If the Hollywood hills could talk the stories they would have to tell would most likely be drenched in controversy. The things that Hollywood Sign has seen looking down on Shangri-La would shock and amaze the audiences that almost worship the comings and goings of Tinseltown. It is not easy making it in show business and the things people do to either get in or stay in are just as crazy as some of the stories these pieces of media showcase. Tales of murder mysteries, salacious scandals, and unfathomable treachery are just the tip of the iceberg and barely scratch the surface of what this town has to hide.
Not all secrets stay hidden, and it is tough to keep skeletons locked away in their closets. So this really shouldn’t be a surprise when it comes to celebrities. However, what sets these apart from any other less than moral occurrences is the story behind the controversy. Some of these events are so outlandish that it is hard to distinguish them from being an actual movie or show. Beneath the golden streets of the city of angels, there must be many bodies buried. However, out of all the dastardly deeds that surfaced, these are ten scandals that truly rocked Hollywood, and some even brought the world to its knees.
Table of Contents
1959 Death of Superman
If anyone knows anything about Superman, they know that the Kryptonian hero is impervious to bullets. However, sadly this does not apply to the actors playing him. In 1959 George Reeves, television’s first Superman was having a party at his house one night where he went upstairs and shot himself in the head. Although, it was not as simple as a by the numbers suicide. A lot of other factors involved in this tragic outcome point to foul play.
Reeves had been having an affair with Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix’s wife, Toni Mannix for years, and some suspected that Eddie had a role in the actor’s death. Some alleged that Leonore Lemmon, Reeve’s fiancee, was the culprit. Moreover, things got even crazier when it came to light the revelation that Toni Mannix allegedly confessed on her deathbed to arranging the murder of the television star. Did the Man of Steel take his own life or was this a crime of passion? The world may never know the truth.
MGM’s Diet Strategy For Judy Garland
The Wizard of Oz is a classic film that everyone knows and loves. It still holds up even to this day. However, the one thing people don’t know is that its star, Judy Garland, who was only 17 at the time, developed a nasty drug problem and eating disorder thanks to MGM, the studio behind the picture. When she signed with the movie-making machine at age 13, she was considered too fat, and the young performer would need to take drastic steps to rectify this problem.
The studio mandated her with an 18 hour a day schedule while constantly feeding her amphetamines and barbiturates. The grueling schedule, combined with the incessant pill popping lead to her by the age of 18 living off an unhealthy diet of soup, black coffee, and multiple packs of cigarettes. This horrible plan to mold an actress into some ignorant, superficial form to sell movie tickets ultimately resulted in the actress’s untimely death of an overdose at the age of 47. This was all because of MGM head honcho Louis B. Mayer and his unconscionable greed.
The Birth of the Coogan Act
The world of child acting looks glamorous from the audience’s perspective. However, lift the veil on Hollywood’s dark side, and people will quickly see that it is not always the case. These minors can’t navigate through the rough waters of Hollywood’s elite. So their parents are the only ones they can trust when it comes to the deals made on their behalf and the compensation they are to receive for not only the work but inevitable stresses of fame. Notoriously the guardians of these child stars are not always best suited for this role.
The parents of Gray Coleman, Shirley Temple, and Home Alone’s Macaulay Culkin are some of the more famous individuals to go through this archaic betrayal. However, the one that truly stands out is actor Jackie Coogan, most notably known for being the original Uncle Fester. He was a child star, and when he turned 21, he realized his $4 million earnings were gone. Coogan, obviously furious, took his parents to court. Unfortunately, the poor guy only recouped $125,000. The highly publicized trial led to the California Child Actor’s bill, more commonly referred to as the Coogan Act, which protects child actors from this immoral practice.
The Tate Murders
Charles Manson is one of Hollywood’s most infamous psychopaths and caused quite a stir in the Hollywood Hills back in his day. The deranged manipulator went on a streak of chaos breaking into peoples houses and terrorizing the people around them. However, one night things escalated very quickly. On August 8-9 the Manson Family conducted a mass murder taking the lives of five innocent people. Under the direction of Manson, this heinous act that resulted in the killing of five people was committed by Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Watkins.
Sharon Tate, a beautiful Hollywood actress, was eight and a half months pregnant when she became was one of the victims. Tate was stabbed 16 times and died along with her unborn baby. The investigation eventually led to the Manson family, but until the arrest almost a month later speculation ran wild on the motives behind the horrible act, including talk of satanic rituals. In the end, the killers were apprehended and incarcerated for the murders that took place that awful night. Tate’s most significant role was her most tragic as the most famous victim of Charles Manson.
The Black Dahlia Murder
Hollywood loves taking advantage of tragedy. It will cash in on anything it can turn into a profitable film or TV show. Moreover, one particular murder has gone on to inspire many movies and shows. So what’s even more interesting about this mystery is that to this day it remains unsolved. The Black Dahlia is considered by many to be one of the most horrific murder’s Tinseltown has ever had to go down within its golden borders, and it is the kind of drama and tension that Hollywood just can’t quit.
A native of Boston who set out for California with dreams of making it big, Elizabeth Short got her picture in the paper, just not the way she envisioned it. The story garnered much publicity due to the graphic nature of the crime. The course was severely mutilated and bisected at the waist. Historians have gone on to credit this incident as one of the first significant crimes that happened in post-World War II American to gain national attention. The investigation into the Black Dahlia murder produced over a hundred suspects, but no one was ever convicted. The case is still unsolved and remains one of Tinseltown’s biggest mysteries to this day.
