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Virginia Rappe circa 1920
|Born||Virginia Caroline Rapp
July 7, 1895
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||September 9, 1921
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Ruptured bladder and secondary peritonitis|
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Other names||Virginia Rappae|
Virginia Rappe (//; July 7, 1895 – September 9, 1921) was an American model and silent film actress. She worked mostly in small bit parts, and is best known for her death after attending a party with actor Roscoe Arbuckle, who was accused of complicity in her death though ultimately exonerated.
Early life and career
Virginia Caroline Rapp was born in Chicago to an unwed mother, Mabel Rapp, who died when Virginia was 11. Virginia was then raised by her grandmother in Chicago. At age 14 she began working as a commercial and art model in Chicago.
In 1916 she 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. Shortly after the engagement Moscovitz was killed in a streetcar accident, whereupon she moved to Los Angeles. In early 1917 she was hired by director Fred Balshofer and given a prominent role in his Paradise Garden opposite popular screen star Harold Lockwood. Balshofer then hired her again to costar with early drag performer Julian Eltinge and newcomer Rudolph Valentino in Over the Rhine, for which she was awarded the title of "Best Dressed Girl in Pictures". This film was not released until 1920 when Balshofer recut it and released it under the title An Adventuress and later in 1922 as The Isle of Love.
In 1919, she began a relationship with director/producer Henry Lehrman; the two eventually became engaged. She appeared in at least four films for Lehrman: His Musical Sneeze, A Twilight Baby, Punch of the Irish and A Game Lady. However, because many of Lehrman's films are lost, the exact number of roles she performed for him cannot be known.
The circumstances of Rappe's death in 1921 became a Hollywood scandal and were covered widely (and sensationalized) by the media of the time. During a party held on Labor Day, September 5, 1921, in Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's suite, number 1219, at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, Rappe allegedly suffered a trauma.
Rumors arose, supposedly to besmirch her character, that she had given birth to a child in Chicago in 1918, and that the child was given to foster care. These rumors were proven false by autopsy .
The exact events of that party are still unclear, with witnesses relating numerous versions of what happened. It was alleged that she died as a result of a violent sexual assault by Arbuckle. Arbuckle's accuser, Maude Delmont, had accompanied Rappe to the party; she had first met Rappe only a few days earlier. Delmont was apparently not present at any of the events she described and was not called to testify at any of Arbuckle's three trials because of her own extensive criminal background that included extortion.
Subsequent witnesses testified that Rappe had for some time suffered from cystitis, and that consuming alcohol could aggravate that condition. Witnesses also testified that she had previously suffered from venereal disease, so there were allegations that her death was brought on by her health rather than by an assault.
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. We feel that a great injustice has been done him… there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime." Arbuckle's case has been examined by scholars and historians over the years and is still speculated about today, and a number of detailed books about the case have analyzed the incident and subsequent trials.
|1917||Paradise Garden||Marcia Van Wyck||Lost film|
|1918||Wild Women and Tame Lions||Uncredited|
|1919||His Musical Sneeze|
|1920||A Twilight Baby|
|1920||An Adventuress||Vanette||Alternative title: The Isle of Love|
|1920||The Kick in High Life||Uncredited|
|1920||Wet and Warmer||Undetermined role||Uncredited|
|1921||The Punch of the Irish||Undetermined role|
|1921||A Game Lady||Undetermined role|
- Miller, Blair (1995). American Silent Film Comedies: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Persons, Studios, and Terminology. McFarland & Co. p. 207. ISBN 0-89950-929-0.
- Ellis, Julie (2005). The Mammoth Book of Celebrity Murder: Murder Played Out In The Spotlight Of Maximum Publicity. Berghahn Books. p. 445. ISBN 1-57181-140-0.
- Ellis, Chris & Julie (2005). Celebrity Murder: Murder played out in the spotlight of maximum publicity. Constable & Robertson. ISBN 1-84529-154-9.
- Meade, Marion (1997). Buster Keaton: Cut To the Chase. Da Capo Press. p. 121. ISBN 0-306-80802-1.
- Lawson, Kristan; Rufus, Anneli (2000). California Babylon. Macmillan. p. 46. ISBN 0-312-26385-6.
- "Sausalito News 12 November 1921 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2017-01-13.
- "Virginia Blamed Lover, says nurse". Ludington Daily News. San Francisco, Cal. September 13, 1921. p. 1.
- Noe, Denise. "Fatty Arbuckle and the Death of Virginia Rappe". trutv.com. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- Chermak, Steven M.; Bailey, Frankie Y. (2007). Crimes and Trials of the Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 67. ISBN 0-313-34110-9.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Virginia Rappe.|
- Works by or about Virginia Rappe at Internet Archive
- Virginia Rappe at the Internet Movie Database
- Virginia Rappe Home-Page (German)
- Crime Library Article on the Rappe/Arbuckle case
- Film researcher discusses the Fatty Arbuckle trial
- Watch His Musical Sneeze at the Danish Film Institute website
- Allan Ellenberger blog entry on Virginia Rappe [broken link]
- 'Fatty' Arbuckle and Hollywood's first scandal
- Virginia Rappe at Find a Grave