Everyone loves a good celebrity scandal. Who doesn’t like to see the inside lives of the rich and the famous? When I secret that was never supposed to leave the bedroom goes public, it's human nature to stop and dive into every single detail.
On some level, celebrities have it hard. They’re followed night and day and sometimes that super private life is exposed to the public in a really shocking way. I imagine celebrities of classic hollywood had it a bit harder. They were made to be this perfect image for the public, to not embarrass the studio and to keep on the straight and narrow. Sure, they slipped here and there, maybe had an affair or two, but only in the worst case scenarios did they find themselves in full blown scandals. After all, what's done in that dark is not supposed to come into the light.
1. Charlie Chaplin & His Young Brides
Charlie Chaplin's legacy is cemented as one of the great figures in the silent movie era. While many aspects of his personal life have faced criticism, one of the biggest controversies has to be his young brides.
Chaplin was 29 when he met his first wife Mildred Harris at a party. She was 16 years old at the time and started a friendship with Chaplin to help her career. This relationship quickly moved into a personal one. When the young girl became pregnant, Chaplin was quick to marry her to avoid scandal. Later, it came out that this was a false alarm. Eventually, the couple did have a child, but when they baby died, they divorced in 1920.
That same year, Chaplin starred in the movie The Kid (1921) with a very young actress Lita Gray. Chaplin was 35, Gray was 12, but he was so taken with her that he commissioned a portrait of the young actress. Four years later, Gray and Chaplin started their relationship during the filming of the movie The Gold Rush (1925). Lita became pregnant during filming and Chaplin quickly married her. They had two children, but divorced in 1927 in a bitter and upsetting divorce.
His next wife, Paulette Goddard was the oldest of his wives at 21 years old. The two met at a party in 1932 and began a great friendship, which then shifted into a relationship that was both creative and intense. Goddard’s career soared while with Chaplin, and she landed herself a role with MGM and the lead in Chaplin’s film Modern Times (1936). They weren’t legally married, but instead were common law married and lived that way for four years. They divorced in 1942 and remained friends until Chaplin's death.
His last wife was believed to be the love of his life. Oona Chaplin was 18 years old and Chaplin was 54 when she came into his life after his divorce from Paulette. She was suggested for a role in his upcoming movie Shadow and Substance, but he didn’t assign her the part because of her young age. A romance soon developed between them and they married in 1943. They stayed together for 34 years and had eight children until his death in 1991.
2. The rise, fall and rise again of Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman is one of the best known early Hollywood actresses. She starred in Casablanca (1942), Gaslight (1944), Notorious (1946) and Spellbound (1945), just to name a few. When her seven year contract with producer, screenwriter and film executive, David O. Selznick expired in 1946, she used this opportunity to venture into Broadway as Joan of Arc (which was a massive success) and star in a couple of movies that really didn’t do well. At this point, she was looking to bring her career back into the limelight again and that’s when she wrote a letter to the director, Roberto Rossellini.
Roberto Rossellini was an amazing director with a number of credits, including Rome, Open City (1945), Paisan (1946) and General Della Rovere (1959). He agreed to meet her and offered her the opportunity to star in one of his films. She traveled to Rome, but once they started working, their professional relationship became something deeper. They started an affair during the production of Stromboli (1950). This all would have been fine, were they both not married to other people at the time. While she worked with him, she also became pregnant by Rossellini and sought a divorce from her husband.
After the scandal broke, everyone was furious with Bergman. Her husband was slow to grant her a divorce, United States Senator Edwin C. Johnson condemned her saying she was a “powerful influence of evil”, and her image as a movie star was basically ruined. Bergman was ordered to stay in Europe because of the scandal, but her and Rossellini were married in 1950. After being married for seven years, they had two more children and Bergman starred in more of Rossellini’s films. In 1958, the marriage got rocky. After they annulled the marriage, Bergman made a triumph return to Hollywood in 1956 with Anastasia.
3. Fatty Arbuckle and the death of Virginia Rappe
Fatty Arbuckle was of the top comedic superstars of the 1910’s. A hilarious silent film actor, comedian, director and screenwriter, it seemed like nothing could stop Fatty Arbuckle’s fame. That was until an incident at his Hollywood party turned his life around forever.
In 1921, Fatty Arbuckle hosted a party with two of his friends, Lowell Sherman and Fred Hibbard, at a San Francisco hotel suite. A young woman named Virginia Rappe attended Arbuckle’s party with a woman named Maude Delmont. The party was going fine, but a few days later, Rappe died of a ruptured bladder. Delmont immediately accused Arbuckle, claiming he allegedly raped her, causing the injury to her bladder from his weight.
Even though Delmont was a questionable witness at the time with plenty of charges against her, Arbuckle was immediately arrested after the accusations came out. What happened next effectively ended his career. He was boycotted in Hollywood, immediately slammed by presses and shunned by the people who worked with him before. Arbuckle was charged with manslaughter and went through two hung juries, an acquittal and ultimately issued an apology, but his career never recovered from the damage.