Posts Tagged ‘fatty arbuckle’

Hollywood Tragedies…

Monday, July 7th, 2008


Virginia Rappe



A modeling photo of Virginia Rappe (courtesy Joan Myers) 


Today is the 117th birthday of Virginia Rappe, who is best known for her tragic and controversial death in 1921. Film researcher Joan Myers is presently working on a detailed account of the Arbuckle trial.


By Joan Myers 


Virginia Rappe was born in Chicago on July 7, 1891. In 1907 she began working as a artist’s model; she quickly segued into the new field of commercial fashion modeling. For the next few years she traveled throughout the northwest and eastern seaboard doing live modeling for fashion shows and posing for advertising and fashion photography. In 1914 she began designing and marketing her own line of clothing; later that year she moved to San Francisco to market her designs at the Pan Pacific International Exhibition. In the spring of 1916 she decided to try for a career in films and again relocated, this time to Hollywood. 



She continued her modeling career in Hollywood. In early 1917 she was hired by producer Fred Balshofer and given a prominent co-starring role in Balshofer’s Paradise Garden opposite screen idol Harold Lockwood. Balshofer hired her again the next year to co-star with popular cross-dresser Julian Eltinge and newcomer Rudolph Valentino in Over the Rhine. This film was not released until 1920 when Balshofer recut it and released it under the title An Adventuress.



In 1917, Rappe began a relationship with comedy actor/director/producer Henry Lehrman. She appeared in at least four films for Lehrman: His Musical Sneeze and A Twilight Baby (1920) with Lloyd Hamilton, Punch of the Irish (1921) with Frank Coleman and Lige Conley, and A Game Lady (1921) with Hamilton and Coleman. All but two of these films (A Twilight Baby and Punch of the Irish) are lost. It is possible Rappe may have had additional roles with Lehrman, but none have so far been identified.



On September 9, 1921, four days after attending a party thrown by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, actor Lowell Sherman, and director Fred Fischbach at the St. Francis Hotel, Rappe died of a ruptured bladder in San Francisco. Arbuckle was arrested for her murder the next day. The murder charge was eventually reduced to manslaughter, for which Arbuckle was tried three times. The first two trials ended in hung juries; Arbuckle was acquitted of the charge at the end of the third trial, but his career was ruined. 



Virginia Rappe’s grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery