A note on Virginia Rappe’s sexuality

One of the preconceived notions that we had to shed—at least temporarily and more than once—was that Virginia Rappe was heterosexual. We left her sexuality open for discussion for the present and beyond if there is a future interest in the hoary notions that surround this mysterious woman whose death ended the career of Roscoe Arbuckle.

Previous Arbuckle case narratives, even Kenneth Anger’s gay eye, see Rappe as “straight” and that she slept with the comedy director Henry Lehrman during her years in Hollywood from 1916 to 1921. That was, of course, enough time for her to marry him or move on to someone better, hypergamy being Hollywood’s way then as now. But something about her being with just the one man raised our eyebrows. Was it love or something else? Then we took a hard look at the way Rappe referred to him, as “Mr. Lehrman.” While it seems like nothing, here she implied a certain professional distance, that she was just one of his performers, an employee. Only after her death was he seen as her “sweetheart,” that they were to marry. In reality, when Rappe accepted Roscoe Arbuckle’s invitation to a party in the St. Francis Hotel suite on September 5, Labor Day 1921, she had long since parted ways with Lehrman. Rumors in the film colony suggested Lehrman had even encouraged her to attend the party.  Could there have been a less obvious dynamic to their relationship? Did Arbuckle test or cross a boundary that had been in place for Lehrman as well?

Lastly, we took another hard look at her female friends. Some seemed to be “beards” of another species. The friendships seemed same sex so as to fool the opposite.

Virginia Rappe was raised by women. There was her birth mother, Mabel Rapp, considered a beauty but also a “tough girl” in Chicago’s South Side during the 1890s, variously called the “Queen of the Night” and the “Queen of Chinatown.” But her daughter had been raised believing Mabel was her older sister. Both had the same guardian, an older woman with a heavy Irish accent, who went by Virginia Rapp. Her real surname was Gallagher and she wasn’t related to either Virginia or Mabel and her taking the name Rapp was likely to explain away the strange family dynamics before anyone asked questions given the mores of the 1890s.

When Mabel died on January 7, 1905, her New York City death certificate had been informed with the name she used in her last years—Mabel Rappé—and the names of her real parents. Yet another rabbit hole for the curious to explore. Another notice—more about her absence from Chicago than her passing—appeared a few months later in The Club-Fellow: The Society Journal of New York and Chicago. The author of the spicy “Audacities” column recalled Mabel working a Wisconsin lake resort’s ballroom like a proper courtesan of the Gay Nineties.

It is only a few years ago that the Johnstone Bennett-like Mabel Rapp (who was supposed by many to be the daughter of Partridge of dry goods fame) used to frequent a certain Chinese laundry on State street near Sixteenth street kept by a Celestial known as “Chollie,” and there forget all troubles in the “long draw” [a hit off an opium pipe]. Mabel has disappeared from State street and “Chollie” has also vanished and returned to the land of flowers and hop [opium].

The last time the fair Mabel was seen was at a German [formal dance] at Fox Lake, when several of the men made up a pool to see whom the lady would favor. George Holyoke (who, by the way, married Mrs. Elmer Flagg of Thursday Club recollection after she had lowered Elmer to half-mast), George, who was a forty-to-one shot, got the prize. Several of the married men present were much perturbed for fear the identity of Mabel might become known and cause friction in the domestic circle. “Billy” Lyford, was conspicuous by his absence, and most the “papas” sough the veranda, it being too warm to dance.[1]

The names mentioned above belonged to subaltern society people who belonged to various social clubs in Chicago. The men, whether single, married, or divorced, knew Mabel had a reputation for fun . She made herself available as a dance partner to the well-heeled gents of Chicago and opened the way to other forbidden pleasures, such as opium and a dalliance with a beautiful woman from across the tracks,  a real habitué of the South Side demimonde.

What is interesting, however, is the comparison made to Johnstone Bennett. Bennett who was a well-known stage actress and male impersonator hardly resembled a fallen Gibson Girl as Mabel had been made to be as she cruised Fox Lake.

Johnstone Bennett had an unusual past. Her name was derived from the two women who raised her. She started playing “tough girl” roles early and was considered the epitome of the New Woman by the novelist Willa Cather, especially in regard to her dress on- and offstage. Bennett in the photographs found at the New York Public Library’s special collection was boyish in appearance, which may have actually made her more risqué to her male admirers as much as she appealed to women who preferred same-sex relationships with a more “butch” partner.

Johnstone Bennett (New York Public Library)

Bennett’s career flourished in the 1880s and 1890s and could have served as role model for Mabel, who had more than one opportunity to study Bennett on the stage in plays such as The Amazons, a comedy that was a great success in Chicago in 1894.[2]

Three years after Mabel Rapp’s death, her daughter first came to the public’s attention in the Chicago Tribune as a kind of sleeping beauty, with the potential to be

one of the world’s famous models after the years have mellowed her and taken from her posing the sight touch of childish gaucherie which still remains. [. . .] She is a simple little girl of 15 years who looks out on the world with the clear, dewy eyes of a child just awakened from sleep.[3]

The “tough girl” mask wasn’t right for Virginia Rappe though, her style and path were closer to that of an ambitious ingenue. By 1908, Rappe was being mentored by a woman she first knew as “Dot” Nelson but whose married name was Catherine Fox. She saw Rappe’s potential as an artist’s model and as an entertainer. Mrs. Fox paid for dance lessons and likely pushed Rappe toward the theater and vaudeville stage. Both vocations—model and performer—were seen as morally risky for a young woman still in her teens. The prettiest ones attracted a male following. Lovers, however, were discouraged. Traveling vaudeville and theater companies made women sign contracts that forbade them from seeing men without being chaperoned. This protected their employers from losing girls to marriage, an unintended pregnancies, and like pitfalls of being intimate with men, such as venereal disease, drug addiction, alcoholism, and the various forms of duress attributed to rejection.

Rappe undoubtedly understood that appearing virginal if not an actual virgin protected her career and her person. This meant having established boundaries with any male companions.

Rappe’s only known long-term courtship in Chicago was with a real estate broker named Harry Barker, but whether this included a sexual element is questionable. Any suitors were screened by her putative grandmother and the former neighbors who acted as de facto guardians: Mrs. Fox and Kate Hardebeck. Both witnessed Rappe refusing an engagement offer from Barker after what had to have been a frustrating crush–courtship. But he and Rappe remained friends during her lifetime.

Other than Barker, Rappe was most often reported in the company of women her own age. Winifred Burkholder, the owner of an early modeling agency, was an exception.

Burkholder met Rappe first as a model, after the latter had set aside any stage ambitions, and later as a fellow student at the Art Institute of Chicago between 1908 and 1911.

Like Rappe’s guardians,  Fox and Hardebeck, Burkholder was also married. But she had left her husband and son in rural Wisconsin to pursue a career in fashion design. And to avoid any indelicate questions about her marital status, she claimed to be a widow or unmarried.

In late 1912 Rappe and two sisters from Chicago, with whom she shared a hotel room on a trip to New York, made the news when they announced they had made a pact never to marry.

While the sisters eventually broke their promise, Rappe kept hers and joined Burkholder’s traveling Promenade des Toilettes of 1913—a fall fashion revue that toured department stores in the Midwest and South, which also featured six other young women billed as the “Troupe of the Wonder Models of Fashion.”

Burkholder was an imposing figure shepherding her models from city to city. She sported a monocle and a cane—and, as a model herself, wore matronly outfits to appeal to the older, more demure customers.


