Hollywood Sleaze

Northern Whig, 22 September 1921

Hollywood has never been famous for its moral reserve, but it seems that at the height of prohibition rumours were making it all the way to London about the “evil” parties held in certain suburbs of the “cinema-town”. These may have been encouraged by the trial of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, who had only two weeks previously been accused of murdering a woman at a hotel party. The Northern Whig, a conservative unionist newspaper based in Belfast, noted that some salacious rumours about behaviour in Los Angeles were circulating in London on 22 September 1921.

Personal and Incidental

Cinema circles in London are interested in the tales of “orgies” at Los Angeles among a certain section of players. One who has been there recently admitted that certain things did occur, but the great body of artists could not be condemned because of the few. There is practically complete agreement as to the extent to which the evil has been intensified – and indeed stimulated – by prohibition. “Things have got to such a pitch in a certain circle at Los Angeles that something will have to be done,” said a member of one prominent firm, who has lately returned from the “cinema-town.” “Most of the orgies take place at the suburb of Hollywood. But there is a very clean cut between members of what are called the ‘Live Hundred’ – I could give you many of their names right off – and those who live decent, industrious lives. “It would be a great mistake to assume that those who take part in these orgies are generally very well known, though they may have been earning absurdly high salaries in the past. The best-known people, of the type of Charlie Chaplin, live a life of quiet domesticity, and hardly see a dozen people a week outside their own home life. The other type have more leisure. When they have nothing to do they crave for some new sensation and seek distraction with kindred spirits in an exotic kind of life. It has been far worse since prohibition. Since it was necessary to pay high prices for intoxicating drinks it became something of a distinction to get in great stocks of liquor and give a ‘drunken party.’ Mind you, most of these people had formed bad habits before they came into the cinema business.