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20 Forgotten Scandals from Hollywood's Golden Era

Judy Garland's "Diet"

Judy Garland may have looked beautiful and carefree as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, but behind the scenes at MGM she was anything but. Under pressure from the studio to lose weight, Garland’s food intake was heavily restricted, and she used diet pills to keep her appetite at bay. These experiences as a teenager would lead Garland to struggle with eating disorders and drugs for the rest of her life. 

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Charlie Chaplain Denied Re-Entry Into the United States

It seems like in the 40s and 50s you couldn’t walk down the streets of Hollywood without bumping into someone accused of being a communist by the United States government--and British-born Charlie Chaplin was no exception. In 1952, Chaplin’s re-entry permit to the US was revoked (without any sort of anti-American evidence, mind you), and his reputation here suffered greatly for it.  

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Fatty Arbuckle's Murder Trial

Fatty Arbuckle was a major star during the silent film era who was known to party a little too hard. After actress Virginia Rappe died after a night in his hotel room, Arbuckle was charged with causing the injuries that led to her death. While he would go on to be acquitted of these charges, his reputation in Hollywood never recovered. 

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Loretta Young Adopts Her Own Daughter

Being an unwed mother in 1935 Hollywood was basically a death sentence, and actress Loretta Young wasn’t about to let it derail her career. So, she hatched an elaborate plan. After dealing with a mysterious nine month illness, Young had wonderful news for her fans: she was going to adopt a daughter. What they didn’t know was that this daughter was actually biological--Young went as far as to actually put her up for adoption and “re-adopting” her. 

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Lana Turner Dated a Mafioso

Lana Turner spent almost half a century in the Hollywood spotlight as both a film and television actor. But she was grabbing headlines in the 1950s for all the wrong reasons. When it was revealed that her boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, was a member of the mafia, she claimed ignorance. However, she couldn’t deny his violent nature--he once hurt her so badly that Turner’s teenage daughter killed Stompanato in what was declared by the courts as a justifiable homicide.  

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Ingrid Bergman's Affair

Gossip-hungry fans may live for celebrity affairs these days, but during the golden era of Hollywood, it could end a career. Case in point: Ingrid Bergman. When Bergman began an affair (and became pregnant) with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, the world was scandalized. It was so far that a US senator even denounced her on the floor of the Senate. 

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Thomas Ince's Death

Thomas Ince was an all-around star during the silent movie era, and his official cause of death goes like this--Ince attended a party hosted by media magnate William Randolph Hearst on his yacht. During the evening, he complained of stomach pains, went home, and died two days later of natural causes. However, some believe that Ince was accidentally murdered. Charlie Chaplin was in attendance at this party as well, and Hearst suspected he was having an affair with his wife. The rumor is that Hearst attempted to shoot Chaplain but shot Ince by accident instead. And then with a little hush money, the whole thing got covered up. 

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Jerry Lee Lewis Married His Cousin

By the time Jerry Lee Lewis was 22, he had already been married twice. His third wife was an odd choice, to say the least--it was his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Brown. Some said that Brown was actually 15 at the time of the wedding, but with a scandal this weird, that’s just splitting hairs. 

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Joan Crawford's Daughter Accused Her of Abuse

When Joan Crawford’s daughter, Christina, was an adult, she published a shocking memoir called Mommie Dearest about the alleged physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her starlet mother. While some who knew Crawford defended her from the allegations, others said they were not surprised by what they read. While these accusations could never be definitively proven, Christina received nothing in Crawford’s will when she died. 

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Marilyn Monroe Had an Affair with JFK (And His Brother)

Hollywood loved the Kennedys, and when it comes to Marilyn Monroe, she loved them a little more than most. While it’s never been definitively proven, there is a good chance that Monroe had an affair with JFK in the 60s. On top of that, it’s alleged that she moved on to John’s brother, Bobby, once he got bored of her. 

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Jackie Coogan's Parents Stole His Money

These days, a portion of money earned by child actors is set aside by law until they turn 21, and that’s all thanks to the sad story of Jackie Coogan. Coogan was a child actor who became famous for his role in the Charlie Chaplin film The Kid. As an adult, Coogan discovered that his mother and stepfather had squandered millions of his earnings and sued them in court. While he only got $125,000 from the settlement, it led to the California Child Actor’s Bill, which still protects the earnings of minors to this day.  

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Peg Entwistle Died on the Hollywood Sign

Peg Entwistle was an aspiring actress in the 30s who just never had her big break. Tragically, she committed suicide from the “H” in the Hollywood sign--which at the time still said “Hollywoodland”. 

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Charlie Chaplin Married a Teenager at Age 60

Talk about an age discrepancy--Charlie Chaplin, aged 60, married his fourth wife a month after she turned 18 years old. What’s even stranger is that, before marrying Chaplin, the woman had been dating author J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye

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Sandra Dee Struggled with Anorexia

Sandra Dee is probably most well-known for her titular role in the movie Gidget, and like many actresses at the time, she was pressured by a movie studio to stay thin. This pressure would eventually develop into a full-blown eating disorder and a lifelong struggle with pills. 

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Florence Henderson and Barry Williams Dated During the Brady Bunch

Sometimes the truth of a scandal is that there isn’t much of a scandal to begin with. While on the set of The Brady Bunch, Barry Williams (who played eldest son Greg) developed a crush on Florence Henderson (who played his stepmother). The rumor was that they had an affair on set, but the truth is much more mundane. Williams (who was 16 at the time) did have a crush on Henderson (who was 36), and he managed to nab a dinner alone with her. They had a good time and ended the night with the innocent peck on the cheek. Nothing to see here. 

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Joan Crawford Did an Adult Film

By the 1930s, Joan Crawford was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. But like many actors, early in her career she struggled financially. There are rumors that Crawford may have starred in multiple adult films before making it to the big screen. Then, there are rumors on top of those rumors about MGM partnering with the mob to make sure those films never saw the light of day. Nothing was ever definitive about this scandal, but it did cast a shadow of suspicion around Crawford.  

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Pola Negri Lost Her Mind at a Funeral

Rudolph Valentino was an Italian actor who thrived in 1920s Hollywood, and he died unexpectedly at age 31. At his funeral (which was attended by thousands), actress Pola Negri put on quite the show. After loudly announcing that she was Valentino’s secret fiancee, she saw fit to dramatically faint twice--once in front of a flower display that spelled out her name...that she had purchased for the funeral.  

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Elizabeth Taylor Betrayed Debbie Reynolds

When it comes to Hollywood, someone is always sleeping with someone else’s husband. In this case, it was Elizabeth Taylor sleeping with Eddie Fisher--who happened to be married to Debbie Reynolds at the time. After the inevitable divorce, Fisher went on to be Taylor’s fourth husband. 

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The Hollywood Blacklist

During the beginnings of the Cold War, America collectively lost its mind, and Hollywood descended into an all-out fear of communism. Those in the entertainment industry who were either members of or showed support for the Communist Party USA were blacklisted from working in the industry. Sometimes it didn’t even take that much to make it on the list! While this fad of driving the “Reds” out of Hollywood blessedly came to an end, the true irony of this episode is that it fostered an atmosphere of suspicion and betrayal that would have made Stalin himself proud. 

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George Reeves' Mysterious Death

In the 1950s, George Reeves became the first person to ever portray Superman on-screen. Tragically though, his life would end at age 45 in 1959. While his death was officially ruled a suicide, supicions have remained. It was rumored that Reeves’ had been having an affair with the wife of an MGM studio executive--some speculate that foul play may have been involved. 

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