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Vintage Celebrity Scandals--How Would They Fare Today?


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The Woody Allen thread in the Oscar thread inspired this thread idea.

Since the beginning of Hollywood, there have been celebrity scandals.  Some more infamous than others.  Fatty Arbuckle's rape trial pretty much ruined his career.  Whereas, Errol Flynn's rape trial and subsequent acquittal, seemed to enhance it.  In the 1950s, Ingrid Bergman was vilified in Hollywood for having an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, but then she was awarded the Oscar shortly thereafter.  In the late 1950s, Elizabeth Taylor had an affair with Eddie Fisher, then husband to America's Sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds.  Fast forward three years and Liz is winning an Oscar for Butterfield 8-- though many people, Liz included, think she won it out of sympathy because she had survived a near-fatal illness and not for turning in an amazing performance.

If Arbuckle, Flynn, Bergman and Taylor were around today, how do you think their careers would fare? I definitely think that Arbuckle and Flynn would be finished--despite Flynn's acquittal.  Bergman and Taylor could possibly survive if their affairs turned into successful marriages and that is if their former spouses didn't try to squeeze every cent out of them via community property laws or what not.

What are some other scandals that existed during old Hollywood? If this scandal happened today, would that person's career survive? 

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Errol Flynn went on trial, accused of statutory rape of two underage girls in January, 1943. He was found not guilty. His attorney's case was mostly attacking the character of the two accusers, making sure the jury knew they were hardly innocent virgins. While he didn't emerge from the incident completely unscathed, Flynn kept on making movies for another 15-+ years after the trial. There is zero doubt that just the accusation would destroy his career today. I mean, Kevin Spacey doesn't even have to be charged with a crime, and he's never going to get to make a movie again.

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Hmmm...well, Charlie Chaplin sure liked 'em young anyway, with two of his four wives being 16, and another 18 when he married them, and at a time when he was several decades older than his then brides.

And so, in today's climate I'm thinking he'd at the bare minimum he'd be severely kidded about this by late night talk show hosts. But other than that, just look at Woody Allen and James Woods, two more modern celebs who ALSO apparently "like 'em young", and THEY seem to still be making a living in The Biz.

(...and so your guess is as good as mine if the great Chaplin, dirty old man that he apparently was TOO, would still be able to make a living putting forks in baked potatoes and making it appear as if they're his shoes dancing about, and/or say, played a barber who looks just like Donald Trump and due to circumstances begins to stand in for him, and kind'a like he did in a certain 1940 film about another big jerk politico, IF Chaplin would be around today!) ;)

 

 

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31 minutes ago, Dargo said:

Hmmm...well, Charlie Chaplin sure liked 'em young anyway, with two of his four wives being 16, and another 18 when he married them, and at a time when he was several decades older than his then brides.

And so, in today's climate I'm thinking he'd at the bare minimum he'd be severely kidded about this by late night talk show hosts. But other than that, just look at Woody Allen and James Woods, two more modern celebs who ALSO apparently "like 'em young", and THEY seem to still be making a living in The Biz.

(...and so your guess is as good as mine if the great Chaplin, dirty old man that he apparently was TOO, would still be able to make a living putting forks in baked potatoes and making it appear as if they're his shoes dancing about, and/or say, played a barber who looks just like Donald Trump and due to circumstances begins to stand in for him, and kind'a like he did in a certain 1940 film about another big jerk politico, IF Chaplin would be around today!) ;)

 

 

While Chaplin didn't have a rape trial, wasn't he tried in a paternity suit (or maybe multiple?) ? From the accounts I've read, it almost sounded like extortion, but I wonder if that would affect his career.  I think the marriage to the 18 year old would raise eyebrows, but I'm sure the marriages to the 16 year olds would be causing quite a ruckus on social media.  However, as long as it seemed like Chaplin's relationship with the 16 year old seemed consensual, I don't think people would be too up in arms about it.  These people would probably be blaming the girl's parents if anything and referring to Chaplin as a dirty old man.  But I think Chaplin would probably still be able to make films today, he would just be seen as "odd." 

Re: Woody Allen.  For me, what makes his whole marriage weird is that he married his partner's step-daughter (and essentially his step-daughter).  

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36 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

Errol Flynn went on trial, accused of statutory rape of two underage girls in January, 1943. He was found not guilty. His attorney's case was mostly attacking the character of the two accusers, making sure the jury knew they were hardly innocent virgins. While he didn't emerge from the incident completely unscathed, Flynn kept on making movies for another 15-+ years after the trial. There is zero doubt that just the accusation would destroy his career today. I mean, Kevin Spacey doesn't even have to be charged with a crime, and he's never going to get to make a movie again.

