Hollywood Actress Virginia Rappe 7July 1891 - 1921

Virginia Caroline Rappe was born in Chicago Illinois on 7th July 1891, to an unwed mother, Mabel Rappe, at the age of 11years old her mother passed away and Virginia was then raised in Chicago by her grandmother. Three years later at the age of 14, she began working as a commercial and art model. 

Then 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. However, shortly after the engagement, Moscovitz was killed in a streetcar accident, whereupon Rappe moved to Los Angeles. In the first months of 1917, she was hired by director Fred Balshofer and given a prominent role in his film Paradise Garden, opposite popular screen star Harold Lockwood. Balshofer then hired her again to co-star 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. 

During 1919, Rappe began a relationship with director/producer Henry Lehrman. The two eventually became engaged and lived together, although in the United States Census of 1920, the young actress is listed simply as a ‘Boarder’ in Lehrman’s home in Los Angeles. Rappe appeared in at least four films for Lehrman: His Musical Sneeze, A Twilight Baby, Punch of the Irish and A Game Lady. However, since many of Lehrman's films are lost, the exact number of roles she performed for him cannot be determined. 

The circumstances surrounding 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 5th September (Labor Day), 1921, in Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle’s suite, number 1219, at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, Rappe allegedly suffered a trauma. She later died on 9th September from a ruptured bladder and secondary peritonitis. Following her death she was buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. 

However rumors arose, supposedly to besmirch her character, that Rappe had given birth to a child in Chicago in 1918, and that the child was given to foster care. These rumors were proven to be false by the autopsy report. 

The exact events of the party which lead to her death are still unclear, with witnesses relating numerous versions of what happened. It was alleged that Rappe had 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 a notorious character with a police record for extortion and blackmail.) 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 being put through 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.” Roscoe Arbuckle’s reputation and career were nevertheless ruined by the scandal. 

The case has been examined by scholars and historians over the years and is still speculated about today, and numerous detailed books about the case have analyzed the incident and subsequent trials.