Winifred Mills Burkholder in Omaha, cane and monocle, September 1913 (Newspapers.com)

Rappe’s role in the review was to promote the “tango dress,” Daring because the skirt showed glimpses of her ankles and calves up to her knees, the dress was also intended to titillate men more than to appeal to the conservative tastes of the American heartland. When interviewed about the show for the Atlanta Constitution, Rappe teased about her disappointment in the men of Atlanta.

“When it comes to speed,” spoke Virginia, “this town is on the ‘Fritz!’ See? ‘F-R-I-T-Z!’ The combined speed of the whole of it would put ginger into a grasshopper. We’ve been here three days—think of it–and the only entertainment we’ve had the entire time had been . . . I hate to mention it, but you girls remember that little taxi ride we paid for out of our own dear, hard-earned bank accounts?

“True, we gave a tango party to ourselves. The management stopped it. Even locked up the ballroom. Did you ever? Shameful? No! Certainly not! Outrageous!”[4]

When one of the other models decried the lack of attentive male company—who might be willing to entertain them—Rappe chimed in, “Search me, they haven’t been around here.”

To Mrs. Burkholder this was the desired outcome, that the women got attention with their sassiness yet kept to themselves.


The Troupe of the Wonder Models of Fashion, October 1913 (from the Atlanta Constitution accessed in Newspapers.com). Rappe lies supine in the front. Mrs. Burkholder is on the left. 

Following the Promenade des Toilettes, and with the money they had earned during the tour, Rappe and another model, Helen Patterson, sailed to Europe to spend most of December in Paris and New Year’s Eve in England before departing from Liverpool.

On their return journey, the friends made an impression on the first-class passengers and crew of the RMS Baltic, dancing the tango together and wearing their bloomers exposed at the ankles, making for “four pink puffs” as they walked arm in arm on the promenade deck. Photographs of the pair were printed in newspapers in January and February 1914. The woman made an impression with the “tango bloomers,” their appearances in the ballroom, and as partners during the shipboard bridge games.

None of this conduct—either in Atlanta or aboard the Baltic, would have raised an eyebrow in the early twentieth century, no more so than in a cotillion at a boarding school for girls. But the tango was seen as an erotic dance, a courtship dance—and the pairing of Rappe and her girlfriend, nevertheless, made for body language that discouraged men from making advances.


Helen Patterson and Virginia Rappe, January 1914 (Newspapers.com)

If one puts out of mind the testimony of the two Chicago abortionists and a bordello physician who claimed Rappe had bore a child, indeed, more than one, a case could be made that Rappe might still be a virgin and remained “intact” into 1915, when, at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, she was briefly touted in the press as being engaged to an Argentinian diplomat Don Alberto M. d’Alkaine, vice consul and secretary to the commissioner of his country’s exhibit.


Virginia Rappe, 1915 (Newspapers.com)

Most Arbuckle case narratives accept this engagement as authentic because it was newsworthy in 1915. But the San Francisco Call attributed Rappe as the source of the rumor in late July. Soon after newspapers from coast to coast picked up on the romance and included a photograph of Rappe in profile, wearing the hat of a pajama suit that she likely designed and repurposed in this photograph to make it seem more bridal.

A month later, the Examiner reported that the couple had parted ways, noting that when the engagement was announced neither party denied it. Don d’Alkaine returned to Buenos Aires and a long diplomatic career. Rappe returned to Chicago and didn’t stay long at all.[5]

Like the pronunciation and spelling of Rappe’s surname—variously Rapp, Rappé, Rappi, Rappe, or even Rappee as it was heard and spelled in Atlanta—her sexuality lacks fixity. While leaning toward a preference for the company of men, when the question of marriage and conjugal relations became a reality, Rappe seemed to have baulked again.

It’s possible that up to that time Rappe had had no real or lasting relationship with a man that was consummated.

While newspapers from Green Bay to Muskogee to Shreveport to Omaha printed fashion photos of her and framed her as a kind of ur-influencer of women’s wear, not one photograph showed her with Don d’Alkaine. He only appears in group photographs of various dignitaries and it is hard to tell what he looked like.

Nor did she ever appear in a photograph with the next man in her life, Henry Lehrman.

As we have it in our work-in-progress, Lehrman could have met Rappe during the second half of 1915. Both had worked for Mack Sennett and belonged to the same circle of friends around a San Francisco power couple, Jack and Sidi Spreckels.

In the early spring of 1916 at a fashion parade around a Los Angeles racetrack for the Actors’ Fund Memorial Day benefit. Rappe drove a FIAT representing Lehrman’s L-KO Kompany.

At the time, Rappe was living at the Hollywood Hotel, a popular residence among those in the motion picture industry. Indeed, the perfect setting for an aspiring young woman who had “gone West” to become a movie star. But according to another resident, Anita Loos, who befriended Rappe, the latter lacked the ambition of the other young women who would do anything to get into pictures—including sleeping around. Instead, her focus was on getting Lehrman to pay more attention to her.

What Rappe did to pay for her room and board at that time remains a mystery. She likely had savings from her modeling career and allegedly had been hired for a few film roles though so small as to be uncredited. Instead, Rappe positioned herself to play another kind of role, one that was off-screen, that of a sophisticated “society girl” and as such found her way into the film colony. But where her mother had balanced multiple companions over the years, Rappe had become attached to just one man, one dance partner.

Prior to Rappe, Lehrman was thought to prefer visiting prostitutes so her presence probably gave him an air of respectability around the men who bankrolled his films, such as William Fox, who funded his new company, Sunshine Comedies. Not only did two-reeler comedies have to be “clean,” so did the men and women who made them—and Lehrman was entrusted with million-dollar budgets. Thus, Rappe served to make Lehrman more respectable and less of a workaholic and loner, as he was made out to be in the Los Angeles Times, however, the “couple” went virtually unnoticed in the press until September 1921.

My, my, how these satellites do blaze for a time! Now it’s a certain Henry Lehrman, who is cultivating the smart set. He looks like one of those suave gentlemen you’ve read about in French novels—quite an objet d’art, as it were. And he wears his little waxed mustache just so, and his hair bandolined[7] so tight and his feet in such snug pumps and himself in steinblochian[8] attire and with a Miss Rappe, who’s quite the season’s best-looking New Yorker. This Mr. Lehrman is occasionally seen at the Alexandria or at Vernon, and people who know him say he’s quite exclusive. Perhaps so; he’s quite often alone.[9]

Rappe was still living in the Hollywood Hotel in the fall of 1917 when Roscoe Arbuckle, having separated from his wife, actress Minta Durfee, lived there and lorded over the dining room with his entourage and practical jokes played on various unsuspecting fellow guests. By that time, Rappe had received a credit in just one film, Paradise Garden (1917), in which she played a “junior vamp” alongside Harold Lockwood. If the script was true to the best-selling novel on which it was based, Rappe’s character, the wealthy Marcia Van Wyck, also had a female companion, described as a poor relation who didn’t like men.

Although she took the part as a lark, the result of visiting the set one day with friends, Lehrman probably had some influence in her being cast. He knew the director, Fred J. Balshofer, from the time when both had learned their trade at the Biograph Company in New York.

Balshofer cast Rappe again in 1918 with newcomer Rudolph Valentino, pairing both as conspirators and lovers in a vehicle starring female impersonator Julian Eltinge. What footage survives shows that both had rapport in this propaganda picture set in occupied France and Germany during the First World War. But their characters suffered the vicissitudes of three different recuts and as many titles: Over the Rhine (1918), The Adventuress (1920), and The Isle of Love (1922).


