The Dark Side of Hollywood: Ten True Stories That Could be Made into a Movie

These are the dark stories of Hollywood that should be turned into dramatic films.

Ever since the film industry moved to California in the early days of cinema, there have been many controversial events that have occurred that would make great stories told on the big screen. The beginnings of Hollywood were filled with murder and suicide scandals, love affairs, hidden sexuality, mob involvement, communist blacklisting, and other nasty actions that took place. The studios often had people employed to help cover up these dealings along with the cops who were being paid to either assist or ignore a situation. Some of these stories have been told in one form or another. A possible murder by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst of a Hollywood producer aboard his yacht was told in The Cat’s Meow, the strange occurrences of Superman George Reeve's death was the focus of Hollywoodland, the story of the blacklisted writers and them working under fake names was told in The Front and Trumbo, and Hail, Caesar! was about a Hollywood fixer during the 1950’s. This list covers ten events in Hollywood’s sordid history that could in some way be turned into a motion picture.

The Fatty Arbuckle Scandal
This was one of the first and most famous scandals in the history of Hollywood. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was one of the most famous silent era comedy stars, signing a $1 million dollar contract with Paramount Pictures in 1921. That same year in September, he had a party in a San Francisco hotel. Actress Virginia Rappe was at the party and became ill. Doctors thought she was merely drunk; 48 hours later she was in the hospital and died the next day from peritonitis that was the result of a ruptured bladder. A woman at the party claimed that Arbuckle had raped Rappe and there were also claims by Rappe’s manager that he had simulated sex with her by using a piece of ice or bottle. There was also a theory that his weight on top of her had caused the injuries. William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers took advantage of the scandal by constant outrageous articles with speculations on what had actually occurred. Arbuckle went through two mistrials and a third that found him innocent of any wrongdoing. The character of the female witness and Rappe where all brought to light in the trials, with the witness being known for blackmailing wealthy individuals and Rappe being very promiscuous and a heavy drinker. Her drinking would cause inflammation to a condition of chronic cystitis. Although Arbuckle came out victorious in the end, his career had been ruined and he was essentially blacklisted. With only limited screenwriting work and minor appearances, he fell into alcoholism and eventually died from heart failure in 1932. A biopic about Arbuckle was in the works with the plans of Chris Farley starring as the comedian, but he tragically died before the film could be made.

Olive Thomas’s Death
Actress Olive Thomas was one of the first of Hollywood’s celebrity deaths, dying at the age of 25 after drinking liquid mercury bichloride in 1920. The medicine had been prescribed to her husband Jack Pickford, the brother of famous actress Mary Pickford. The incident happened while on a second honeymoon in Paris after a night of drinking. While the death was ruled an accident by the coroner, there has always been speculation about whether it may have been a suicide or even murder. Pickford had a history of issues before and after her death; including being dishonorably discharged from the Navy during World War I, remarrying twice, being abusive towards one of his wives, and eventually dying from drug and alcohol abuse at the age of 36.

The Death of William Desmond Taylor
Director William Desmond Taylor was found dead laying face up in 1922. The first doctor on the scene declared the cause of death as from a ruptured stomach ulcer, but it was later discovered that he had actually been shot in the back. The doctor was never found and the question became of who shot Taylor. The crime was never solved and there were so many potential suspects that it is almost comically ridiculous. There was actress Mabel Normand, who was seen visiting the night before and had a series of love notes written by her found in the house. There was also teenage actress Mary Miles Minter, who was in love with him and had a monogrammed nightgown in the house. Her mother was also a potential suspect, who couldn’t have been pleased with their potential affair. Taylor’s valet had disappeared several weeks earlier and it is believed that he may have actually been his brother trying to blackmail Taylor, who had secretly assumed a new identity many years ago. It may have also been drug related as Taylor had met with the assistant US Attorney in an attempt to stop the Hollywood drug trafficking that was going on. Nobody knows who did or why, but it would make a rather interesting movie.

Natalie Wood’s Death
Natalie Wood was found drowned during a boating trip in 1981 with her husband Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken. A lot of questions have remained in this incident as the coroner declared her death as an accidental drowning and hypothermia once in the water. Both surviving actors claimed that they went to sleep while Wood stayed up and was drinking. Her blood alcohol content was very high but she had multiple bruises on her body. A case was reopened in 2011 alleging Wagner with possibly being involved in her death but the only thing that came of it was a change to the cause of death as being from accidental drowning and undetermined factors.

