9 Vintage Hollywood Scandals That Reveal Tinseltown’s Ugly Side

Published May 11, 2021
Updated December 9, 2021

From Charlie Chaplin to Judy Garland, these old Hollywood scandals uncover the darkest depths of the movie industry's supposed golden age.

Today, the world is well aware of Hollywood’s dark side. Enough disturbing and salacious Hollywood scandals have come to light to prove that the glitz and the glamor conceals a seedy underbelly.

But though Hollywood scandals are splashed across the internet on a near-daily basis in the modern era, there was once a time when many of Tinseltown’s darkest episodes were successfully swept under the rug – at least for a while.

Hollywood Scandals

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

However, the plethora of old Hollywood scandals that have since come to light prove that the movie industry has always been a dark place behind its bright lights. From pedophilia to murder to Walt Disney’s Nazi connections, these are some of the most chilling chapters from Hollywood’s “golden age.”

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 in 1916.

After becoming a worldwide icon early on in his life, comedy genius Charlie Chaplin developed a reputation for pursuing women. He boasted of his conquests relentlessly and claimed 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.”

What Chaplin didn’t explicitly say then was that his ideal women were younger than him. When Chaplin was 25, he entered his first high-profile romance with 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. Completely infatuated with her, Chaplin relentlessly sent 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 Grey

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

Shortly after the divorce, Chaplin took up with the 15-year-old child actress, Lita Grey. He had actually first met her when she was just six years old and had cast her in The Kid (1921) when she was 13.

In 1925, Lita — still a teenager — became pregnant. Though Chaplin asked her to get an abortion, Gray refused. Their short marriage produced two sons but ended in divorce in 1927.

Chaplin wasn’t single for long, though – he soon fell for another young actress named Paulette Goddard. She was 22; he was in his 40s. In 1936, they vacationed in Asia together and got married.

This marriage lasted until 1942, but Pauline and Chaplin ultimately weren’t a match. They split that year.

Old Hollywood Scandals 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 in his 50s and it seemed like his romantic life was all but over. However, at the age of 54 Chaplin met 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 seemed to have finally found his true love, even if she was 36 years younger than him.

Laura Martisiute
Laura Martisiute is a freelance writer based in Tramore, Ireland. In her spare time, she likes to explore secret beaches, pet cats, and read.
Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
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Martisiute, Laura. "9 Vintage Hollywood Scandals That Reveal Tinseltown’s Ugly Side." AllThatsInteresting.com, May 11, 2021, https://allthatsinteresting.com/vintage-hollywood-scandals. Accessed May 18, 2024.