When it comes to Hollywood, entertainment can be found both on and off the screen. Show business thrives on rumors, gossip, and celebrity news, driven by the industry’s big stars and magnetic personalities.
For many, the more provocative the news is, the better. Sensational stories involving Hollywood’s elite capture the nation’s attention like little else. Consider the recent college admissions scandal. Had popular actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman not been involved in the scandal, it’s doubtful the crime would have drawn as much attention.
Hollywood has a long history of scandals, many of which are shocking and unseemly. The entertainment industry is notorious for bad behavior, so to scandalize the town one must behave in a way that is often beyond the pale — and often outside the law. Hollywood’s shocking scandals frequently result in ruined relationships, destroyed careers, and sometimes even death.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of 24 scandals that shocked Hollywood. We created our list based on the impact a scandal has had, such as the sexual abuse accusations that led to the #MeToo movement. The movement, in turn, led to more revelations of misconduct and to some of 2018’s biggest scandals. Some of the scandals we included refer to events that, while in themselves were not true — such as the salacious accusations against 1920s film star Clara Bow — may have hastened the end of the career of a celebrity. 24/7 Tempo drew on media reports, book excerpts, and online resources to develop the list.
1. Fatty Arbuckle and death of Virginia Rappe
> Those involved: Fatty Arbuckle, Virginia Rappe
> Date: 1921
Silent film actor Fatty Arbuckle was accused of raping actress Virginia Rappe, who died a week later from ruptured bladder. He was charged with manslaughter and though eventually acquitted, his career was ruined.
2. Death of producer Thomas Ince
> Those involved: Thomas Ince, Willam Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin
> Date: 1924
Thomas Ince was a guest on newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst’s yacht, but he left supposedly due to a stomach ailment. He died one day later and was quickly cremated. Rumors swirled that Hearst found out his mistress was cheating on him with Charlie Chaplin and he intended to shoot Chaplin but hit Ince instead.
3. MGM hooked Judy Garland on drugs
> Those involved: Judy Garland
> Date: 1930s-1940s
MGM forced Judy Garland to take pills to stay awake, go to sleep, and maintain her weight. The ultimate result was drug addiction, numerous nervous breakdowns, and Garland’s eventual death by drug overdose at age 47.
4. False stories about actress Clara Bow
> Those involved: Clara Bow
> Date: 1931
Daisy De Voe — former secretary of silent film star Clara Bow — published numerous unsubstantiated scandalous stories about Bow. Though De Voe was eventually indicted for stealing from her former employer, the combination of studio pressure to resume work and the emotional stress from the stories lead to Bow’s retirement soon after De Voe’s trial.
5. Loretta Young adopts her own biological daughter
> Those involved: Actress Loretta Young
> Date: 1935
Actress Loretta Young became pregnant after an affair with Clark Gable, who was married at the time. Young hid in Europe during her pregnancy to protect her career, had the baby, and later “adopted” her when she was 19 months old. Young stuck with the cover story until she died and refused to speak to her daughter for three years after she revealed the truth in a 1994 memoir.
6. Actress Patricia Douglas raped at party
> Those involved: Actress Patricia Douglas
> Date: 1937
Aspiring actress Patricia Douglas was raped at a Hollywood party where she worked as hostess. She went public about the attack and MGM smeared her, effectively ending her career. In 2003, Douglas shared her story in Vanity Fair magazine, and in 2007 she appeared in a documentary film, “Girl 27.”
7. Errol Flynn accused of sex with two underage girls
> Those involved: Actor Errol Flynn, Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee
> Date: 1943
Known for his work in movies like “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) and “Adventures of Don Juan” (1948), Errol Flynn was charged with sleeping with two underage women, Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee, in 1943. Although he was legally cleared of any wrongdoing by a jury of his peers, Flynn’s career floundered after the trial.
8. Ingrid Bergman affair with Roberto Rossellini, resulting in child
> Those involved: Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini
> Date: 1949
At the height of her career, actress Ingrid Bergman had an affair with director Roberto Rossellini and the two had a child together. Bergman’s actions were so vilified that they even spurred a U.S. Senator to denounce her on the Senate floor. Bergman and Rossellini divorced their respective spouses and married, though they also divorced five years later.
9. Elizabeth Taylor steals husband of Debbie Reynolds
> Those involved: Elizabeth Taylor
> Date: 1957
Following the death of her third husband, producer Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor began an affair with singer Eddie Fisher, who was married to Debbie Reynolds at the time. Reynolds’ marriage fell apart, and Taylor married Fisher, whose career was irreparably damaged by the bad press. The marriage lasted less than five years.
10. Lana Turner boyfriend stabbed to death
> Those involved: Lana Turner, Johnny Stompanato, Cheryl Crane
> Date: 1958
In 1958, alleged mobster Johnny Stompanato — boyfriend of Hollywood legend Lana Turner — was found stabbed to death at Turner’s home. Turner’s 14-year-old daughter Cheryl Crane confessed to the stabbing, which was eventually classified as justifiable homicide.