Virginia Rappe with Rudolph Valentino (Margaret Herrick Library)

Rappe’s being cast in Paradise Garden was evidence that she had the looks and presence to get a career going but she seemed to be content being at the side of Henry Lehrman and didn’t seek acting jobs outside of bit parts she did for him.

Zaza in The Adventuress/Vanette in The Isle of Love (YouTube.com)

Lehrman produced comedies and, whatever his intentions were, he could save money by casting Rappe in his own films though she had none of the experience or training for comedy. Lehrman just needed her to be an appealing face. In one of her first roles, as the love interest for the film comedian Lloyd Hamilton in His Musical Sneeze (1919), she was given little to work with besides tired gags.

Lehrman continued to miscast Rappe at the Culver City studio, which he built in 1919 and shared with Arbuckle during the summer and fall of that year. By then Rappe was also Lehrman’s tenant—a sort of “rent girl” in his home at 6717 Franklin Avenue, where she was simply listed as a “boarder” in January 1920 according to census data.

There Lehrman provided her with a car and driver and his servants. Members of the film colony assumed that they were a couple but appearances can be deceiving—even to the jaded eyes of Hollywood people. If Rappe had to provide Lehrman with “benefits,” she was certainly inhibited from doing so by cystitis. Indeed, coitus for Virginia Rappe was likely uncomfortable if not painful. She would have known, too, that having sex with a man who also had had multiple partners would probably not aggravate her condition and probably give her something worse.

The relationship between Lehrman and Rappe was not so simple as boyfriend and girlfriend, she seemed to be obligated to pay him back with a number of motion picture appearances. The most prominent of these was in a role as a wholesome country girl in A Twilight Baby (1919), another vehicle for Lloyd Hamilton.

There was little news of Rappe following A Twilight Baby save that she wanted more serious roles. She and Lehrman seemed not to appear in public. In July, she was in San Francisco during the week of the Democratic National Convention. While she was listed as a guest in two hotels, Lehrman was making a film elsewhere. When he hosted a dinner for the Democratic candidate for president, James M. Cox, in Los Angeles in September, Rappe wasn’t present. Although she had a few more roles that only demanded she smile or bat her eyes, by the end of 1920 she and Lehrman split up. He was having financial difficulties. A creditor had filed lien on his house. As for Rappe, she had already moved out by midsummer. We know this because her telephone number, which she published in a July classified advertisement for her lost brindle bull terrier, was used by the landlady and boarders at 1946 Ivar Avenue. That is the address she used for her entry in the 1921 Los Angeles City Directory.

While living on Ivar, Rappe, in need of income, had taken on the management of a few rental homes on Canyon Drive, including one owned by actor Francis X. Bushman. This makes for a rather tangental episode in our work in progress and certainly speaks to the resolve and independence of Rappe.

That Rappe had an unusual arrangement with Lehrman doesn’t eliminate the possibility that they once loved each other. It can’t be ignored though that it would have been convenient for Lehrman to romanticize their relationship following Rappe’s death. He didn’t deny that he was her fiancé. To abandon her post-mortem would have made him appear to be a heel. Fortunately, he still had a photograph of her to show in his New York City apartment and helped the public imagine a loving couple suddenly destroyed by tragedy. What he didn’t admit to was the presence of a new girlfriend in his life, Jocelyn Leigh, a Ziegfeld Follies girl who was more ambitious and probably more willing to give him an escort in Manhattan if he would open doors for her in Hollywood (which didn’t turn out well for her).

For Arbuckle’s lawyers, his chances of acquittal rested on their narrative that Rappe was promiscuous and possibly a prostitute so they had to discount any evidence that she was a faithful partner, a frigid woman, or anything close to a lesbian.

During the comedian’s three trials, they made an issue of Rappe’s Chicago past. Prominent among them—and the only lawyer not to sit at the counsel table, was Albert Sabath, a personal friend and business associate Rappe’s alleged sweetheart, Harry Barker. Sabath deposed on two midwives and abortionists as well as a brothel physician to show that Rappe had suffered from bladder disease that could be attributed to being a promiscuous teenager and giving birth to at least two illegitimate children.

What was missing in the witness testimony—and Barker was one of those witnesses for Arbuckle—was any parallel conduct on Rappe’s part in Hollywood. Instead, these witnesses only saw Rappe have a few drinks that resulted in episodes of hysteria, including disrobing and tearing at her clothes.

These episodes resembled what Arbuckle and his other Labor Day guests saw when Rappe was discovered on his bed, writhing in pain. Naturally, we were suspicious that a person would have somehow made a routine of such extreme behavior. Arbuckle’s prosecutors were also incredulous. But it’s unlikely the witnesses would have repeatedly committed perjury with little to gain so it’s likely there was a kernel of truth in their stories. Though they were indeed defense witnesses so a little bit of exaggeration  would not have been surprising.

One hypothesis we considered was that Rappe’s episodes—her acting “crazy” as Arbuckle called it—were a defense mechanism, indeed, a very ancient one that is still used to counsel women to prevent sexual assault and rape: “You may be able to turn the attacker off with bizarre behavior such as throwing up, acting crazy”—that is, behaviors that will depress sexual arousal.

What is so ancient about that? By feigning madness, of being touched by the gods or demons, superstitious rapists of a besieging army might have been more inclined to just pillage a conquered city rather than risk being possessed themselves. So, did Rappe act crazy when she thought she was being sexually threatened? Did Arbuckle encounter this—even when semiconscious as she was going into shock from a ruptured bladder?

That said, according to Lehrman, Rappe did worry about being assaulted, especially on her long walks in the Hollywood Hills. For that reason, she was accompanied by the aforementioned brindle bull terrier named “Jeff” over which she had much control. (He was ultimately found, by the way, and enjoyed one more year with his mistress’s companionship.)


Rappe and friends in Picture Show, 1920 (Lantern)

Ultimately, we wouldn’t have meditated this much over a woman who was ostensibly heterosexual and probably avoided being penetrated for hygienic reasons—not frigidity—in addition to the professional contingencies of keeping one’s figure, maintaining the illusion of being desirable and unattached to the movie-going male, and so on. Unlike her mother, Rappe never did anything like the cross-dressing Johnstone Bennett. But Rappe did leave for San Francisco dressed in what was called a “riding habit,” which consisted of riding pants, boots,  jacket, and a jaunty cap. This was an outfit she often wore for her long walks.


Rappe’s riding habit and pants that anticipate Katherine Hepburn’s preferences (Authors’ collection)

What made us look twice and thrice thus far at her sexual aspect were the reports of some of the unmarried women who attended her her visitation and funeral on September 18 and 19, 1921, respectively. Mildred Harris was given the special privilege of being allowed to pray alone at the bier of “someone I loved.” This is the same young actress who had divorced Charles Chaplin the year before. Allegedly, the Little Tramp complained that, throughout their three-year marriage, Harris was more often with actress Alla Nazimova and her girlfriends, the so-called “sewing circles.” He allegedly said as much as well in responding to Harris’s accusations of cruelty during their contentious divorce proceedings. The source for this, however, is the notoriously unreliable Hollywood Babylon, in which Harris is made out to be unequivocally bisexual.

