, can anyone shed a little truthful light on the subject....?
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PostMon Dec 29, 2008 11:01 am

I am about seven books down and three to go, the whole Spruce Goose thing is fascinating from these shores along with all his shennanigans in business etc, I know this is asking to shift the emphasis from films sort of, but, what is the American take on Howard Hughes and his history of film making and his lifestory. Over here in Britain, we only get so much of an overview as to make book reading the only source of information, hence the number of books I read on the subject.
I know enough to tell you that 'The Aviator' was a load of Hollywoodised bunkum and they can stick it, but, can anyone shed a little truthful light on the subject....?


TCM did a biography of HH a couple of years ago. While there is a lot crammed into the 1 hour running time, it is well done and definitely worth seeking out.

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Bob Birchard

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PostMon Dec 29, 2008 11:29 am

In the fall of 1976 I was working for Echo Film Service, a post production company that had its offices in the editorial building of the General Service Studio at 1040 N. Las Palmas in Hollywood. Howard Hughes had once been a partner in the studio in the early 1930s when it had been known as the Metropolitan Sound Studio, and it was here that he made Hell's Angels, Scarface, The Front Page, and Cock of the Air. What? Never heard of Cock of the Air? I’m not surprised. In the language of the picture busines, it wasn’t released it escaped! That was in 1932, and except for some 16mm non-thatrical rental prints struck in the 1940s, the film has been virtually unseen since.

It was about six months after the world heard the news of Howard Hughes's death, and one day an old editor (I wish I could remember his name) came into our place to rent a Moviola. We weren't in the rental business, but he was insistent that he didn't want to rent from a regular rental house. We were to deliver the Moviola, an editing bench, a splicer, film bin, some reels and the necessary expendibles--splicing tape, grease pencils, and all to the old Multicolor building on Romaine Street--Multicolor having been the process in which Hughes shot the color sequences for Hell's Angels. The art-deco building, which had been built in 1931, was a place where Howard Hughes had maintained one of his hideawawy offices through the years.

The old editor was in his late seventies or early eighties, and had been around since the 1930s. He was officially retired, but my boss, Russ Tinsley, knew him from the Editors Guild, and mentioned that he had worked at RKO when Howard Hughes owned that studio. The reason he wanted the equipment was that had been hired to re-edit Cock of the Air.

The film had a troubled production history. Lewis Milestone directed it, and then Hughes fired him and took over direction himself, though the final screen credit went to Thomas Buckingham. Billie Dove, Chester Morris, Matt Moore--there were no big stars in Cock of the Air by 1976 standards, and no one remembered the film. I came to the (perhaps romantic) conclusion that Howard Hughes had to still be alive. Who else could want to re-edit this film?

We delivered the quipment to the Multicolor Building. Security was tight for what was essentially a boarded up building, though it was said to have a lot of Hughes's stuff stored in it. We needed special clearance to enter the building and were accompanied by a guard as we took the equipment to a room in the basement.

I never saw Howard, of course, and several weeks later the equipment came back.

I later saw a bootleg tape of Cock of the Air (the original release edit), and what a mess it was. It felt as if every scene was in the film twice, first in a version directed by Milestone with his distinctive moving camera and quick editing, followed by a different version of essentially the same action directed by Hughes with his signature clunky stlye so evident in The Outlaw.

I told this story to a friend in Texas, and she said, “I’ve lived around Houston for quite some time, and there are many who believe that Howard Hughes might have lingered longer than is generally believed. One rumor had a plane waiting for him when his flight from Mexico arrived in Houston and that it was bound for Phoenix, or California, or Canada, depending on the ‘source.’”

So when did Howard Hughes really die? The news said it was April 5, 1976 in Houston Texas, but I'm conviced it was sometime later in Hollywood, California.
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Harold Aherne

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PostMon Dec 29, 2008 2:10 pm

Cock of the Air apparently had a lot of censorship problems, ranging from the double-entendre title to Matt Moore's diary of Morris's conquests to the reportedly offensive deptiction of (I think) Italy. Nonetheless, I'd love to see it!

What happened to the 1931 Caddo picture The Age for Love ? It featured Billie Dove, Lois Wilson, and Charles Starrett, was directed by Frank Lloyd, and has been reported as lost. Did Hughes decide to get rid of it?

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St.George

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PostSat Jan 03, 2009 10:07 am

Thank you everyone, still the legend lives on. Amazing story from Bob Birchard, it makes you wonder at all these tales of mystery and imagination that surround the late Howard Hughes. The books I have/are reading, all have a different take on the truth and that is what makes them so compelling, so, on with the late night learning....Thanks again..
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Jack Theakston

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PostSun Jan 11, 2009 12:59 pm

I only caught up with this thread today-- great story, Bob, as usual.

There's a film vault with an art deco exterior that's about half a mile from Romaine-- a fiend of mine was working at a screening room across the street. I think it was around Seward and Fountain, about a block away from where Bob was working, and apparently there was a tunnel that ran underground from the vault to the hotel where Hughes was staying.

My friend knew a security guard there who would NOT go into the basement, even by the light of day, as many people heard all sort of weird noises and rummages emanating from the vaults where Hughes used to hole himself up. Always creeped me just looking at the building.

There are a number of biographies about Hughes out there that all vary to their degree of authenticity. Authentic or not, the one good read about him I re-visit from time to time is James Phelan's "Howard Hughes: The Hidden Years," in which Phelan interviewed extensively two of Hughes' so-called "Mormon mafia" about the last twenty years or so of his life, the real period where Hughes dove off the deep end.

One particularly amusing story deals with Hughes' love for Baskin Robbins' Banana-Nut ice cream, which he HAD to have in order to eat anything else. Apparently BR stopped carrying the flavor, so the team had to covertly special order something like 350 gallons and sneak it into the hotel freezer. Much to their disbelief, the next day, Hughes decided he was going to switch to French Vanilla. They spent the next two years giving the ice cream away to patrons of the casino!

If the book is to be believed, and I generally think it is, unless his team was the subject of a hoax themselves, I'm confident that Hughes died on that airplane ride to Houston. The details are well reported in Phelan's book, and would coincide with Hughes reported condition to the bigwigs that were running Romaine.
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