Also known as “Madame Black,” Delmont procured young women for parties where wealthy male guests soon found themselves accused of rape and blackmailed into paying Delmont. From there, he traveled with the Pantages Theater group, where he met his wife actress Minta Durfee. Al and Maude decided to call the hotel doctor. Good) and worked behind the scenes, directing films for friends who remained loyal to him and barely earning a living in the only business he knew. The bladder had ruptured by some external force. He recalled that Fatty told him he placed a piece of ice inside Virginia. Gilbert King is a contributing writer in history for Smithsonian.com. At age 14, the beautiful brunette began posing for local artists and fashion designers. Rappe, Al Semnacher, and Bambina Maude Delmont, were invited to stop by the party. According to The Medico-legal Journal, Volumes 39–40, DR. Beardslee returned at 4 AM and again at 5 AM on September 6. They didn’t write her up as a rising starlet who met a sad and untimely end. He remained silent as the innuendo swelled. Cookie Policy San Francisco District Attorney Matthew Brady saw the case as the perfect opportunity to jump-start his career in politics, but he was beginning to have trouble with his star witness, Delmont. Neither Fatty or Virginia got a fair shake from the press. Luckily, he was able to find work for room and board at the local hotel. However, they couldn’t convict him on the murder charge, so they downgraded it to manslaughter. Roscoe would sing during his workday. Death is what happens when women are forced to undergo illegal abortions instead of safe ones. Virginia’s manager and Fatty’s friend, Al Semnacher, accompanied the women. He found Rappe in his bathroom, vomiting, and he and several other guests tried to revive her from what they believed was intoxication. Maude spent the day nursing her friend who drifted in and out of consciousness. After a delay, Arbuckle came to the door in his pajamas, wearing Rappe’s hat “cocked at an angle” and smiling his “foolish ‘screen smile.” Behind him, Rappe was sprawled on the bed, moaning. However, shortly after the engagement, Moscovitz was killed in a streetcar accident, whereupon Rappe moved to Los Angeles. The days leading up to the party did not put Arbuckle in the best of moods. Books: Robert Grant, Joseph Katz, The Great Trials of the Twenties: The Watershed decade in America’s Courtrooms, Sarpedon, 1998. Rappe was a little known film actress whom Arbuckle had met before but had not seen for several years. Behind him, Virginia lay on the smaller of the two beds “writhing in pain” and tearing at her clothing according to Maude. Rumors of rape by glass bottle sent journalists into a tailspin.

However, a trip to the hospital would likely result in a visit by the police, and there was no time to clean up evidence of illegal alcohol. It’s been nearly 100 years since the death of Virginia Rappe, and we as a society, still can’t get it right. She fell on the floor, and he picked her up. The first order of business from the defense was to discredit any possible witnesses. A little more than ten years later, on June 29, 1933, he had a heart attack and died in his hotel room. Virginia Rappe was born in Chicago to an unwed mother, Mabel Rappe, who died when Virginia was 11. She even received an award as the “Best Dressed Girl in Pictures.”. Virginia needed more help than they could offer. When Virginia reached the age of majority, she set sail west to San Francisco, California. His book Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. They were all drunk. When Virginia was 11, her mother passed away, and she went to live with her grandmother. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgment of fourteen men and women that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame. Virginia was then raised by her grandmother. The prosecution took the same ugly course of action by attempting to defame Fatty. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. Fatty and his pals checked out of the hotel early and sailed down California’s central coast to Los Angeles. Dr. This is what she told the police: After Arbuckle and Rappe had had a few drinks together, he pulled her actress into an adjoining room, saying, “I’ve waited for you five years, and now I’ve got you.” After a half-hour or so, Delmont heard Rappe screaming, so she knocked on and then kicked at the locked door. “Arbuckle did it,” the actress said, according to Delmont.

Beardslee admitted that Virginia appeared to be suffering from an internal injury, and likely needed surgery. Still, Fatty was released the same day on his own recognizance. Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. Fred procured a bootleg case of gin and reserved rooms 1219,1220, and 1221 at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Why is the knee-jerk reaction to slut-shame and victim blame women into silence? 12 on “felony row” at the San Francisco Hall of Justice, held without bail in the slaying of a 25-year-old actress named Virginia Rappe.

