The Mysterious Bookshop

Merritt, Gregg, Room 1219: The Scandal that Changed Hollywood

In 1921, one of the biggest movie stars in the world was accused of killing a woman. What followed was an unprecedented avalanche of press coverage, the original “trial of the century,” and a wave of censorship that altered the course of Hollywood filmmaking.

It began on Labor Day, when comic actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, then at the pinnacle of his fame and fortune, hosted a party in San Francisco’s best hotel. As the party raged, he was alone in room 1219 with Virginia Rappe, a little-known actress. Four days later, she died, and he was charged with her murder.

Room 1219 tells the story of Arbuckle’s improbable rise and stunning fall—from one of Hollywood’s first true superstars to its first pariah. It explores how the earliest silent film experiments evolved into a studio-based system capable of making and, ultimately, breaking a beloved superstar. Simultaneously, it presents the sensational crime story from the day of the “orgy” through Arbuckle’s three trials. Relying on a careful examination of documents, the book finally reveals, after almost a century of wild speculation, what most likely occurred in room 1219. 

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