11. Marilyn Monroe affair with JFK
> Those involved: Marilyn Monroe and President John F. Kennedy
> Date: 1962
Marilyn Monroe met President John F. Kennedy in California in February 1962 and the two reportedly had an affair. Despite her reportedly deep feelings for the president, his interest in her waned. Monroe sank into depression, aided by alcohol and drug abuse, and died on Aug. 4, 1962, probably as the result of drug-induced suicide.
12. Rob Lowe sex tape
> Those involved: Rob Lowe, unknown girl
> Date: 1988
In 1988, 24-year-old actor Rob Lowe made headlines after he videotaped himself having sex with a 16-year-old girl in a hotel room the night before the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, where he was scheduled to support candidate Michael Dukakis. The incident forced Lowe into hiding, but after some time and a self-deprecating appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1990 he was welcomed back into the Hollywood fold.
13. Pee Wee Herman arrest for public masturbation
> Those involved: Comedian Paul Reubens
> Date: 1991
Children’s television star Paul Reubens, best known for his role as Pee Wee Herman, was arrested and charged with exposing himself inside an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida, in 1991. The arrest sidetracked his career for a number of years before he appeared in various TV shows such as “30 Rock” and “The Blacklist.”
14. Winona Ryder arrested for shoplifting
> Those involved: Winona Ryder
> Date: 2001
Actress Winona Ryder was caught stealing over $5,560 worth of merchandise from a Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, California, ripping off tags and placing the items in her bag. The actress served 480 hours of community service, and her felonies were reduced to misdemeanors. Ryder has since been nominated for a Golden Globe for her work on the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
15. Mel Gibson antisemitic remarks
> Those involved: Director/actor Mel Gibson
> Date: 2006
Mel Gibson unleashed a slew of antisemitic comments when he was arrested on drunk driving charges in 2006. He later also pled no contest to hitting the mother of his child. Hollywood considered him largely toxic for years, but his career has since rebounded, and his film “Hacksaw Ridge” won two Oscars.
16. Photos of nude celebrities leaked to public
> Those involved: Various actors
> Date: 2014
Private photos, many containing nudity, of various celebrities — including Jennifer Lawrence, Hayden Panettiere, and Kirsten Dunst — were leaked to the public online in 2014. Multiple hackers would plead guilty to crimes connected to the obtaining and release of the photos in the following years.
17. Charlie Sheen cavorting with porn stars
> Those involved: Charlie Sheen
> Date: 2015
After being dismissed from the hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” actor Charlie Sheen made headlines with his hard partying and relationships with adult film stars. In 2015, Sheen — who has bragged that he’s slept with more than 5,000 women — revealed that he had contracted HIV.
18. Harvey Weinstein casting couch
> Those involved: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, various actresses
> Date: 30 years ending in 2017
Producer Harvey Weinstein was accused by 87 women of rape, sexual abuse, and gender-based discrimination over 30 years. Weinstein was forced to step down from his production company, The Weinstein Company, has largely disappeared from the public view, and is facing numerous legal battles.
19. #MeToo movement shocks Hollywood
> Those involved: Various actors
> Date: 2017
Revelations about sexual predator Harvey Weinstein led to the #MeToo movement — an anti-harassment campaign about men in the industry and elsewhere that prey on women. The movement led to accusations of misconduct by many men and to the disruption and termination of many careers, among them Kevin Spacey, Gérard Depardieu, and Les Moonves.
20. Bill Cosby sex crimes
> Those involved: Bill Cosby, various women
> Date: 1965-2018
Once-beloved entertainer Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in a Pennsylvania state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. More than 50 women accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.
21. Roseanne Barr Twitter meltdown
> Those involved: Actress/comedian Roseanne Barr
> Date: 2018
Actor and comedian Roseanne Barr in a tweet likened President Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and a “Planet of the Apes” actor. The successful reboot of her show “Roseanne” was cancelled by ABC as a result. Barr stated that the tweet cost her her “life’s work.”
22. Woody Allen #MeToo allegations
> Those involved: Woody Allen, daughter Dylan Farrow,
> Date: 1992, 2019
Woody Allen sued Amazon for backing out of deal to market four of his movies after he made sympathetic comments regarding sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. Prior to this, Allen had been accused by adopted daughter Dylan Farrow of molesting her. Allen was also involved in a scandal for his romantic relationship with stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn, whom he would go on to marry, in the early 1980s.
23. College tuition scandal
> Those involved: Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman
> Date: 2019
In March 2019, 50 people were indicted in a college admission bribery scandal nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues.” Included in those charged were actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
24. Jussie Smollett fake attack
> Those involved: “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett
> Date: 2019
In January 2019, actor Jussie Smollett reported to Chicago police that he had been attacked by two men who used racial and homophobic slurs. Smollett was charged with lying about the widely reported attack to police, but the charges were dropped by Cook County state’s attorney.
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