5 Vintage Hollywood Scandals That First Showed Tinseltown’s Ugly Side

Published May 11, 2021
Updated August 3, 2021

From abortions to murder, these Hollywood scandals prove that Tinseltown has had issues since the silent age.

With its many problematic, drug-addicted starlets and its sex-related Hollywood scandals of today, Tinseltown may seem like a less than a glamorous place.

Hollywood Scandals

Getty ImagesOne of the biggest Hollywood scandals of all time was the murder of mobster Johnny Stompanato, who was the boyfriend of Lana Turner. 1958.

But the truth is, Hollywood was never as glamorous as many of us tend to believe. Even back in Golden Age, juicy Hollywood scandals were just as common as today.

Hollywood Scandals: Charlie Chaplin’s Obsession With Young Girls

Sexually abusing and exploiting young women is nothing new in Hollywood scandals, and the biggest star of the silent era proves that.

Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance

Wikimedia CommonsChaplin’s first high profile romance involved his 19 year old co-star Edna Purviance. 1916.

Comedy genius Charlie Chaplin became a worldwide icon early on in his life and this, in turn, messed with his head, at least when it came to women. He boasted of his conquests relentlessly and claimed, shamelessly, that he had slept with more than 2,000 women over the course of his life.

He wasn’t out looking for love either. When asked in an interview to describe his ideal woman, Chaplin replied – “I am not exactly in love with her, but she is entirely in love with me.”

Mature women might have been harder for Chaplin to charm, but they were not his target. Chaplin was after young girls. His first high-profile romance involved his 19-year-old co-star Edna Purviance.

Four years later, when he was 29, Chaplin met the 16-year-old child actress Mildred Harris and promptly forgot all about Edna. He was infatuated with Mildred so much so that he kept sending her flowers and waited for her outside the studio where she worked. The two soon became lovers, got married, lost a child, and got divorced.

Charlie Chaplin with Lita Greay

Getty ImagesCharlie Chaplin with his second wife, Lita Grey and their son Charles Junior on board the SS City of Los Angeles. November 1926.

Shortly after the divorce, Chaplin took up with the 15-year-old child actress, Lita Grey. He had actually first met her three years previously when she was just 12 years old and had apparently been obsessed with her ever since.

Lita soon became pregnant. Chaplin knew by then that he did not love her, but he feared the legal implications of having had intercourse with a minor and thus the two got married. They divorced only a few years later.

Chaplin wasn’t single for long – he soon fell for another young actress. Her name was Paulette Goddard, and she had told Chaplin that she was 17 years old. Thankfully, she was actually 22.

The pair went on holidays to the Far East where Chaplin later claimed they got married although no records of the marriage exist. Tired of Chaplin’s controlling behavior Paulette left him in 1940.

Charlie Chapin and Oona O'Neil

Wikimedia CommonsChaplin was 54 years old when he married his last wife, Oona O’Neill, who was 18 years old at the time. 1944.

By then, Chaplin was 51 years old, and it seemed like his romantic life was all but over. However, at the age of 54 Chaplin met the 18-year-old Oona O’Neill, daughter of American playwright Eugene O’Neill. 

The two got married, had eight children together, and lived happily ever after. Chaplin finally found his true love, even if she was 36 years younger than him.

Laura Martisiute
Laura is a freelance writer based in Tramore, Ireland. In her spare time, she likes to explore secret beaches, pet cats, and read.