The vast majority of one and two reelers made by Arbuckle were made in the teens. His first feature "The Round-up", was made in 1920. Many of Arbuckle's shorts are lost so these early films leave us only to speculate their quality.
A re-evaluation of Arbuckle's work is taking place with a four disc DVD boxset. He is being rediscovered. TIme will tell if he should take his place alongside the greats of silent comedy.
Smith Center, Kansas welcomed Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle to William and Mollie Arbuckle in 1887.He weighed fourteen pounds at birth, a precursor of things to come.
As a young boy Roscoe lost his mother and was abandoned by his father. One night on a suggestion from a friend, Roscoe attended an amateur night at a local theatre and won first prize. Noted showman David Grauman signed him to be a singer and dancer.
In July 1909, Roscoe appeared in short films for the Selig Polyscope Company. It was here that Roscoe, due to big size was given the name "Fatty". Roscoe hated being called "Fatty", his friends would always address him as Roscoe.
Later in 1909, Roscoe would appear in his first movie, a short called "Ben's Kids". He would also get married to Araminta Durfee, most commonly known as "Minta".
In 1913, Roscoe would move to Keystone Studios under the direction of Mack Sennett for dozens of shorts, the first being "The Gangsters".
Roscoe's talent flourished at Keystone and he became a star. He would write and later direct his movies but not before being teamed in movies with other Keystone comics, most notably Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin.
Roscoe would receive the first "Pie in the face" from Mabel in their film "A Noise from the Deep".
Many of these movies are now lost.
It was in 1917 that Roscoe made the movies that we know and love today. The Comique shorts, twenty-one movies in a four year period showcased the best of Arbuckle and are a favorite of silent movie buffs.
A contract with full creative control only sweetened the deal that included a salary of $1000.00 a day and twenty-five percent of the profits.
In New York, Roscoe bumped into Buster Keaton who was invited to appear in "The Butcher Boy". Arbuckle relied on Keaton's sense of comedy and was soon to become Arbuckle's writing staff.
In 1920, Arbuckle made the move to features with "The Round-Up". Nine features were made in eighteen months and to combat the stress Roscoe took some R & R to San Francisco.
He had a party attended by a young actress who became ill and four days later died of peritonitis.
A massive campaign was waged against Arbuckle in the death of Virginia Rappe' despite the lack of evidence. After two hung juries he was acquitted by the third, but the damage was done. Arbuckle's career would never be the same again.
He worked where he could find work, usually as a director under the alias William Goodrich after his father. Arbuckle staged a comeback for Vitaphone in 1932 and died a year later celebrating an extension to his contract.