I agree.  I think Flynn would be finished at the first mention of the word "rape."  It wouldn't matter to anyone whether or not a court found him innocent or not.  Flynn would be toast.  It wouldn't matter how big of a matinee idol he was. 

In the 1940s however, Flynn's lawyer was so shrewd.  Not only did he attack the plantiff's values and morality, he also stacked the jury with a majority of women who would be swayed by Flynn's attractive looks and charm.  The scandal actually improved Flynn's reputation as a ladies man which only enhanced his on screen image.  

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10 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

I agree.  I think Flynn would be finished at the first mention of the word "rape."  It wouldn't matter to anyone whether or not a court found him innocent or not.  Flynn would be toast.  It wouldn't matter how big of a matinee idol he was. 

In the 1940s however, Flynn's lawyer was so shrewd.  Not only did he attack the plantiff's values and morality, he also stacked the jury with a majority of women who would be swayed by Flynn's attractive looks and charm.  The scandal actually improved Flynn's reputation as a ladies man which only enhanced his on screen image.  

Although Flynn was acquitted his public image forever changed. He became the lewd butt of a lot of comics' jokes and while on the surface Errol went along with the laughs (taking pokes at himself for his marriages and lawyers) it also began a spiritual decline that lead to an increase in drinking, combined with hard drugs. That would eventually, of course, impact all aspects of his life, his looks, his personality which became more cynical and harder, his relationships and his career.

So the humiliation of that trial and the headlines and the sexual jokey aftermath did have a major impact upon him. In his autobiography he referred to the rape trial as the dividing point of his life, looking back upon all his lifetime experiences as coming either before or after the trial. Not, as one might think, becoming a wealthy international celebrity and being plucked from obscurity with Captain Blood. The statutory rape trial!

Would Flynn's career survive those same kind of headlines today? Not a chance.

Flynn's predilection for young girls continued to the end of his life. It was after his death that his relationship with 17-year-old Beverly Aadland became known. Flynn knew with a shrug of the shoulders that he was flirting with more accusations of statutory rape.

Here's Beverly's appearance on You Bet Your Life. She was either 15 or 16 when appearing on the show, not long after having met Flynn. A little less than two years after this show Flynn would die of a heart attack, with an hysterical Beverly breathing into his mouth, trying to revive him.

 

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The concept of age of consent has varied from state to state and has developed over time. If I'm not mistaken, as recently as the 1950s a girl in South Carolina could get married at 14 as long as she had parental consent.

 

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1 hour ago, TomJH said:

Although Flynn was acquitted his public image forever changed. He became the lewd butt of a lot of comics' jokes and while on the surface Errol went along with the laughs (taking pokes at himself for his marriages and lawyers) it also began a spiritual decline that lead to an increase in drinking, combined with hard drugs. That would eventually, of course, impact all aspects of his life, his looks, his personality which became more cynical and harder, his relationships and his career.

So the humiliation of that trial and the headlines and the sexual jokey aftermath did have a major impact upon him. In his autobiography he referred to the rape trial as the dividing point of his life, looking back upon all his lifetime experiences as coming either before or after the trial. Not, as one might think, becoming a wealthy international celebrity and being plucked from obscurity with Captain Blood. The statutory rape trial!

Would Flynn's career survive those same kind of headlines today? Not a chance.

Flynn's predilection for young girls continued to the end of his life. It was after his death that his relationship with 17-year-old Beverly Aadland became known. Flynn knew with a shrug of the shoulders that he was flirting with more accusations of statutory rape.

Here's Beverly's appearance on You Bet Your Life. She was either 15 or 16 when appearing on the show, not long after having met Flynn. A little less than two years after this show Flynn would die of a heart attack, with an hysterical Beverly breathing into his mouth, trying to revive him.

 

I think Groucho should have been charged for stealing the spotlight from Beverly!  What a cut-up that guy was.  I must admit, although she comes off as quite young, I wouldn't take her for 15 or 16.

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1 minute ago, rosebette said:

I think Groucho should have been charged for stealing the spotlight from Beverly!  What a cut-up that guy was.  I must admit, although she comes off as quite young, I wouldn't take her for 15 or 16.

Well, it was Groucho's show and people tuned in to see him do that sort of thing. But, no, Beverly didn't get much of a chance to show off her singing talents, did she? I agree she looks older than her age (which everyone said about her).

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Flynn would be finished by today's standards, it's wishful thinking to believe otherwise.

Elizabeth Taylor and Ingrid Bergman were both crucified for their indiscretions and in Bergman's case it caused her exile from Hollywood until the late 50's. Angelina Jolie in today's world, however, very few people actually cared that she walked off with Jennifer Aniston's hubby at the time Brad Pitt.

