was an American
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
A model , sometimes called a mannequin, is a person who is employed to display, advertise and promote commercial products or to serve as a subject of works of art....
and silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...
Early life and career
Rappe was born to unwed mother Mabel Rapp in New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
. Mabel died when Virginia was 11, and Virginia was then raised by her grandmother in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...
. 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
Art models are models who pose for photographers, painters, sculptors, and other artists as part of their work of art. Art models who pose in the nude for life drawing are usually called life models...
, where she met dress designer Robert Moscovitz, to whom she became engaged. Shortly after the engagement Moscovitz was killed in a streetcar accident, whereupon 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
Harold A. Lockwood was an American silent film actor and one of the most popular matinee idols of the early film period during the 1910s.-Career:...
. In 1918 she gave birth to a child, which was put into foster care. Balshofer then hired her again to costar with early drag
Drag is used for any clothing carrying symbolic significance but usually referring to the clothing associated with one gender role when worn by a person of another gender. The origin of the term "drag" is unknown, but it may have originated in Polari, a gay street argot in England in the early...
performer Julian Eltinge
Julian Eltinge , born William Julian Dalton, was an American stage and screen actor and female impersonator. After appearing in the Boston Cadets Revue at the age of ten in feminine garb, Eltinge garnered notice from other producers and made his first appearance on Broadway in 1904...
and newcomer Rudolph Valentino
Rudolph Valentino was an Italian actor, and early pop icon. A sex symbol of the 1920s, Valentino was known as the "Latin Lover". He starred in several well-known silent films including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle and Son of the Sheik...
in Over the Rhine
The Isle of Love is a 1922 recut of a 1918 silent drama film starring female impersonator Julian Eltinge. The film also contained two actors unknown during filming: Virginia Rappe and Rudolph Valentino...
, 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
Henry Lehrman was an American actor, screenwriter and film director and producer.Born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, Lehrman emigrated to the United States at a young age and although he is best remembered as a film director, he began his career as an actor in a 1909 Biograph Studios production...
; 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 suite, number 1219, at the St. Francis Hotel
The Westin St. Francis is a historic luxury hotel located on Powell and Geary Streets on Union Square in San Francisco, California. The two twelve-story south wings of the hotel were built just before the San Francisco Earthquake, in 1904, and the double-width north wing was completed in 1913,...
in San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...
, Rappe allegedly suffered a trauma. She died on September 9, 1921, from a ruptured bladder
The urinary bladder is the organ that collects urine excreted by the kidneys before disposal by urination. A hollow muscular, and distensible organ, the bladder sits on the pelvic floor...
and secondary peritonitis
Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the serous membrane that lines part of the abdominal cavity and viscera. Peritonitis may be localised or generalised, and may result from infection or from a non-infectious process.-Abdominal pain and tenderness:The main manifestations of...
. She is buried at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, originally called Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles, California. It is located at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Hollywood...
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
Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent. Although sexual assaults most frequently are by a man on a woman, it may involve any combination of two or more men, women and children....
by 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
In the common law tradition, an acquittal formally certifies the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as the criminal law is concerned. This is so even where the prosecution is abandoned nolle prosequi...
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.
||The Foolish Virgin
||Marcia Van Wyck
||His Musical Sneeze
||Daughter of Woodrow Butts
||A Twilight Baby
||Alternative title: The Isle of Love
||The Kick in High Life]
||Wet and Warmer
||The Punch of the Irish
||A Game Lady