Who doesn't like a juicy Hollywood scandal? If you're like me you want to hear the horror stories just as much as the fun and fanciful tales of Hollywood's past. That's why I was intrigued when I came across the documentary, Girl 27 (2007), which tells the story of Patricia Douglas, a young starlet who was raped at an MGM stag party in 1937. I had not heard of this story before and that is because the powerful MGM movie studio did their best to bury it. Then director/writer David Stenn came along, did some sleuthing and reintroduced this scandal to the public.
In 1937, MGM held a huge party in Los Angeles for their top film salesmen. The studio brought them in by train from all over the country. The party started with a ceremony at the famous Ambassador Hotel with a speech by MGM exec Louis B. Mayer, but it wasn't until after the ceremony that the real party would start.
All the salesmen went to an old barn located on property owned by RKO which was used for filming purposes. MGM had loaded the barn with booze and had hired over 100 underage girls for entertainment, one of them being Patricia Douglas who was listed as "Girl 27" in MGM's studio records. Of course the mix of booze, underage girls, and wild salesmen would lead to trouble.
One salesman from Chicago attempted to get Douglas drunk. Douglas didn't drink so a few of the salesmen held the 17 year-old down and forced booze down her mouth. This led up to the Chicago salesman raping the young girl.
Douglas would go public with her story and eventually take her case to court. If you think MGM would have taken the side of the young raped girl you're wrong. MGM couldn't let the public know that one of their top salesman raped an underage girl at a stag party they organized; so, the studio went into overdrive to bury the scandal. They had their Publicity department create other newsworthy stories that were not embarrassing so that the Douglas scandal would not be a cover story, but buried deep into the pages of the newspaper where noone would read it. The MGM publicity department also made attempts to project Douglas as a whore, to discredit her case.
Stenn, the director and writer for Girl 27 tracks down Douglas to see what happened of the young girl from the scandal and to see if he can get her to open up about the case. Douglas eventually left Hollywood and would become a recluse in her old age. Stenn makes several attempts to reach Douglas, and eventually he does, getting her to open up a little at a time.
You can watch this very interesting documentary in its entirety on Youtube by going here. Also, the documentary is available through Netfilx and is one of their InstantWatch titles.
Terrible story, sadly I feel the studios were terrible in many, many ways. It's my personal view of course.
The money making machine that they were, made people "throw away" to them. Sadly for whatever reason many girls were lured by the studios in the hope of becoming stars.
There were many cover ups, some more famous than others :-)
Even today I think girls and guys are lured into the entertainment business in the hopes of becoming stars; however, unlike the days of the studio system I don't think studios today could as easily get way with a scandal like this.
I totally agree.I think society was different then also, I think the world was a harder place in the 30's if that makes sense.
this was a very sad story. What MGM did to that girl was horrible. They took her life away from her.
he daughter did not know this happened to her Mother until. David went and interviewed her.
Being a movie star is not what it seems to be, even now in 2009..
Truly, a sad and outrageous story. MGM was a power machine that stomped on many people. This girl was one of many victimized by the Hollywood machinery, look at Clara Bow. People couldn't do this to Marion Davies because she had a strong protector in Hearst. But so many of the others women starts were just "chattel" to the studios.
I love your blog, and that you are finding stories like this!
MH, The Recessionista
Although I'm not surprised by this story in the least, I had never heard about it. Thank you for bringing this seedier side to the studio system to light for us.
Very good post.
This story is a sad reminder that, as much as we may love the studio system era in an artistic sense -- and certainly there were many good people who worked in the industry then -- there were nefarious elements throughout the business, and the corruption of southern California at the time enabled this sordid culture to grow.
from what I understand , Wallace Beery (believe it or not) helped this girl escape from this “party” for Metro’s exhibitors.
I grew up watching those pictures -- the big extravaganzas, the dance numbers, the oh-so-catchy tunes and all those "ostrich feather" showgirls. They formed an integral part of who I am. I learned part of the truth (which I had already suspected watching how hard those actors and dancers worked) reading Valley of the Dolls when I was eleven. When I first heard of this story I immediately wondered why Jacqueline Susann had not found some way to include it even as a background story, a brief mention. I now realize that even she probably did not know Patricia Douglas existed.
I just saw this documentary on Netflix. Heartbreaking. Not only did they affect this woman's life, but so many other people's.
I don't know what MGM could do now, but some type of acknowledgement should be made to the people hurt.
Wow what a gutsy woman Patricia was. So glad her story was told thanks to David Stenn,Girl 27 filmmaker.My heart goes out to her daughter who also suffered via the "fallout" from her mom's ordeal. The film shows Patricia's daughter seems to be a living miracle, no doubt a wonderful person. What an incredible story and film!
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