1921 ( Taisho 10 ) Friday, September 9 Actress Virginia Rappe has died of peritonitis from a ruptured bladder. She was 26 years old. The death will be one of the most famous in the history of Hollywood scandals. Virginia Rappe was an actress who was active in silent movies. I was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 7, 1895. Her father was absent and raised by a single mother, but after her mother died at the age of 11, she was raised by his grandmother. She started working as an art model at the age of 14, moved to California in 1916 at the age of 21, and made her debut in 1917 with the movie Paradise Garden directed by Fred Barshofer. Then she appeared in many movies directed by director and film producer Henry Lerman and gradually became popular.
On September 5, 1921, four days before Virginia Rappe’s death, something very scandalous happened. Labor Day is a national holiday in the United States. There was a popular comedian at that time named Roscoe Arbuckle. Becoming popular for his overweight appearance and humorous acting, Paramount Pictures had just signed a 3-year deal that included 18 silent films at an unprecedented $3 million.
Roscoe Arbuckle hosted a private party in three suites on the 12th floor of San Francisco’s premier St. Francis Hotel. The hotel still operates as Westin St. Francis. At the time, in 1921, the United States was in the middle of prohibition laws, but a lot of illicit liquor was served and friends gathered. Among them was Virginia Rappe, a young actress.
During the party, Virginia Rappe became ill from an overdose of alcohol, but as she was on abstinence, she spent three days in a hotel without being taken to a hospital, and on the fourth day she was taken to Wakefield Sanatorium in Obstetrics and Gynecology, where she died of peritonitis from a ruptured bladder. Police have investigated party participants, but a woman named Bambina Maud Delmont gives shocking testimony. Virginia Rappe testified that she had been sexually assaulted by Roscoe Arlbuckle and crushed by the massive body of the fat Roscoe.
A doctor’s autopsy on Virginia Rappe found no evidence of sexual assault. However, the accusations by Bambina Maud Delmont led to the police arrest of Roscoe Arbuckle on manslaughter charges on September 17, which prompted the national media to begin reporting sensationalism en masse. With Roscoe Arbuckle in jail for three weeks, reports escalated and eventually Roscoe Arbuckle was charged with rape and manslaughter.
Then, on November 14, the trial began at the City Hall in San Francisco. The prosecution was San Francisco District Attorney Matthew Brady, known as an ambitious prosecutor planning to run for California governor. At the trial, accuser Bambina Maude Delmont also testified about Roscoe Arbuckle’s sexual assault on Virginia Rappe, and it was later revealed that prosecutor Matthew Brady pressured other witnesses to give false testimony against Roscoe Arbuckle.
But in the end, there was no evidence of Arbuckle’s sexual assault, and the trial was acquitted. But in the seven months leading up to his acquittal, the fame of the popular comedy actor Erbuckle was completely destroyed by the media’s sensational and biased coverage of the scandal. The movie he starred in was banned and severely criticized by many moral organizations. He also divorced his wife, actress Minta Durphy, and his family was destroyed. The popular film actor and director of the time, Buster Keaton, helped finance the disheartened Roscoe Earlback. In 1933, he died of a heart attack at the age of only 46.
In Japan, Atsuko Muraki of Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare was falsified in 2009 by the chief prosecutor of the special investigation department of the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office, resulting in the false accusation against her. If the sensational reports of the mass media are combined with the reckless actions of the prosecution, I think it is an incident that tells us the danger that terrible things will happen.