The Death of Alfalfa
The Little Rascals featured over 40 child actors throughout the series, which resulted in over 200 comedy shorts that audiences fell in love with. So scandal would not be expected when it comes to anyone that was considered a Little Rascal. If one was to think that they would, unfortunately, be incorrect. The actor Carl Switzer played famous Rascal Alfalfa. Besides the fact that his marriage wasn’t great and he had developed a drinking problem, his death is drenched in controversy.
In an attempt to collect a $50 debt from Moses Stiltz, Switzer was gunned down for his efforts to recoup the rather small amount owed. Stiltz pleaded self-defense and was not charged for killing the man who brought Alfalfa to life. However, later Stiltz’s stepson, Tom Corrigan, claimed that Stiltz had killed Switzer and would testify to this in court. He was never asked to do so. It was rumored that Switzer was not a pleasant person and because of this authorities were less than motivated to find out what really happened. This is most likely why this thread was not looked into further, and to this day it is still a mystery if this was an exchange gone wrong or a homicide.
The Greystone Mansion Murder
Property is not immune to the controversy bug within the realm of Tinseltown. Even Hollywood mansions have their demons, metaphorically speaking of course. However, one piece of real estate that particularly stands out in this department is the Greystone Mansion. Designed by Gordon Kaufmann in 1928 this lavish location became a hotspot for many TV and film productions. Such titles as Rush Hour, The Big Lebowski, The Prestige, The Bodyguard, and Alias have shot on location at the beautiful residence.
However, the original owner, Ned Doheny and his secretary, Hugh Plunkett, were found dead mysteriously in the house four months after Doheny moved in. Doheny was the son of oil tycoon Edward Doheny. This was labeled a murder-suicide with Plunkett being the killer because of alleged mental issues. However, because the investigation was closed quickly and no autopsy was done, some question if this theory was really what happened. Rumors swirled that Ned was actually the killer. Some even believe that Ned’s wife was the culprit after she found out that the two were lovers. This could explain why Doheny Sr, presumably made the case go away, possibly in an attempt to protect his son’s reputation.
Mae West’s Sexy Alter Ego Jane Mast
In the world of entertainment, nothing sells better than sex. If you can heat up your story and throw some fire on the screen, audiences everywhere will not be able to get enough. While that is how it works in the modern age, it has not always been this way. Mae West, before she became a prolific actress, was a famous playwright in more ways than one. In 1927, under the pseudonym Jane Mast, she authored and starred in a stage production called Sex which landed her in the slammer for ten days. It also cost her $500 from the fine she was issued.
However, that did not stop her as she would do the same with another play called Drag, in which again resulted in West’s arrest. When she started making it big in the pictures, conservative groups began advocating for people to boycott her films and that her filth was not what audiences needed to see. This controversy even led to certain newspapers not advertising her films. Nevertheless, West is still regarded as one of Hollywood’s first ever sex symbols, and all this scandal most likely has a lot to do with it.
Stan Laurel’s Chaotic Divorce
Stan Laurel was known by many as part of the hilarious duo Laurel & Hardy. Laurel was notoriously known for playing the bumbling idiot in the slapstick humor the pair provided audiences with for many years. Off camera Laurel’s life was anything but a laughing matter, especially Laurel’s divorce to Vera Shuvalova, which was so crazy it became a spectacle worthy of the tabloids.
It was no secret to many that their relationship was full of drunken shouting matches that usually turned violent. One time the two found themselves in court for separate drunk driving offenses where Shuvalova alleged that Laurel had threatened her with a gun and that she was fleeing for her life. The papers even reported that Laurel once dug a grave for his wife in their backyard. The plan, apparently, was to bury her alive. As part of their divorce agreement, Shuvalova was not allowed to disclose anything to the public about the happenings of their marriage.
The Fatty Arbuckle Trial
It is not surprising that Hollywood’s first million-dollar star would have one of Hollywood’s most notorious scandals on his resume. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was once considered the king of slapstick during the silent film era. However, one night everything changed for the star. During a bootleg-booze-filled party in 1921, Arbuckle ended up alone in a room with struggling actress Virginia Rappe. Screams were heard from their bedroom, and a fully dressed Rappe accused the actor of putting her in the pain that caused her to shout. Thinking she was drunk after Arbuckle’s claims that he helped her to the bed and she had merely fallen off, everyone paid little attention to her accusation. Later, Rappe ended up in the hospital with her friend claiming she was raped. The medical exam showed no signs of any sexual assault. Then Rappe, who suffered from a chronic bladder inflammation called chronic cystitis, died of a ruptured bladder.
Arbuckle ended up being charged with first-degree murder for Rappe’s untimely death, claiming the 260-pound actor pinned down the actress and was ruptured her bladder. It would later be brought down to manslaughter. This was the first scandal in Hollywood to have dangerous box office inclinations, and the studios weren’t taking any chances. After three trials Arbuckle was acquitted but was banned from the newly established censorship bored. This ban was lifted, but the actor remained unofficially blacklisted for many years following the trial. The public believed him to be guilty despite never being charged. He eventually made a comeback and was offered a feature film contract in 1933 from Warner Brothers. However, Arbuckle died that very evening of a heart attack at the age of 46. It is no mystery what killed Arbuckle’s career, but it is still somewhat of a mystery as to why did Virginia Rappe die.