seem to help ourselves.
We have amorbid interestincelebrities and unexplained death -
especially if the death involves a young person. In the thirties,
it was Bruno Hauptman and the Lindberg baby. In the sixties, it
was Charles Manson and Sharon Tate. At the end of the millennium,
it was O.J. and Nicole - each event resulting in a 'trial of the
But there was another trial, now
long forgotten, that surpassedthem all. It involved a beloved, overweight,
silent movie actor, who as fate, or some higher power divined,
ended up in the wrong place, at the worst possible time.
The lambent waves of chance that
swept over him nearly one hundred years agowould reflect everything that we
like,and dislike about
Americans- our conflicting
love for fairness and sensationalism; for truth and for lurid
gossip; for getting the bad guy and fighting for vindication. As
with all morality plays, there was lots of money involved, and,
of course, booze and pretty women.
On many levels, his
trial brought us further into the twentieth century
wereprepared to go. People
could notget enough of the
sordid details in a post war era of prohibition and religious
indignation toward sin.
The defendant was represented by
a "million dollar defense team" and the concepts of forensic
evidence were firstintroducedto a national audience. Testimony was
suppressed and witnesses lied. A celebrity would ask forgiveness
from an outraged publicafter falling so far and so fast into
disgrace. It was our country's first "he said - she said,"
courtroom drama - beauty and the beast with a tragic third
There were pirates in the story
and maybe even some hoo doo.
Freddy Kreuger was there
O.J. Simpson was not the
defendant in America's 'trial of the century.'
It was Roscoe "Fatty"