Grace Darmond was also present at the Rappe funeral. She was the girlfriend of Rudolph Valentino’s lesbian wife, Jean Acker, who was also close to Nazimova. And if either Nazimova or Acker attended Rappe’s funeral, no one noticed. But only a few weeks earlier, Acker and Darmond were vacationing in the Monterey–Del Monte–Carmel area during the long Labor Day holiday. They were still there on September 9, 1921, They hosted a dinner party at the Blue Bird Café for the actress Truly Shattuck on the day that Rappe died, September 9. Coincidentally Del Monte was where Rappe intended to stop for the night after her one day in San Francisco.

Another person of interest at the funeral was Kathleen Clifford, who accompanied beside Darmond, an actress who had established her early reputation in vaudeville as a male impersonator and was once billed as the “Best Dressed Man on the American Stage.” She was described in the press as a “dear friend” of Rappe’s in newspaper accounts.

Finally there was one other person,  never identified by name, who seemed to have some attachment to Rappe. It’s unknown if she was at the funeral but our awareness of her existence is based on the testimony of Eugene Presbrey, a founder of the Screen Writers Guild and a resident at the Hollywood Hotel in 1917 when Rappe was living there.  He, too, saw Rappe having a hysterical episode after drinking two cordials. But she was already “an abnormal character and good copy,” he recalled before this.

She traveled about the hotel with a constant companion, he said knowingly, a woman whom he described as “an unattractive ash-blonde.”[10]

N.b. Notice that we provide no convenient links to Rappe. Her Wikipedia page is woefully inaccurate and its minder(s) are welcome to borrow from us to revise and correct it.

[1] “Audacities,” The Club-Fellow, 12 April 1905, 5.

[2] Johnstone Bennett was forced to retire at the height of her career in the early 1900s and succumbed to tuberculosis in 1906—the same disease that killed Mabel Rapp.

[3] “Are the Artists’ Models of Chicago More Beautiful Than the Famous Models of Paris?” Chicago Sunday Tribune, 22 November 1908, 7:4–5.

[4] Britt Craig, “Gee, But Young Men of Atlanta Are Slow, Say Pretty Models Who Wanted Good Time,” Atlanta Constitution, 12 October 1913, 5.

[5] See “Argentine Official Wins Girl,” San Francisco Examiner, 29 July 1915, 5; “D’Alkaine Engagement Off,” San Francisco Examiner, 1 September 1915, 8. See also “Art Model Has Exposition Romance—Soon She’ll Be a Bride,” Day Book [Chicago], 7 August 1915, 15, for an example of the wire photo and caption published in various American newspapers.

[6] See “Chicago Best City for Girls,” Chicago American, 3 January 1913, 3; and “New Jobs Await Working Women,” Los Angeles Times, 3 January 1913, 4.

[7] Slicked back with bandoline hair dressing, cf. pomade.

[8] A suit made by Stein-Bloch Company, the maker of “Smart Clothes” for stylish men in the 1910s and ’20s.

[9] The Bishop of Broadway, “Men of the Town,” Los Angeles Time, 13 January 1919, II:2.

[10] Associated Press, “Says Rappe Was ‘Abnormal,’” Los Angeles Evening Express, 31 March 1922, 6.

Repainting Room 1219

Undoubtedly inspired by the 1975 edition of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, the late Guy Johnson (1927­­–2019) painted Death Suite of Fatty Arbuckle’s Virginia Rappe (1976), an oil on paper, about 20 by 30 inches, mounted on masonite.

Death Suite of Fatty Arbuckle’s Virginia Rappe, 1976, 20 Courtesy of the Louis K. Meisel Gallery, all rights reserved.

Johnson began with the photograph spread across pages 26 and 27 of Anger’s book and, quite innocently, perpetuated a myth that still ripples in much that is written and wrong about the reality of what Virginia Rappe experienced at a Labor Day party on September 5, 1921, in Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s three-room suite atop the St. Francis Hotel.

Johnson’s title, too, would seem to agree with Anger’s assertion that Arbuckle had fatally injured Rappe. It is a title within a title, as though Arbuckle were the artist, the author of the make-believe in the image, that the collapsed bed and wrecked furniture is a still from a slapstick two-reeler. But, more importantly, there is no victim in the composition, no Rappe. Whether by intent or accident, this is probably the most important meaning in Johnson’s painting: that she was nothing to Arbuckle, a nonentity, “some bum” in a remark made later, while on his way to San Francisco to explain what happened to the police.

In this way, it is a great painting and, while little known, was considered exemplary of where Johnson was going with his brand of surreal photorealism—as well as subtly disturbing.

The room pretending to be room 1219 in Hollywood Babylon (1975). Notice the louvered doors, indicative of a subtropical manse rather than an American hotel room of the early 20th century.

The original image wasn’t used in Anger’s earlier editions of Hollywood Babylon. And one must realize that as an artist, too, Anger used stock images that conveyed the idea of the text. His room 1219 is just a “movie still” and may, indeed, be just that, a set, built on a sound stage for a long forgotten motion picture. It isn’t an archival image that has any connection to the Arbuckle case.

What the room really looked like, taken by the state’s criminologist Oscar H. Heinrich or his assistant, Salome Boyle, reveals quite a different interior than the high-ceilinged one with the painted plaster panels and moulding and the satin bedspread.

The real room 1219 in Professor Heinrich’s Arbuckle case notes (Edward Oscar Heinrich papers, BANC MSS 68/34 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).

Instead of the one bed, there are two brass beds. Notice that they are mismatched. One had to be brought in after Arbuckle and his party arrived—he shared 1219 with the director Fred Fishback. Somewhere in this room, or the bathroom, on the floor between the beds, against a door, a pedestal sink, across the hard brass rail—somewhere here something happened to Virginia Rappe that was left to the imagination—for it couldn’t be reported and the trial transcripts are long lost (or long destroyed) such that we don’t know if such graphic details were presented in court—they certainly couldn’t be reported in newspapers. In any event, it is quite a different interior to work with a century later, with decades of getting it wrong, like hundreds of coats of the wrong color, the risqué painted over, waxy deposits from the candles of the curious, and so on, to remove with the fine, painstaking tools of an art restorer, as it were.

Virginia Rappe returns from the “other side” in the wake of the second Arbuckle trial, 6 February 1922

[The following passage is from our work-in-progress and closes the section devoted to the second Arbuckle trial.]

On February 6 1922, at a time when many of the nation’s mediums were trying to make contact with the ghost of the recently-murdered William Desmond Taylor, the Jonsons of Pasadena, a couple well known in Southern California’s spiritualist subculture, conducted a “trumpet séance,” at which Mrs. Jonson would go into a trance and channel the spirit of an Indian guide named “Krocho.”[1]

In the darkness, the “spirit trumpet,” a telescopic tin megaphone floated up to the ceiling and descended, tapping each of the eight participants on the head. After conferring with other spirits identified as “Mother,” “Sister Clara,” “Santa Fe John” “Gray Feather,” and so on, the voice of a spirit named “Tim” came on the trumpet and requested, in a slightly amplified voice, that the mortals in the room turn their thoughts to “a little charity.”

Unlike the October performance where a Chicago stage medium was said to have conjured the ghost of Virginia Rappe to exonerate Roscoe Arbuckle, the Jonsons specialty was communing with a group of visitants from the “other side” who were attempting to introduce to the gathering a recently-deceased and unnamed victim of a crime.