And also while Taylor and Bergman had to put up with the bad press back in studio era days, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy escaped unscathered with their relationship despite the fact that Tracy never divorced his wife.

Morality has always been a fickle thing in Hollywood, no matter what era.

 

 

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My own feeling is that if the Flynn rape trial happened today, even if he were acquitted, he would probably never work in Hollywood again.  I believe that the rape scandal did scar Flynn's career in the way he was perceived by Hollywood and the media and his own self-perception, which led him to the path of self-destruction, but that might have been a path he was already traveling, since the events around the alleged rapes probably involved excessive drinking and rash behavior.   At the time, the events were probably interpreted as celebrity partying gone too far. However, if these events had happened on a 21st century college campus and the perpretator was a frat boy, we would now say that it was a violation of consent or "date rape."

My dad was a great fan of Flynn's early swashbuckler films and Westerns, which he had grown up with as a boy, and he told me how crestfallen he and many of his peers felt during the rape scandal.  However, Dad still enjoyed Flynn's films and his performances; for him, there could be no other Robin Hood.  Because all these events happened so long ago, and Flynn's screen image is so magical, I was somehow able to separate what I saw on the screen from those events.  For the longest time, I've had an edition of Now Playing with Flynn's picture by my computer (something I found in my Dad's room after Dad passed) to brighten my day because Flynn was probably the most beautiful man I've ever seen and I could somehow separate the scandal from that perfect Robin Hood, Captain Blood, or Gentleman Jim. With the #Metoo movement, I chose to put that picture away, but I miss it, shame on my bad feminist heart.    

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2 hours ago, rosebette said:

My dad was a great fan of Flynn's early swashbuckler films and Westerns, which he had grown up with as a boy, and he told me how crestfallen he and many of his peers felt during the rape scandal.  However, Dad still enjoyed Flynn's films and his performances; for him, there could be no other Robin Hood.  Because all these events happened so long ago, and Flynn's screen image is so magical, I was somehow able to separate what I saw on the screen from those events.  For the longest time, I've had an edition of Now Playing with Flynn's picture by my computer (something I found in my Dad's room after Dad passed) to brighten my day because Flynn was probably the most beautiful man I've ever seen and I could somehow separate the scandal from that perfect Robin Hood, Captain Blood, or Gentleman Jim. With the #Metoo movement, I chose to put that picture away, but I miss it, shame on my bad feminist heart.    

I know, rosebette, the dichotomy that Flynn fans feel between the heroic, romantic image he so beautifully personified on screen as opposed to the self destructive real life man who thumbed his nose at many of the mores of society. He was certainly his own man, flaws and all.

The little boy still in me, remembering how I idolized him as a child when seeing Flynn play Captain Blood and other heroic screen figures, will always have a soft spot in my heart for him. This, no matter what his (at times gross) misdeeds may have been when the cameras were no longer rolling.

Not much doubt the MeToo movement would burn him today, if his activities became known, and his career would be a shambles.

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On the other hand, I think "misdeeds" by women, such as Ingrid Bergman, would not be viewed as harshly today.  I don't think she'd be ostracized from Hollywood, and even the U.S.,  for having an extramarital affair or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, since such things are quite commonplace now.  There's a big difference between violating "norms" (which in this case, are based on sexist expectations of women's behavior), which have changed, and engaging in behavior that is criminal or harmful.

It's pretty well known, for example, that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were having an affair while he was still married to Jennifer Anniston, but no one stopped going to Angelina's movies or felt that she should stay out of the U.S.

 

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2 minutes ago, rosebette said:

On the other hand, I think "misdeeds" by women, such as Ingrid Bergman, would not be viewed as harshly today.  I don't think she'd be ostracized from Hollywood, and even the U.S.,  for having an extramarital affair or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, since such things are quite commonplace now.  There's a big difference between violating "norms" (which in this case, are based on sexist expectations of women's behavior), which have changed, and engaging in behavior that is criminal or harmful.

It's pretty well known, for example, that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were having an affair while he was still married to Jennifer Anniston, but no one stopped going to Angelina's movies or felt that she should stay out of the U.S.

 

I suspect that most people today would think Bergman got a raw deal from a society which operated on double standards regarding men and women. Falling in love with a married man and having a child by him is no longer the same "crime" it once was perceived to be.

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And don't forget it was a complete no-no to live together without being married. It's completely acceptable today to have children without being married.
Poor Loretta Young, if she were around today she could have just had her baby and gone on with her career.