The Death of Thelma Todd
Thelma Todd was a silent era actress who had appeared in comedies featuring Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton. In 1932, she married a former bootlegger named Pasquale DiCicco who had close ties to the mobster boss Lucky Luciano. She divorced DiCicco in 1934 and opened a café on the roadside of the coast. Luciano wanted to use her café as a place to run an illegal gambling house. She refused and sought to meet with district attorney Buron Fitts for help, unfortunately she was found dead before she could make it to their appointment. She was found dead in her car in the garage from what was declared as an accidental death from monoxide poisoning, despite the fact that she was covered in blood with a broken nose, broken ribs and missing teeth. She attended a party the night before and was drunk and so the claim was that she was either suicidal or fell asleep drunk and had spasms strong enough to cause her injuries. Either way the circumstances are strange and could make a good movie, especially with the mob involvement.

Willie Bioff
The life of mobster Willie Bioff is rife for a Hollywood tale, with his mob involvements that involved Hollywood among many other ventures. Bioff was involved with the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) and served as the enforcer to the mob approved union president George E. Browne. They would run a scam where they threatened to shut down projectionists around the country and where able to get payments from all of the major studios in order to prevent any shutdowns. In 1941, they both received 20 year sentences for tax discrepancies and union pay-offs. Concerned that Bioff would end up talking, they put a hit on his girlfriend and brutally attacked her before finally setting her on fire. This didn’t work in the mobs favor and he agreed to testify and joined the witness protection service in 1943. Bioss was eventually found by the mob and was killed by a car bomb in Las Vegas in 1955.

Johnny Rosselli
Rosselli was a mobster that had an interesting career within the mob and the movie industry. He began extorting the studios in Chicago with Al Capone. When the studios faced a strike, they called on him for assistance and he muscled the picketers into returning to work within a week. From that moment, MGM put him on their payroll. He was one of the men convicted in the trial that Willie Bioff had testified in and served three years in prison. After being released in 1947, he came back to Hollywood and served as a producer at EagleLion Studios. One of the films that he was a producer on was the successful B-pictures T-Men (1947), a story involving a group of Treasury agents that are investigating a counterfeiting ring. He had testified before congress in 1950 and 1961 about various activities involving organized crime. Before leaving Hollywood to work in the Vegas casinos, he helped revive Fran Sinatra’s career by forcing the studios to cast him in the film From Here to Eternity in 1952.

The Lana Turner Stabbing
Actress Lana Turner had eight marriages and many lovers during her life, one of which was a mobster named Johnny Stompanato. Stompanato worked for Mickey Cohen and was very volatile and violent, including threatening Sean Connery with a gun on the set of Another Time, Another Place and reportedly physically abusing Turner on various occasions. A month after the Oscars in 1958, Stompanato was found dead at their home from a knife wound. The story that was told was that the couple had an intense fight and Lana Turner’s 14 year old daughter, Cheryl Crane, rushed in with a 10 inch carving knife and Stompanato ran into it and bled to death. The circumstances were unusual as it took over two hours before the police were called, long after her lawyer and publicist had been summoned to the scene. The body had been moved, there was relatively no blood, and the fingerprints on the knife were smudged. The case went to trial, but Cheryl was considered too traumatized to testify and it was ruled a justified homicide. There is at least one theory that Turner stabbed him on their bed and then they removed the bedding. Her attorney was reportedly quoted years later that the scene on the bed looked as if an animal had been butchered.

Roy Radin and The Cotton Club
Roy Radin was working as an independent producer trying to break into major Hollywood productions when he met up with producer Robert Evans. Evans wanted to make a Godfather style movie that was about The Cotton Club nightclub and would feature music and dancing. With Evans having trouble finding funding from any of the major studios he went out seeking private investors. Evans met a limousine driver and promised him a role in return for help finding financiers. This led to him being introduced to Laynie Jacobs, a cocaine dealer from Miami who became Evans’s girlfriend and fellow drug user. Jacobs introduced Evans to Radin, whom she knew because of his own cocaine habit. Radin offered to invest and all three would end up as producers while enjoying some cocaine. Things turned sour when Radin cut all ties with Jacobs’s involvement in the film because of her mafia ties. Jacobs was angered by this and believed that he had also stolen money and drugs from her apartment. On May 13, 1983, she had several hitmen take him into the desert and he was shot 12 times. The trial in 1991 found Jacobs and the hitmen guilty and they were sentenced to life for the murder.

Marilyn Monroe Suicide
There are so many conspiracy theories and question marks regarding Marilyn Monroe’s death that have resulted in numerous books and documentaries that it is easily ripe for a potential movie. Did she accidently overdose or commit suicide? Or was there something more going on? Some of the theories deal with her involvement with the Kennedy’s and a diary that she had kept that maintained records of her dealings with them. There was speculation that she was going to go public with information about them that would be highly scandalous and maybe they decided to eliminate her. There has also been books that provided evidence that they believed it was somehow mob related.

-Raul Vantassle

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