Hollywood Celebrity Scandals The Fatty Arbuckle Rape Murder Part 1

About the Hollywood celebrity scandal of 1921 when Fatty Arbuckle was charged with rape and murder.

HISTORIC HOLLYWOOD SCANDALS

Fatty Arbuckle Scandal-1921

In the dark hours of the morning of Sept. 5, 1921, two Hollywood careers came to a violent and tragic end. Virginia Rappe, a struggling young film actress lay bloodied and broken in a San Francisco hotel suite, and 34-year-old Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was only a few days from a jail cell and a murder indictment. Within three days the actress would be dead of massive internal injuries including a ruptured bladder and peritonitis, and Fatty Arbuckle would be charged with rape and murder and engulfed in the scandal that would destroy his career.

Arbuckle had become one of the highest-paid, most popular film comedians of the day, second only to Chaplin. He had just finished three films for the Famous Players-Lasky studio in Hollywood. Arbuckle's brand of slapstick comedy was exhausting, and, in response to Paramount's request, he rushed from one film stage to another, making the three comedies concurrently, without a day off. He was ready for a vacation, and he piled a couple of his drinking cronies, actor Lowell Sherman and director Fred Fischbach, into his custom-made $25,000 Pierce Arrow for a drive up the coast to San Francisco.

They checked into a suite of rooms at the St. Francis Hotel and ordered several cases of high-quality bootleg liquor. Arbuckle cranked up the phonograph, invited over a flock of local show business types and chorus girls, and proceeded to unwind. It could have been just another of the hard-drinking, womanizing comedian's wild parties.

At almost 300 lb., Arbuckle was not particularly attractive to women, and he had a reputation for getting his way through a combination of the lure of what a famous star could do for a struggling actress and a bit of not very subtly applied brute force. There had been hints of scandal before, but they had been hushed up, and the worst that had happened to Arbuckle was that he had achieved a reputation as a "rape artist," which he laughed off.

The liquor flowed freely in the St. Francis suite. A parade of faces came and went, exactly the sort of raucous, freewheeling party Arbuckle required. Only one thing was missing. He called Virginia Rappe, a young woman he had been pursuing off and on for some time, and invited her to join the fun.

Virginia Rappe was among the thousands of eager young women who flocked to Hollywood to seek stardom and excitement. Her sweet smile and long brown hair had appeared on the cover of the sheet music for "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." She had played small roles in several Mack Sennett two-reelers, and before long she was dating director Henry Lehrman and doing larger roles. The struggling actress was making some progress.

Virginia and two friends arrived at Arbuckle's party after midnight and found the comedian drunk and amorous. He herded Virginia into a bedroom, leered at the revelers, and said, "I've waited for this chance for a long time." At that point, most of the witnesses later agreed, Virginia was not objecting very strenuously, if at all, but the picture of the amorous bully urging the coy but willing starlet soon turned ugly. The suite of rooms was filled with bloodcurdling screams and moans.

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