“I am going to bring in a lady who deserves your help, your good thoughts and efforts,” said “Tim,” an especially accommodating spirit. “She is not a stranger to Los Angeles and this is the place, and this is the circle for her to come to, and I feel at liberty to ask you to open your arms and give her your help. The earth was not very kind to her in life and from childhood on she walked with fate against her.”

The assembled group assured “Tim” that their door was open to this troubled spirit, that their arms were extended. Then, a female spirit was alleged to have taken up the trumpet, but it fell on the table with a clatter. She tried again and it fell. On the third attempt, a barely audible female voice was heard and the trumpet fell once more. But the participants guessed who it was.

“Rappe! Rappe! It’s Virginia—Virginia Rappe!”  

Silence followed. Someone interceded to ask “Krocho,” the higher authority among the dead, to get Miss Rappe back to the trumpet. So, Mrs. Jonson surrendered her voice to him and he responded at length.

No, not tonight, friends. Miss Rappe has gone for the evening. She tried hard to make it, but didn’t have the strength. She will try it another time. But there is a worthy case friends, a fine girl more sinned against than sinning. She did not come to this world with a silver spoon in her mouth and all she ever got out of it was a bitter fight. She had talent, yes; but it was talent that brought her under the show and tinsel of a false life. She fought against evil forces, and there were none in her world brave enough to help her to better things. They worked with her, yes. but to her undoing. She paid the price with her life, while those who planned the sorry deed fight for freedom with money. But the law of compensation will have its day. You might fool the courts, but you can never fool God on high. When she came into the world, the day had gone when the law of the home was the law by which your earth lived. The day when parents tapped their fingers gently on the table and the children followed in loving obedience, had already given place to the cold and workaday world that cares not for your honor just so it uses your talent-that day found her fighting her way in the world without a guiding hand to help. What was the end? What can be the end of a people who can never spend money enough, can never wear clothes enough, can never be amused enough and who live only by the light of vanity and false show? Her lot was among those who didn’t care. She fought an uneven fight and found her rescue only in death. But she will live to pass judgment upon those who seek victory in her defeat, for her triumph is just beginning and we want you all in this circle to send out to her your loving thoughts and give her Godspeed in her new life. Good night, friends, and God love you all.

A skeptical Harry Houdini and friend in 1926 (Library of Congress)

[1]George F. Goerner, A Record of Psychic Experiences (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Society for Advanced Psychical Research, 1922), 189.


The following is a working draft of the epilogue to our work-in-progress, a medley of fates that came together and parted ways with the end of the Arbuckle trials in 1922.

Fatty suffered enough while he was alive. I guess that was what he had in mind.

Lew Cody to Hubbard Keavy, 1933

What has become of Fatty Arbuckle?

King Alphonse XIII of Spain to Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, 1924

Hundreds of people were directly affected by Virginia Rappe’s abbreviated time on earth over a century ago and by the Arbuckle trials.[*] Several of the fates are poignant enough to make one reconsider what happened before and after Labor Day 1921. Others are remain little more than postscripts due to the limited amount of investigation into the personal lives of Rappe, Arbuckle, and their friends, and the real Labor Day party itself, rather than the fictions that have been handed down.

Let’s start with Dr. Charles Barnes, whom Minta Durfee commended before she left Omaha en route to San Francisco to be by her estranged husband’s side. In August 1925, Dr. Barnes was arrested in the company of Andrew Durant, an actor and female impersonator. Police believed that he was “the head of an immense dope ring” that supplied morphine to scores of addicts. His bond was set at $10,000—the maximum—and ultimately faced thirty-one counts of violating the Narcotics Act, for which he could receive five years for each, 155 years in prison.

Incredibly, while under indictment for the narcotics violations in federal court, Barnes was arrested again in January 1927 and charged with first degree murder for the death of a Sunday school teacher with the unfortunate name of Wealthy Timpe Nelson. According to newspaper accounts, she was married on her deathbed as she bled out from a botched abortion for which her fiancé paid Dr. Barnes $125. But Dr. Barnes would serve no time for any of his crimes. A diabetic, he died, at the age of 46, on May 20, 1927, after a short illness attributed to his preexisting condition.

Two more defense witnesses who figured in the third trial also found themselves in trouble. Virginia Warren returned to Chicago and continued to work as a midwife and nurse, leading what appeared to be an unremarkable life until she was arrested and convicted in 1941 for assisting in an abortion. Mrs. Warren, 74 at the time, was given probation due to her age.

A year later, in 1942, Helen Whitehurst, served a five-month jail sentence for embezzling money intended for her two nephews as well as creditors from the estate of the late Paul Hershman, the Armour chemist and her boarder, for which she was the administratrix.

Mrs. Whitehurst also figured as a rebuttal defense witness in the 1931 murder trial of gangster Leo V. “Buster” Brothers for the assassination of Jake Lingle, a Chicago Tribune crime reporter believed to be on the payroll of the Chicago Outfit headed by Al Capone. Despite the apparent risk of crossing Capone, Whitehurst testified that she had seen another man, not the accused, escape from the crime scene. But under cross-examination, her credibility unraveled when it was revealed she had once approached Patrick Roche, the police detective who led the investigation into Lingle’s murder, and demanded that he investigate the death by fire of her “cousin,” whom she believed had been murdered for his estate of $300,000. Roche didn’t believe her story and refused her request.

Of the prosecution witnesses, only Grace Halston is known to have had later trouble with the law. She was accused of bigamy in August 1922. Authorities had accepted her word that her first husband was dead and she had a letter, sent from Norway by her former mother-in-law, stating as much. Although the charges were dropped, Lieutenant Halston was very much alive so Grace had to get a real divorce in order to remarry her second husband a second time.

Dr. Barnes’ antagonist at the Arbuckle trial, Catherine Fox, returned to Chicago. She didn’t win her late husband’s stake for a cemetery tract in Queens. But she apparently settled for a handsome sum and lived until 1964, when she died at the age of eighty-six.

There’s no record of Mrs. Fox ever speaking of the trial in public again. Nor did Rappe’s other “musketeers.”

In the years after the third trial, Winifred Burkholder lived in Pasadena, California. Although that city’s directory listed her as a housekeeper, she was once again referred to as a resident of New York and a designer of gowns in the social page of the San Anselmo Herald on the occasion of a “bridge tea” in 1926, when she was feted as a guest of Jeanette Rubel and Helen Wintermute, who managed a popular resort at Stinson Beach.

In the following year, Burkholder’s son George was killed while wiring a fuse box in the Southern California Edison plant in Long Beach, this just two weeks after his marriage. Winifred herself died in 1955.

After the trial, Kate Hardebeck moved with her husband Joseph to 5519½ Virginia Avenue in Hollywood. In May 1923, after an evening of entertaining guests, “Uncle Joe” locked himself in the bathroom and shot himself in the head and in the abdomen with a .32 caliber automatic pistol. Although he left no note, Hollywood police believed he had staged the party as his farewell and attributed his suicide to financial difficulties and failing health.

Following her husband’s death, Aunt Kate lived in Los Angeles for the next two decades, making her living as a seamstress. She died in 1944—and if she had kept anything that belonged to Virginia Rappe—fashion drawings, letters, clothes, photographs, etc.—they were lost.

On March 9, 1923, Al Semnacher suffered a fatal heart attack. Although he was said to have managed several movie stars, the only name that reporters could connect him with was Virginia Rappe. A small-town newspaper in Pennsylvania, however, headlined news of his death as “Movie Industry Loses a Great Man.”