Those who couldn’t be discredited mysteriously forgot what happened by the time they got on the witness stand. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFHallett2013 (, "The Fourteenth Census of the United States: 1920", "Sausalito News 12 November 1921 — California Digital Newspaper Collection", "Fatty Arbuckle and the Death of Virginia Rappe", Crime Library Article on the Rappe/Arbuckle case, Film researcher discusses the Fatty Arbuckle trial, Allan Ellenberger blog entry on Virginia Rappe, 'Fatty' Arbuckle and Hollywood's first scandal, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Virginia_Rappe&oldid=975141903, Articles with unsourced statements from April 2020, Articles with German-language sources (de), Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 26 August 2020, at 23:28. Theaters owners and moviegoers alike boycotted Fatty’s movies. Al and Maude gave Virginia an ice bath, but it only made her pain worse, and her screams louder. It was alleged that Rappe had died as a result of a violent sexual assault by Arbuckle. At least what he wrote down despite Dr. Beardslee’s findings. He hurt me!” The dying woman had no reason to lie. Strange mentions that Virginia had a distended bladder before experiencing “Some external trauma.” Maybe an abortion did cause that before she yelled, “He did this! She died four days later on September 9 from a ruptured bladder and secondary peritonitis. He was a social pariah, unable to work under his own name. These rumors were proven false by autopsy.

Fatty Arbuckle was making $1 million per year in 1921 with Paramount Pictures. Paramount recognized Fatty’s earning potential as the chubby funny guy, and by 1914 they paid Fatty $1,000 for each day of work plus royalties to the tune of 25%. “The Case Against Arbuckle,” “Arbuckle Answers to Girl’s Murder Charge” www.callmefatty.com. Smithsonian Institution. She stayed at the hotel for a few days before she was taken to a hospital—where she died, on September 9, of a ruptured bladder. We feel that a great injustice has been done to him … there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. Riverside Daily Press, Volume XXXVI, Number 223, 19 September 1921. The newspapers never questioned Delmont’s version of events, and they kept flogging Arbuckle. Maude, to be clear, accused Fatty of the rape and murder of her friend, Virginia Rappe.

The DA read them out loud, “He said he put a piece of ice in Virginia Rappe’s snatch.”. What happened in the following ten minutes is disputed. So his friend Fred Fischbach planned a big party to celebrate, a three-day Labor Day bash at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. After three manslaughter trials, Arbuckle was formally acquitted; his acquittal in the third trial was accompanied by an unprecedented statement of apology from the jury stating, in part, that, "Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. Fatty’s career took off like a whirl-wind. Charles F. Adams, Murder by the Bay: Historic Homicide In and About the City of San Francisco, Quill Driver Books, 2005. Roscoe Arbuckle applied the external force during the commission of a sexual assault. Maude Delmont was a liar and a madam. Scott Patrick Johnson, Trials of the Century: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture and the Law, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2011. [4] Rappe appeared in at least four films for Lehrman: His Musical Sneeze, A Twilight Baby, Punch of the Irish and A Game Lady. In 1916, Rappe relocated to San Francisco to pursue her career as an artist's model, where she met dress designer Robert Moscovitz, to whom she became engaged. At some point, Al Semnacher arrived on the scene and suggested an ice bath to sober her up. “Fatty Arbuckle and the Death of Virginia Rappe” by Denise Noe,  TruTV Crime Library, www.trutv.com. Terms of Use In early 1917, she was hired by director Fred Balshofer and given a prominent role in his film Paradise Garden, opposite popular screen star Harold Lockwood. Randolph Hearst himself said that the Arbuckle debacle sold more papers than the sinking of the Lusitania. This happiness was short-lived; a streetcar accident cut his life short. His Labor Day party was written up as an orgy. She made a name for herself as both a model and a dress designer. The acid burned through his pants to his buttocks, causing second-degree burns. She “complained she could not breathe and then started to tear off her clothes.” At no time, Arbuckle insisted, was he alone with her, and he said he had witnesses to corroborate the point. It was alleged that Rappe had died as a result of a violent sexual assault by Arbuckle. Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle was born March 24, 1887, in Smith Center, Kansas.

Still, those events would end the career of America’s favorite comedy actor, and Virginia would be dead.