Hollywood Celebrity Scandals The Fatty Arbuckle Rape Murder Part 2

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

HISTORIC HOLLYWOOD SCANDALS

Fatty Arbuckle Scandal-1921

The door to the bedroom finally opened, and Arbuckle appeared wearing Virginia's hat and doing a drunken little dance. But when the guests looked past Arbuckle into the room, they saw a grisly sight. The nude, bloody body of Virginia Rappe was sprawled on the floor, surrounded by her torn, scattered clothes. "He hurt me, Roscoe hurt me," she moaned. "I'm dying, I'm dying. Roscoe did it."

Arbuckle glared down at her. "She's acting it up," he said. "She's always been a lousy actress." He threatened to throw her out of the 12th-story window if she didn't shut up, and she was quickly carried down the hall to another room.

The hotel doctor was called, and he examined Virginia. Although she was obviously seriously injured, she was not moved to a hospital until three days later, on the verge of death. An autopsy revealed the extent of her injuries, and a coroner's jury brought a charge of murder against Arbuckle, because he had allegedly caused her death in the commission of a felony-rape.

If it had been a matter of a violent rape inadvertently turning into accidental death, it would have been serious enough. But it went further than that. The testimony given at the trial shocked even the cynical San Francisco district attorney. At first, descriptions of what Arbuckle had done to Virginia Rappe were passed around the courtroom written on slips of paper. No one wanted to speak of them aloud.

Finally one witness told a hushed courtroom that while Virginia lay dying in a hotel room down the hall, Arbuckle had gleefully related to a group of laughing friends that he had shoved a large, jagged chunk of ice into Virginia Rappe's vagina. Not only ice, the Hollywood gossip-mongers whispered, but a champagne bottle too.

There were three trials, the first two ending with hung juries, the third acquitting Arbuckle, in April, 1922. The jury deliberated for six minutes and stuck around to have their pictures taken with the star. Charges of interference with witnesses, jury tampering, and bribery were exchanged, but the case was formally closed.

Arbuckle soon discovered that to be found not guilty in court and to be judged innocent in the hearts of filmgoers in the towns and cities across the country were very different things. The scandal had shocked and outraged people everywhere. The newly instituted Hays Office, which served as Hollywood's watchdog on ethics, banned his films. Hays later made a formal statement that Arbuckle should be allowed to practice his craft, but the fat comedian's career was shattered.

He spent the next 10 years scraping by as a vaudeville performer, directing two-reelers under the name of William Goodrich, and telling jokes in a cabaret in Culver City. "I just want to work," he said, "and to make people laugh-and to eat."

By 1933 people had either forgotten or forgiven Fatty Arbuckle, and he signed up with Warner Brothers to star in a series of comedy shorts. At 2:15 A.M. on June 29, 1933, a few hours after completing the filming of In The Dough, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle died of a heart attack in his sleep in a New York hotel.

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