His friend and the other traveling companion to Selma and San Francisco, Maude Delmont, remained in Chicago until Saturday, March 25, 1922, when she boarded a train to Cleveland, in order “to visit friends and to get a rest.”

Delmont had been in a Chicago hospital for a week, during the course of the third Arbuckle trial. There she met with Frank Peska, the Illinois Assistant State Attorney, who represented District Attorney of San Francisco Matthew Brady.

Before boarding her train, she spoke to a reporter for the Chicago Tribune:

Every one of the depositions trying to blacken Virginia Rappe’s character was false. A great opportunity was lost in making a wonderful example of Arbuckle’s case. It’s not the first time he had done a thing like this, either. It makes me boil to see these attempts to defame Virginia’s character and none whatever of Arbuckle’s past brought up.

With that, Delmont was never heard from again. She may have reverted to her maiden name and, according to the census of 1950, a Maude B. Scott—born in New Mexico, sixty-seven years old, and divorced—lived in Riverside, a suburb of Los Angeles.

The lawyer who intimated in court that Al Semnacher and Maude Delmont were extortionists, Frank Dominguez, continued to practice law in Los Angeles. After the death of his wife, however, in 1924, his health precipitously declined and he died a year later. If Roscoe Arbuckle really told him the truth about what happened at the party—the planned pleasure drive with Mrs. Taube, finding Virginia Rappe on the bathroom floor of room 1219, and so on—Dominguez never shared his opinion. Nor did he publicly admit that counseling Arbuckle to remain silent at that first meeting with Assistant District Attorney Milton U’Ren was a mistake.

As to the lawyer who succeeded him, Gavin McNab went on to represent another motion picture comedian, Charlie Chaplin, in his contentious divorce from actress Lita Grey, his leading lady in The Kid (1921). A few months after the divorce was final, McNab died in his office in December 1927.

Nat Schmulowitz, having been promoted to senior partner by the time of McNab’s death, took over the firm and had a long and distinguished career. His death in 1966 left Judge Leo Friedman as the last surviving principal in the Arbuckle case. Others, such as Isadore Golden, Milton U’Ren, Milton Cohen, and Charles Brennan had passed away in prior decades.

The trials made the news again in 1927, when the San Francisco Bar Association conducted an investigation into the money that Mrs. Emma Duffy was paid for the room and board of Zey Prevost and Alice Blake for seventy-five days. She insisted she only received $200 of the $250 that District Attorney Matthew Brady had promised. Brady had billed the city $844 and his adversaries saw possible embezzlement but political blood. Disbarment would have ended his career.  But Brady produced evidence that Mrs. Duffy had indeed been paid $250 and that the difference covered meals downtown and movie and theater tickets. Known affectionately by the people of San Francisco as “Uncle Matt,” Brady remained in office for two more decades until he was defeated in his 1943 reelection bid by Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown in his second attempt to unseat the long-serving district attorney. Brady died in 1954 at the age of seventy-six.

These men took any secrets of the Arbuckle case to their grave—including Albert Sabath, who certainly had taken no pleasure in coaxing his friend Harry Barker to testify “against” Virginia Rappe. As to Barker, he relocated to Los Angeles and lived a quiet life and died sometime in the early 1970s.

Although Mae Taube (nee Saunders) was sometimes referred to as an actress from New York, there is no evidence of that. By 1923, she had left Gus Taube and relocated to Los Angeles where she rose to become a prominent socialite in the film colony and a “friend” to many actors. Taube was what Virginia Rappe strived to become and may have been a rival for Arbuckle’s attention.

In 1927, Taube undertook a reinvention, at the time going by her maiden name Saunders, she married Billy Sunday Jr. in Tijuana. In an era when bigamy seemed to be somewhat commonplace, the younger Sunday was no exception and he had to back up and divorce his first wife, actress Millicent Wood-Sunday, before going back to the altar a second time with Mae in April 1928 in Yuma, Arizona. Billy Jr. was wealthy, having made a fortune in Southern California real estate. He was also an alcoholic and a womanizer, and an embarrassment to his evangelist father. The legitimized couple, however, only lasted a year.

As Mae Sunday, she remained a close companion of Bebe Daniels and Gloria Swanson—and “famous” for her pink picture hat and being “Hollywood’s favorite guest” as well as hostess. Her name appeared in movie gossip magazines and columns during the 1930s and ’40. Following her divorce from Billy Sunday Jr., she was able to afford ta spacious Spanish Mission mansion at 509 N. Hillcrest Road in Beverley Hills for over a decade. There she lived with her boyfriends, including the Hollywood lawyer Wallace Davis and the restaurateur and oil millionaire David A. Harris.

As noted earlier in this book, Mae Sunday was considered a source of Hollywood gossip and a gatekeeper to its secrets. Her value as an advisor to Arbuckle as the crisis in room 1219 unfolded was incalculable. But Mrs. Sunday is rarely mentioned in Hollywood memoirs. No investigative reporter, author, or film historian is known to have interviewed her about the party or her friendship with Arbuckle despite her prominence in Hollywood society during both the Silent Era and the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Sometime after 1947 Mae Sunday downsized to an apartment in the Piazza del Sol at 8439 W. Sunset Boulevard, married Harris, and retreated into private life that lasted nearly four decades. She passed away in Palm Springs in 1984 at the age of eighty-eight.

Another Labor Day guest, Zey Prevost, also married and retreated into private life though in quite different circumstances. At first, she attempted to capitalize on being the irascible star witness for the state. Two weeks after Arbuckle’s acquittal, Variety reported that she had made an application with Harry Weber, a New York booking agent, for a vaudeville tour with the wife of Wally Schang, the catcher for the New York Yankees. The announcement of the pairing was more likely a trial balloon than a reality however. Marie Schang wasn’t a showgirl and Prevost’s waning celebrity status wasn’t much of a draw. Around 1930, she married an oil field “roughneck” and became Mrs. Dale Manning, a housewife in Long Beach.

Unlike Prevost, Alice Blake was able to resume her career as a café entertainer and continued at that until January 1940, when she was killed in a car accident. She was forty-four at the time and a passenger in a car driven by her companion, the stage and radio singer Henry Starr, who worked with her at the El Cerrito nightclub. Starr was speeding and lost control of the car on Eastshore Highway at Ashby Avenue in Berkeley and hit a light pole. Described as a “Negro entertainer,” Starr was initially charged with negligent homicide, though the charge was likely dropped.

Blake’s companion at the Labor Day party, Lowell Sherman, lived a charmed life compared the other revelers at the party. His motion picture career was only disrupted briefly and he continued to be cast as the rake throughout the Silent Era and into the early years of sound.

During the last two years of his life, Sherman directed six films, including Becky Sharp (1934), an early technicolor film. He died of pneumonia in December 1934.

As for Arbuckle’s other companion for the Labor Day holiday, Fred Fishback, the remainder of his career was bittersweet. Working under the name “Fred Hibbard,” Fishback directed a number of comedy shorts for Educational Films, including several featuring Lloyd Hamilton, Virginia Rappe’s one-time leading man. In late 1923, at the height of this “second life,” Fishback, who neither drank nor smoked, was diagnosed with oral cancer. Although he underwent immediate surgery, the cancer returned and his condition worsened during the spring of 1924. Seeking a miracle, He read a profile in the Los Angeles Record about a woman, Mae Sheridan, who had cured the fight promoter Al Lippe with a “poultice” for which she charged nothing. Without delay, Fishback took a train to New York City in May 1924 and met Lippe, who informed Fishback that the healer lived in Los Angeles.

