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Hollywood and scandal are synonymous with one another. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Shocking Classic Film Star Scandals."
For this list, we’re looking at scandalous stars from yesteryear who garnered a reputation for something other than their talent. Only celebrities from the classic era of Hollywood will be considered.
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#10: Frank Sinatra
Away from the soaring ballads and Golden Globe nominations, Ol’ Blue Eyes had a few demons in the closet. Frank Sinatra was notorious for having a terrible temper; when the mood took him, no one was safe from his wrath—not even Marlon Brando or President JFK. Sinatra's fourth wife and valet both released tell-all memoirs that painted the "New York, New York" singer as a man who was prone to violent outbursts. The F.B.I's infamous file on Sinatra points towards the celebrity's ties to the mob, although very little of the material was actually concrete.
#9: Clark Gable
The King of Hollywood was known for being a bit of a womanizer. Charming and highly talented, Clark Gable flirted with most of his co-stars but, despite the numerous of affairs, the actor's image remained relatively untarnished. While filming 1935's Call of the Wild, the married Gable reportedly got along rather well with Loretta Young, which ended in a pregnancy for the former child star. Hollywood swept the scandal under the rug and both celebrities refused to publicly acknowledge the pregnancy, but Young's daughter undeniably shared a strong resemblance with Gable.
#8: Jean Harlow
Today's party animals have nothing on Hollywood's golden age "It" girl. Jean Harlow's star burned intensely and quickly, as MGM's leading lady earned recognition as a brazen sex symbol of the 1930s. While not the greatest actress around, Harlow's controversial public persona—which included hanging out with mobsters like Bugsy Siegel—more than made up for it. At the age of 21, the blonde bombshell's second husband was found dead with a bullet to the head although Harlow was deemed to not be involved. Harlow passed away at the age of 26.
#7: Cary Grant
One of Alfred Hitchcock's favorite actors and the definitive leading man; Cary Grant's comedic timing and debonair demeanor masked a traumatic childhood. In an attempt to find some peace of mind, the Hollywood superstar underwent more than a 100 LSD therapy sessions and, at the time, had nothing but positive things to say about the experience! According to the actor, LSD helped ease the pain left over from childhood and allowed him to truly experience happiness. Later on, the “North by Northwest” star described the act as a foolish coping mechanism to cover up his insecurities.
#6: Natalie Wood
A career that started and ended with a scandal. Cast as Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street at the tender age of eight, Natalie Wood's entire life was spent in the limelight. During the filming of Rebel Without a Cause, unsubstantiated rumors spread that the teenager had an affair with 43-year-old director Nicholas Ray, although that might have simply been tabloid nonsense. In 1981, tragedy struck during a get together with husband Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken, as Wood drowned after falling off the couple's private yacht. Although her death was ruled an accident at the time, many believed her husband was responsible and in 2018, Wagner was named a person of interest in his wife's drowning. Wood's untimely and suspicious passing remains one of Hollywood's most tragic scandals and enduring mysteries.
#5: Joan Crawford
Despite forging an impressive and long career, one that garnered multiple Oscar and Golden Globe nominations; Joan Crawford’s legacy is a complicated one. A year after the actress' death, Christina Crawford published Mommie Dearest, an autobiography detailing the strained relationship between Joan and her adopted daughter. Embellished further in Faye Dunaway's film adaptation, Mommie Dearest paints the legendary actress as a physically and mentally abusive adoptive mother who slept with anything that had a pulse. Mommie Dearest's authenticity has regularly been questioned, but there must be some truth hiding in its madness
#4: George Reeves
Way before Christopher Reeve, Henry Cavill, or Brandon Routh put on the legendary spandex—George Reeves was Kal-El. But after six seasons on the air, the Adventures of Superman was brought to a screeching halt when George Reeves was found dead. Even though the case was deemed a suicide, many of Reeves' closest friends shouted foul play and pointed towards Reeves' ex-mistress Toni Mannix, who had recently been dumped in favor of Leonore Lemmon. The American actress was married to an MGM executive and "problem fixer" named Eddie Mannix, and rumors persist that Reeves was murdered for dumping Toni.
#3: Marilyn Monroe
This scandal goes all the way to the top! Marilyn Monroe is a cultural icon who helped usher in a new era of sexuality in Hollywood. Prior to her untimely death, Norma Jeane lasted two decades as a top-billed actress, but the Some Like It Hot star's reputation extends well beyond the silver screen. In the early 60s, rumors suggested that Marilyn Monroe had an affair with President Kennedy, and the sultry rendition of "Happy Birthday" she delivered to JKF at a New York fundraiser certainly didn’t help. Retrospective investigations have poked holes in this alleged affair, but real or not, it was nonetheless a MAJOR scandal.
#2: Alfred Hitchcock
Apparently believing that all actors should be treated like cattle, the master of suspense occasionally took things too far. From Grace Kelly to Janet Leigh, Alfred Hitchcock had a fascination with crafting the perfect leading lady, and the director seemed to prefer blondes. Cast as Melanie Daniels in 1963's The Birds, Tippi Hedren recounts a relationship marred by unwanted sexual advantages and a terrifying ordeal involving live birds pecking at her eye. According to Hedren, Hitchcock’s behavior only grew worse during the filming of 1964's Marnie and the actress refused to work with the director again.
#1: Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle
This one’s arguably Hollywood’s first ever scandal. Charlie Chaplin's mentor and a close friend with Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle ranked among the silent era's greatest comedians. But in 1921, the actor was accused of rape by actress Virginia Rappe, who died a couple of days later due to a ruptured bladder. Overnight, Arbuckle went from a beloved comedian to the most hated person in America, a stigma that prevailed even after the celebrity was found innocent. Nearly a century later, Rappe's death and Arbuckle’s involvement remain Hollywood's biggest scandal of the classic era.