Re: being gay- it's interesting that many knew who was "lavender" and if it kept low key, the person could have a career. Look at George Cukor, Randolph Scott, Patsy Kelly & Clifton Webb.

I much prefer this "whatever they do privately is their own business" attitude. The only time it should be a legal/moral issue is if someone is victimized or harmed by it, as in the case of the casting couch or minors.
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Well, sure, but so far, even in those instances, the accused harassers have still been men. For example, Kevin Spacey's accusers are all male. And the actor Terry Crews has said a male film producer groped him at a party. I suppose theoretically it's possible a woman in a position of power could be sexually harassing a man beneath her, but given the male sex drive, there's generally a different societal interpretation to that. It's like when a male teacher sleeps with a female student, and everyone is horrified. But when a female teacher sleeps with a male student, the general reaction among men, as far as I can tell, is usually "Nice!", as in that episode of South Park.

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(TW: mention of suicide)

Errol Flynn and I have a weird relationship. On one hand, he makes me feel sick at heart. On the other hand, he makes me feel like I could do anything in the universe if I just tried.

There was also this one time when I'd made up my mind to kill myself, and that infectious smile of his stopped me. I don't know why that image of Errol smiling (it was the "That's no water wheel you're working!" line in Captain Blood), of all things, popped into my head at that moment, but it did, and suddenly everything didn't seem so bad. So, yeah. If not for him, I wouldn't be sitting here typing this.

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4 minutes ago, SunAndMoon said:

(TW: mention of suicide)

Errol Flynn and I have a weird relationship. On one hand, he makes me feel sick at heart. On the other hand, he makes me feel like I could do anything in the universe if I just tried.

There was also this one time when I'd made up my mind to kill myself, and that infectious smile of his stopped me. I don't know why that image of Errol smiling (it was the "That's no water wheel you're working!" line in Captain Blood), of all things, popped into my head at that moment, but it did, and suddenly everything didn't seem so bad. So, yeah. If not for him, I wouldn't be sitting here typing this.

SunAndMoon, here's hoping you never go through a period like that again.

I think it would have meant something to Errol to have known that his image somehow stopped you from doing it. He wrote in his autobiography how disillusioned he had become with his life and how a movie fan telling him how much his films had meant to him made him wonder if there might be some meaning to it all, after all. To hear your story obviously would have meant even more to him.

captain-blood-13.jpg

By the way, Flynn went through his own suicidal period, sitting on the edge of his bed with a gun in his hand. He wrote that he didn't have the courage to use it so, instead, increased his booze and drug intake. Of course, that can be seen as just a slower way to achieve the same end.

Speaking of Captain Blood, I always thought the following was arguably Flynn's best line of dialogue in the film. Errol looks worn and stressed, his delivery of the line wonderful:

 

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6 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Well, sure, but so far, even in those instances, the accused harassers have still been men. For example, Kevin Spacey's accusers are all male. And the actor Terry Crews has said a male film producer groped him at a party. I suppose theoretically it's possible a woman in a position of power could be sexually harassing a man beneath her, but given the male sex drive, there's generally a different societal interpretation to that. It's like when a male teacher sleeps with a female student, and everyone is horrified. But when a female teacher sleeps with a male student, the general reaction among men, as far as I can tell, is usually "Nice!", as in that episode of South Park.

The main dynamic of sexual harassment is power.  Because males usually had all the power in the film industry in the past, they were also the harassers, using that power and position to intimidate women into "putting out" sexually, often with the promise (sometimes a false one) of a promotion or part within the industry.  With male-on-male harassment, the harasser is often also someone older and more powerful.

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6 hours ago, SunAndMoon said:

(TW: mention of suicide)

Errol Flynn and I have a weird relationship. On one hand, he makes me feel sick at heart. On the other hand, he makes me feel like I could do anything in the universe if I just tried.

There was also this one time when I'd made up my mind to kill myself, and that infectious smile of his stopped me. I don't know why that image of Errol smiling (it was the "That's no water wheel you're working!" line in Captain Blood), of all things, popped into my head at that moment, but it did, and suddenly everything didn't seem so bad. So, yeah. If not for him, I wouldn't be sitting here typing this.

One of my dad's favorite stories was of the day his father took him downtown to see The Adventures of Robin Hood and then to a diner to have what he described the best hamburger he ever had.  He described feeling like a king as his dad held his hand on the way to the theater.   He said every Saturday, when he smelled shoe polish (because his dad would shine his shoes before going downtown), he would angle and hint that he wanted to tag along, so that he could walk by a theater and persuade his dad to take him to Dodge City or The Sea Hawk, or whatever the latest Flynn pic was.  Yes, it's hard not to forgive someone who brought such joy to a young boy, and later to an old man.

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