Too weak and sick to return home, Fishback paid to have Mrs. Sheridan brought to New York. There she treated him with a drug that had allegedly been used by her family for over 200 years. While Al Lippe had recovered and continued to manage boxers into the 1930s, Fishback’s condition worsened. Unable to talk or direct by October, he died at home in early January 1925.

As for Fishback’s friend, Ira Fortlouis, the Zelig-like outsider who assumed some of the blame for getting Virginia Rappe invited to the Labor Day party, he continued to sell clothes up and down the Pacific coast, while living in hotel rooms and boarding houses. He married for a second time two months after the last Arbuckle trial but eventually that marriage also failed.

Fortlouis was jailed by the City of San Bernardino in 1939 for an old speeding violation, an occupational hazard for a travelling salesman. In late May 1941, he was again on the road and had to check into Sacred Heart Hospital in Medford, Oregon for a medical emergency. There he was diagnosed with advanced cardiorenal disease and died on June 8, 1941, at the age of fifty-four while still in the employ of the Phil Walters Coat Company. His brother-in-law signed his death certificate.

Henry Lehrman, who played no real part in the Arbuckle trials beyond his sound and fury, must have regretted losing Virginia Rappe in the two years that followed his marriage to Jocelyn Leigh. As the former Ziegfeld Follies dancer dreamed of becoming a movie star began to fade in 1922 and ‘23, she became a liability while Lehrman himself continued to have trouble with creditors, cash flow, and finding opportunities to direct. To obtain her generous alimony and a $2,000 Chrysler from him, she went to great lengths to embarrass Lehrman in public and private, threatening a scandal such that he would do anything to be rid of her. They were divorced in December 1924.

For the next two decades, Lehrman saw his career dwindle to nothing as he failed to impress such studios as Warner Brothers and Fox. He was one of the few directors who couldn’t make the transition to sound. Perhaps feeling sorry for the veteran comedy director Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century-Fox kept Lehrman on, albeit barely tolerated, letting him evaluate story treatments and write memos that were often ignored. By 1941, Lehrman declared bankruptcy for the last time and, in 1945, was a victim of a wave of studio layoffs following the end of the Second World War.

In comparison, Roscoe Arbuckle had it better. He was initially allowed to return to movie-making by Will H. Hays in December 1922. Hays saw it as a kind of an early Christmas present. But soon after the protests began again. Despite editorials extolling the virtues of the jury system—that Arbuckle had been acquitted by his peers—such voices were drowned out. American clubwomen, clergy, and organizations such as the Women’s Club of Hollywood, the National Committee for Better Films and the National Federation of Women’s Clubs—even lobbied to keep the ban on Arbuckle’s movies in place and that he never again appear as an actor. This extreme retribution wasn’t out of character for the heavy-handed moralism of the era. In 1921 the Black Sox scandal had resulted in lifetime bans for eight baseball players and in 1920 the national ban on alcohol sales and consumption became law.

With a sharper eye on the business end than Hays, Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky shelved the three unreleased Arbuckle feature-length films as well as his previous work. This came after Zukor refused a generous offer from the songwriter and impresario Arthur Hammerstein to buy all three for $1,000,000 and present them in his theaters, even in cities that were the most antagonistic to the comedian’s comeback.

Because Arbuckle had been blacklisted as a film comedian in the United States—other talented, rotund actors filled those roles, such as Kewpie Morgan and Oliver “Babe” Hardy. Famous Players-Lasky promoted Walter Hiers as its logical successor to Arbuckle. But Hiers demurred. As he pointed out, he had come up the ranks in polite comedy and children would be better off enjoying “legitimate farce” over “slapstick and hokum.”

Meanwhile, as the Arbuckle ban became an issue again in the winter–spring of 1923, The Isle of Love, the chaotic recut of Over the Rhine, starring Rudolph Valentino and now-uncredited Rappe was released in theaters. If one recognized her, if one was reminded of what happened to her on Labor Day 1921, it would remain a personal impression, private. But the way to deal with the Arbuckle problem, too, was for his name to disappear.

In April 1923, Hays took back Arbuckle’s permission to appear in movies and was praised by the activists who wanted him punished. The film ban would remain in place, but Arbuckle was permitted to work behind the scenes. Although it wasn’t a stipulation, to prevent further public outcry he would remain uncredited.

In January 1925 Minta Durfee agreed to divorce Arbuckle on the grounds of desertion—dating back to September 1917 when he had, in her filing, “given her the air.” At the time Durfee saved face by saying there was no “other woman” though Arbuckle would marry Doris Deane in May that same year. She also said that the Rappe “tragedy” had nothing to do with the divorce—only that Arbuckle had failed to provide her with support.

Durfee was nearly broke and interest in a possible return to the stage didn’t pan out. Pilgrim Pictures still had five “Mrs. Roscoe Arbuckle” shorts and few distributors—and no one was going to back her in any more motion pictures. Save for a summer variety show in Atlantic City, Durfee had no other takers.

Meanwhile, Arbuckle managed to cope with his money troubles with support from his longtime producer, Joseph Schenck, who had purchased the West Adams mansion, rented it to Lou Anger, who, in turn, made Arbuckle his permanent guest. Side work had been assigned to Arbuckle whenever he could do it—he was drinking again. And he had made a temporary foray into stage comedy, beginning in Chicago. But the “three-a-day” vaudeville circuit was a lot of work for less money. And people noticed that he wasn’t as funny as he used to be and the women’s clubs protested his appearances, wanting to ban him from the stage as well.

While Arbuckle enjoyed the company of a pretty young woman, Doris Deane, like many in Hollywood the relationship had a quid pro quo. For Deane—and perhaps for Rappe earlier—Arbuckle provided access to the center of power in Hollywood, access to men like Buster Keaton, who had stuck with Arbuckle through his troubles and had been best man at their wedding. Keaton gave Deane a small role in his movie Seven Chances. She also managed to get a few supporting roles in the shorts that Arbuckle directed for his nephew Al St. John though that was the extent of her movie career.

In 1924, Arbuckle directed St. John in a comedy and had a brief stint directing Keaton in Sherlock Jr. though a clash of egos ended that particular collaboration and the film is credited to Keaton alone. An ironic twist is that this film was rumored to have been inspired by Edward O. Heinrich, the forensic criminologist hired by Matthew Brady to examine Room 1219 for evidence of an assault. Heinrich himself investigated as many as 2,000 cases throughout his career and died in September 1953 not only with his career intact but deserving of the title many gave him: “America’s Sherlock Holmes.”

The oft-repeated anecdote that Keaton suggested Arbuckle direct films under the name Will B. Good was almost certainly a joke among friends. Instead Arbuckle began using the more prosaic “William Goodrich,” based on his father’s first and middle names.

Arbuckle made his directorial leap from two-reelers to a feature film in 1926 when he directed Marion Davies as a Dutch girl in The Red Mill. Unfortunately, this light, romantic comedy, in which Miss Davies could display one of her talents, figure skating, failed at the box office.

Though William Randolph Hearst, as the producer, and Miss Davies both blamed Arbuckle for the film’s flopping, he continued to direct, including a comedy for Paramount, Special Delivery (1927), starring newcomer Eddie Cantor, and fans might have spotted him in occasional uncredited cameos. He also made a triumphant return to Paris in the spring of 1928, and he moved back into the Hollywood Hotel, where he had first noticed Virginia Rappe.

