Hollywood’s long ugly history with sexual harassment
For anyone thinking the days of the so-called casting couch were long gone, this past week has been eye-opening. The growing list of women directing allegations at Harvey Weinstein suggests they never left Hollywood. Here’s a look at some cases from the past and present.
First major sex scandal
In the first scandal to shake Hollywood, the comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle attended a wild party in San Francisco in 1921 that ended in the death of actress Virginia Rappe. Rappe, writhing in pain from a ruptured bladder, accused Arbuckle of raping her. When she died days later, he was charged with murder, which was downgraded to manslaughter. Arbuckle was acquitted after three trials.
A torn dress
Actor Errol Flynn had a two-year affair with Beverly Aadland, starting when she was 15. At the time of the affair Flynn had already been accused — and found not guilty — of the statutory rape of two underage girls in 1942. “I was scared,” Aadland wrote in People. “He was just too strong for me. I cried. At one point he tore my dress. Then he carried me off to another room, and I was still carrying on. What was going through my head was, what was I going to tell my mother?”
‘Be nice to me’
Joan Collins says she lost out on the lead role in “Cleopatra” because she wouldn’t sleep with the studio head. “I had tested for ‘Cleopatra’ twice and was the front-runner. He took me into his office and said, ‘You really want this part?’ And I said, ‘Yes. I really do.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘then all you have to do is be nice to me.’ It was a wonderful euphemism in the Sixties for you know what. But I couldn’t do that. In fact, I was rather wimpish, burst into tears and rushed out of his office.” The role went to Elizabeth Taylor.
America’s little darling
In her memoir “Child Star,” actress Shirley Temple claimed that an MGM producer known to have an “adventuresome casting couch” unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her during their first meeting in 1940. She was 12. Being innocent of male anatomy, she responded with nervous laughter and he threw her out of his office. Fortunately, she had already signed her contract with MGM.
Marilyn Monroe was no stranger to lecherous studio chiefs and filmmakers, and in her memoir, “My Story,” she didn’t hold back: “I met them all. Phoniness and failure were all over them. Some were vicious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get. So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes — an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.”
Groped for years
Judy Garland was pawed and propositioned for sex by studio bigwigs at MGM between the ages of 16 and 20, according to author Gerald Clarke, who wrote “Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland.” One of the most notorious harassers was allegedly Louis B. Mayer, the head of the studio. “Mayer would tell her what a wonderful singer she was, and he would say ‘you sing from the heart’ and then he would place his hand on her left breast,” Clarke wrote.
Still at large
Filmmaker Roman Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with Samantha Geimer, then a 13-year-old aspiring actress, during a photo shoot in Los Angeles in 1977. He gave her champagne and Quaaludes. “I didn’t want to have sex,” Geimer wrote in her memoir, “The Girl.” ‘’But apparently that is what was going to happen.” Polanski fled the United States before final sentencing and is still wanted by judicial authorities. He has since faced more rape allegations.
Bill Cosby, the “Cosby Show” star once known as America’s Dad, is facing a retrial on charges he drugged and molested a former Temple University employee at his home in 2004. He could get 10 years in prison. Cosby has said the encounter was consensual. He is free on $1 million bail. Dozens of additional accusers have come forward, including 13 women whom prosecutors want to call as witnesses to show that they were drugged and violated in similar fashion.
‘Got the wrong girl’
Charlize Theron was new in Hollywood but knew the warning signs when she went to an audition. “I thought it was a little odd that the audition was on a Saturday night at his house in Los Angeles, but I thought maybe that was normal,” she told Marie Claire in 2005. “I go inside and he’s offering me a drink, and I’m thinking, ‘My god, this acting stuff is very relaxed.’ But it soon becomes very clear what the situation was. I was like, ‘Not going to happen! Got the wrong girl, buddy!’”
Two women who worked on Casey Affleck’s film “I’m Still Here” filed sexual harassment lawsuits against him in 2010. One woman accused him of crawling into her bed without her consent while she was asleep, while the other woman said Affleck pressured her to stay in his hotel room and “violently” grabbed her arm when she refused. Both claims were settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in 2010. Affleck has repeatedly denied the allegations. He went on to win the best actor Oscar for “Manchester by the Sea.”