If you look too closely or for too long at Hollywood, you’ll find it's a very dark place. The dream factory has also produced its share of nightmares, as innocents get sacrificed to the creation of motion pictures and some stars become monsters. In this feature, we’ll take a trip through time to spotlight ten movie industry scandals that really pushed the envelope of human awfulness.
Rob Lowe's Sex Tape
In 2013, sex tapes are par for the course in Hollywood. It seems like every idiot has one. But back in the 1980s, getting caught with your pants down on video was a big deal. One of the first people to get burned was "Brat Pack" actor Rob Lowe, who picked up two girls at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, took them back to his hotel room and filmed their sexual relations. Lowe went to the bathroom, and the girls quickly swiped the tape and some cash from his wallet. One of the girls was underage, to boot, and they tried to use the tape to extort money from the actor. Lowe eventually made a career comeback, but his lapse ushered in the era of the celebrity sex tape scandal.
The Death of Natalie Wood
The stunning Natalie Wood started acting at a very young age and played Susan Walker in the Christmas classic "Miracle on 34th Street." As she grew up, she developed an exotic beauty that captivated men. In 1981, she went boating with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, as well as Christopher Walken. Wagner and Wood argued one night and the actress disappeared; her bruised, dead body was found the next morning. Her death was ruled an accident, but many had their suspicions that Wagner was involved somehow, and in 2011 the captain of the boat admitted that he’d lied during the original police investigation. What really happened is still unknown.
David Carradine's Autoerotic Asphyxiation Death
One of the most prolific B-movie actors in Hollywood history, David Carradine had more than 100 feature films under his belt and four Golden Globe nominations. That’s why the circumstances of his death were so shocking. In 2009, Carradine traveled to Thailand to shoot the French drama "Stretch." He was found dead in his room at Bangkok’s Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel, hanging naked in the closet with a rope around his neck. Originally, Carradine's death was thought to be a suicide. However, it was eventually ruled an accident after it was determined that the actor was practicing the sex act known as autoerotic asphyxiation, where cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain intensifies orgasms. After his death, Carradine’s ex-wives spoke publicly about his unusual sexual proclivities.
Ingrid Bergman’s Affair
When you’re on a movie set, emotions can run high, and it’s not unusual for stars to fall in love during production. But few Hollywood romances get people so pissed off that they get called before the United States Senate. In 1949, Ingrid Bergman met Italian director Roberto Rossellini on the set of "Stromboli" and started sleeping with him, eventually becoming pregnant with his child. Sounds like a passionate love story, but there was a problem: Rossellini was already married, as was Bergman. The resultant furor decimated Bergman’s career and saw her vilified in the press. Senator Edwin C. Johnson even upbraided her for “moral turpitude” on the floor of the Legislature.
Woody Allen Marries His Stepdaughter
One of the most idiosyncratic figures in American comedy, Woody Allen was well on his way to legend status when he shocked the world in 1992. Allen had been in a relationship with Mia Farrow since the early 1980s, fathering a child with her and helping to parent her adopted children from a previous relationship. Unfortunately for Allen, he got a little too close to one of those children, adopted Vietnamese orphan Soon-Yi Previn. In 1992, Farrow discovered nude pictures Woody had taken of the girl, then 20, and all hell broke loose. Allen was unrepentant, severing his relationship with Farrow and marrying Previn in 1997. The pair have been together ever since.
Paul Bern’s Suicide
One of the luckiest men in Hollywood in the 1930s was MGM producer Paul Bern, a nebbishy businessman who somehow managed to land Jean Harlow, the hottest woman in the movie industry and 22 years his junior. Harlow, who redefined screen sexuality (and reportedly rubbed ice on her nipples between takes) was devoted to Bern, but he just couldn’t deal with the pressure of being married to one of the sexiest women in the world and killed himself just two months after their wedding. The tabloids reported that Bern struggled with impotence, which explained things, and he also had a common-law wife of 15 years that nobody knew about.
Roman Polanski Sexual Abuse Case
Polish-French director Roman Polanski’s films are influential and complex, full of striking images and great performances. Unfortunately, his personal life led him down some very dark alleyways and made him one of Hollywood’s biggest outcasts. Polanski, living in Los Angeles, set up a photo shoot with 13-year-old Samantha Gailey, allegedly for French Vogue. When the girl came to his home, Polanski gave her champagne and quaaludes and sexually took advantage of her. Naturally, she called the police, but rather than submit to the American justice system, Polanski fled the country. He’s been living in Europe ever since, with a warrant out for his arrest if he sets foot in the United States again.
Margot Kidder’s Insanity
Canadian actress Margot Kidder became a star in the 1970s and 1980s, peaking with her role as Lois Lane in the hit "Superman" movies. But when she discovered the unspoken truth that Hollywood has no roles for females over 40, things started to go south for her. Kidder has long suffered from bipolar disorder, which she managed to keep in check until a notorious episode in 1996. After losing a section of a manuscript she was working on to a computer virus, Kidder started having delusions that the CIA was out to kill her. She threw away her purse because she thought a bomb was in it and disappeared for days, living in a cardboard box on the streets of Los Angeles. When she was found, filthy, disheveled and missing the caps on her teeth, the world was shocked at how far her star had fallen.
Mel Gibson’s DUI and Anti-Semitic TiradeGetting pulled over for impaired driving is no big deal in Los Angeles. Heck, Lindsay Lohan does it just about every day. But most stars know to keep their mouth shut, take the ticket and pay it off. Not Mel Gibson. The Australian actor, one of the biggest action stars of the '80s, saw his entire public persona change after a police stop in 2006 caught him driving with an open container of alcohol. An inebriated Gibson took the opportunity to launch into a tirade against the “F---ing Jews” to the nonplussed police officer. When this went public, Gibson’s career went into anosedive it has yet to recover from, as anti-Semitism doesn’t really fly in Hollywood.
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Fatty Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe
Let’s go way back to the 1920s for one of the most notorious sex crimes of all time. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was a star of the silent screen, appearing in numerous comedies where he combined his great bulk with surprising agility. His work, however, has been overshadowed by the events of one evening in 1921. Arbuckle spent the night in a San Francisco hotel with a number of young women, one of whom was an aspiring actress named Virginia Rappe. During the night’s activities, Rappe’s bladder ruptured and she died, and a friend blamed Arbuckle for it, claiming that he’d sexually assaulted her with a Coke bottle. Arbuckle was tried for the crime three times, blacklisted from Hollywood and the prints of most of his films were destroyed. But the big scandal is that he had nothing to do with her death and was eventually found innocent, the victim of the tabloids’ desire to tear down famous people even back then.