Virginia Rappe (July 7, 1895 – September 9, 1921) was an American model and silent film actress. Rappe was born to unwed mother Mabel Rapp in New York City. Mabel died when Virginia was 11, and Virginia was then raised by her grandmother in Chicago. At age 14 she began working as a commercial and art model in Chicago. Rappe had at least two abortions by the time she was 15.
In 1916 she relocated to San Francisco to pursue her career as an artist's model, where she met dress designer Robert Moscovitz and they became engaged. Shortly after the engagement her fiancé was killed in a streetcar accident and she moved to Los Angeles. In early 1917 she was hired by director Fred Balshofer and given a prominent role in his Paradise Garden opposite popular screen star Harold Lockwood. In 1918 she gave birth to a child, which was put into foster care. Balshofer then hired her again to costar 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.
In 1919, she began a relationship with director/producer Henry Lehrman; the two eventually became engaged. She appeared in at least four films for Lehrman: His Musical Sneeze, A Twilight Baby, Punch of the Irish and A Game Lady. It is possible she may have performed additional roles for him but, as many of Lehrman's films are lost, no supporting evidence survives.
The circumstances of 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 Labor Day, September 5, 1921 in Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's (above) suite, number 1219, at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, California, Rappe allegedly suffered a trauma. She died on September 9, 1921, from a ruptured bladder and secondary peritonitis. She is buried at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery.
The exact events of that party are still unclear, with witnesses relating numerous versions of what happened. It was alleged that she died as a result of a violent sexual assault by Roscoe Arbuckle. Arbuckle's accuser, Maude Delmont, had accompanied Rappe to the party; she had first met Rappe only a few days earlier. Delmont was apparently not present for any of the events she described and was not called to testify at any of Arbuckle's three trials.
After 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." Arbuckle's case has been examined by scholars and historians over the years and is still speculated about today, and a number of detailed books about the case have analyzed the incident and subsequent trials.
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