Addie McPhail, actress and last of scandal-wracked Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s three wives, died April 19 in Canoga Park, Calif. She was 97.
Born Addie Dukes in White Plaines, Ky., she moved many times with her family before they settled in Hollywood, where around age 20 she began to appear in numerous comedy shorts series and features including ones by the Stern brothers and Universal.
About seven years into her career, she met Arbuckle, who by then was directing low-budgeters under the name William Goodrich, his acting career ruined by the infamous death 11 years before of actress Virginia Rappe during a 1921 party in his San Francisco hotel suite. Two murder trials ended in hung juries, and he was subsequently acquitted in a third trial on the reduced charge of manslaughter.
He directed McPahil in the comedy short “Up a Tree” and she went on to work with him on a vaudeville tour he hoped would lead to a comeback; they married in the interim, and indeed he did make a slight comeback in a series of Warner Bros. comedy shorts, but following a party in honor of the couple’s first wedding anniversary in 1933, he died of a heart attack at 46. She was 27.
She appeared in seven more films, five of them uncredited including 1940’s “Northwest Passage.” She later spent many years as a volunteer at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills.
She had a daughter from her first marriage to songwriter-pianist Lindsay McPhail, and she later was remarried.