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Virginia Rappe

 

 

 

 

Virginia Rappe

 
Little is known about the starlet. It was her death in 1921 that brought her to the public's attention, for she is the actress that brought down the career of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.

Playing on the fact that he was overweight, he became a successful comedian, taking on the role of buffoon, doing anything on camera to raise a laugh. His love of parties and the high life which came with success was not unusual. Dubbed the King of Comedy, he was a top favourite at the box office, but that all changed in September of 1921. Having just signed a three year contract with the Paramount Studio's, he couldn't wait to celebrate, and of course his friends would help him. There would be the hangers-on, and inevitably the would-be stars looking for favours. The chance of a film part, no matter how small.

The party took place at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Roscoe Arbuckle had seen Virginia Rappe at other parties where, it was said, she didn't mind giving favours in her bid to break into a film career of her own. She, not unwillingly, was escorted by Roscoe Arbuckle into the bedroom next to where the party was taking place, followed by shouts of good luck.

Moments later Virginia Rappe screamed out. The party fell silent at another scream. Then they all heard the loud, agonised groans of the starlet.

Roscoe Arbuckle rejoined the party, his pyjamas torn, and laughingly told them to get her dressed. That she made too much noise.

Two of Virginia's friends hurried to the bedroom where she was on the bed, her clothes torn from her and writhing in pain. They tried to comfort her, but she told them he had hurt her, and that she was dying. However, she did not die immediately, but five days later, and in terrible pain.

An examination revealed that she had all the signs of being raped. It was suggested that the comedy star had been too heavy for the slim 25 year old.

Following a police investigation, Roscoe Arbuckle was charged with the rape and murder of Virginia Rappe. The tabloids had a field day, portraying him as a fiendish monster. It did nothing for him by showing no remorse over the girls death. She, in turn, was portrayed as no more than a prostitute by his counsel.

Going to trial, after 43 hours the jury came back 10-2 for acquittal. Declared a mistrial, a second took place with the jury coming out 10-2 in favour of conviction. Again a mistrial was declared. A third trial took place in April 1922. This time the jury was not just all in favour of acquitting the comic, taking just one minute for their decision, but also apologised.

However, the American public took it that the man was guilty with the newspapers putting him on trial, and convicting him. His career slumped, though he did write scripts under a pseudonym, he was never to go before the camera again.

Whatever happened in suite 1221 that weekend will never really be known. Virginia Rappe never made a formal statement, other than her whispering to a nurse that Fatty Arbuckle had done her damage, and pleaded with her not to let him get away with it.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle died in 1933, taking what he knew with him to the grave.


Virginia Rappe is buried at Hollywood Park Memorial Cemetery where sobbing has been heard in the area of her grave.

 

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