05 October 2009
I, Fatty tells the story of Roscoe Arbuckle, the once fabulously popular comedian brought down by a scandal. Jerry Stahl uses a first-person point of view, crafting a voice for Arbuckle that’s part Huck Finn, part cracker-hip. Through his atrocious childhood and sudden success, Arbuckle’s doom hangs over his head. Stahl makes a convincing case for Fatty’s greatness and innocence, seeing him as a stooge for the studio heads who needed to clean up their image and establish their all-American bona fides. It was a good, quick read, and changed my mind. All I knew about Arbuckle was from the account in Hollywood Babylon. It’s odd that the story of a fat guy rupturing a tiny starlet had such staying power. But Stahl debunks the legend, and, helpfully, provides a bibliography.
Stahl's also perceptive in the love-hate relationship the country has with Hollywood, the lair of perverts and Jews, and in some cases, perverted Jews. Arbuckle becomes the first lamb whose sacrifice would purify the entertainment business -- and, in a side benefit for the movie moguls, keep the artists cowed.
Theirry Marignac's French translation is available here
Here's a clip of Fatty at work.