Arbuckle, Lou Anger, and other investors opened the Plantation Café in Culver City in 1928 and it became a popular roadhouse and supper club that, according to its original prospectus, “embodied all of the features of the old Southern regime.” There Arbuckle was often the master of ceremonies, dressed to the nines or in overalls and derby—even in blackface—mingling with the crowd.

The Plantation promised plenty of “whoopie” The clientele naturally included Arbuckle’s milieu. They came all the way out to the end of Washington Boulevard to drink and be entertained by big bands, banjo players, toe dancers, the Plantation’s All-Star Revue, and the likes of Al Jolson, who performed songs from The Jazz Singer, which had been made the year. In 1929, however, Culver City, which was a growing suburb of bungalows and young families, had had enough of the film colony and the trouble it attracted, the gangsters, the fights, and the illicit serving of alcoholic beverages. Arbuckle and Anger sold their interest in September and purchased the old Eads Castle Inn on La Brea Avenue and renamed it “Roscoe’s,” with a decidedly more family-friendly atmosphere.

Despite his troubles, Arbuckle retained his stature among his friends in the movie colony and appeared to be happy and jovial in group photographs—and no one was fooled by the name William Goodrich. He spread bonhomie among almost everyone who mattered in his life. And there were no hard feelings about how he had triggered the creation of the Hays Office. That unpleasant business and inconvenience had blown over and the stifling Production Code was yet to come.

But there was another side to Arbuckle according to Doris Deane, who described “vicious, cruel, morose, and nagging” behavior in the divorce complaint she filed in August 1928. At a beach party, she claimed Arbuckle threw a woman to the dance floor and caressed her. As the woman called for help, Deane rushed to her defense. Thereupon, Arbuckle landed a punch on her nose.

“I wish I had knocked your brains out,” he was heard saying to Deane afterward. She said Arbuckle continued to argue and insult her and drove recklessly on the way home. Her complaint also cited numerous instances of his being intoxicated. The tone of news reports about the charges indicate that this behavior wouldn’t have been much of a surprise to readers.

Nearly four years passed before Arbuckle’s second divorce was decreed and he could marry a new girlfriend. Addie McPhail, another brunette, actress, and vocalist still married to her accompanist, songwriter Lindsay McPhail. Her divorce took time, complicated by the need to find a state that would overlook the residency requirement. Thus, Arbuckle’s third marriage began in June 1932 in Erie, Pennsylvania, while Arbuckle toured the east, performing shows in sold-out appearances that many believed foreshadowed his return to motion pictures. They were right. His ban wasn’t a legal decree but a business decision enforced by the Hollywood cartel and the times had changed.

With McPhail, Arbuckle proved he had the charisma, the success, and the energy to satisfy a considerably younger woman, said to be twenty-four. McPhail also seemed to be evidence that he wasn’t the cad projected by his past with Doris Deane, Minta Durfee, or even Virginia Rappe. He was well-liked and had steadily rebuilt his reputation despite his ban from acting. By 1932 “William Goodrich” had directed over forty films. In May of that year, Columbia began negotiating with Arbuckle’s new producer Leo Morrison and manager Joseph Rivkin for a possible return to the screen. In June it was Educational Pictures and finally Warner Brothers signed him to do six two-reelers at its Vitaphone Studios in Brooklyn. The first, Hey Pop! (1932), was ready for the Christmas holiday. Three more followed in the first half of 1933.

Traveling periodically to New York City by rail, with his wife, her maid, and a line of Pullman trunks, Arbuckle spent two or three weeks at Vitagraph’s plant in Astoria filming. He made public appearances, did radio spots, and enjoyed Manhattan’s night life. His schedule was punishing and he had to work hard. Warner Brothers was taking a risk in rehabilitating Arbuckle—and he needed the money.

Physicians who listened to Arbuckle’s broad chest warned him that heart disease was a certainty. At forty-six, he was noticeably less physical. However, at a relatively trim 240 pounds, he could still get up and down off the ground, throw a punch, run after mules, and reprise many of the antics of his country bumpkin character with the too-small derby and oversized pants.

Those who saw him on the set thought he was a little nervous and tentative. But after a few takes, the old slapstick gags and “hokum” seemed to translate well enough in sound and anyone seeing these old films now might think he could have joined the ranks of W. C. Fields, Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges. (Shemp Howard, the original “third stooge,” was one of Arbuckle’s costars). The only thing wrong was the comedian’s voice. There was nothing special about it. In some scenes, he sounded jaded and in others he came off as a bully. The innocence was gone.

In June 1933, Addie and Roscoe Arbuckle returned to New York to film the last of the six shorts, Tomalio (1933), which pitted his character against a stereotypical Mexican general. That he hadn’t felt good for the past two weeks wasn’t apparent on screen.

Arbuckle was also in New York to ink a contract for the first “Fatty” Arbuckle feature-length talkie, a remake of Brewster’s Millions. After a hot day at work, he returned to his room at the Park Central Hotel in midtown, bathed, and dressed in formal attire. Then he and his wife went out to dinner at the Tavern on W. 48th Street to celebrate a belated first anniversary. After eating, Arbuckle and Addie went to the apartment of the Tavern’s owner, William Lahiff, where a party was given in their honor. Among the guests were lightweight champion Johnny Dundee, actor Johnnie Walker—who was directing Mr. Broadway (1933) with Ed Sullivan in his first film, and his manager Joseph Rivkin.

That evening, Arbuckle smoked cigarette after cigarette and drank freely for Prohibition was in the process of being repealed and no one cared anymore. He waxed on his new contract and was obviously enjoying the moment. He played backgammon. He boasted of his tickets for the heavyweight rematch between Jack Sharkey Primo Carnera on Friday night at Madison Square Gardens. He leaned over at one point and told Rivkin, “This is the happiest day of my life” though he was known for exaggerated pronouncements.

But he also complained of feeling tired. Toward midnight, the Arbuckles returned to Park Central. Then they undressed and, well, who knows what they did at the end of this auspicious day. But they slept in adjoining rooms.

Just after 2:00 in the morning, McPhail woke and went to the bathroom for a glass of water. Then, hearing only silence, she called out, “How are you? Are you sleeping all right?”

When he didn’t answer, she called the desk for a physician.

Much like what happened in the St. Francis Hotel, McPhail’s memory for details changed over time. In another account, she said she woke on hearing him groan in pain. In another, he had just gone into the bedroom and when she called to him a few minutes later, got no answer.

When the hotel doctor failed to revive Arbuckle, other physicians were summoned. They determined that Arbuckle had died in his sleep of a fatal heart attack—angina pectoris according to the death certificate—soon after the couple retired for the night.

The next day, his body lay in state at the Campbell Funeral Church at Broadway and 66th Street on Saturday, July 1. Thousands were said to have marched past.

That Arbuckle didn’t suffer was interpreted by some as a karmic sign of his innocence. That he was struck down in the last stretch of his redemption was also seen as a cruel irony.

Despite Lou Anger’s advice to the contrary, Arbuckle had been no less careless with his money at the end than he had been in his heyday. His will, in a Los Angeles bank, stipulated that Joseph Schenck would inherit a $100,000 upon his death. That money didn’t exist, but it was the thought that counted.

* * *

As for Virginia Rappe? The grass grew on her grave in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, while her remains were joined by those of her contemporaries as they died young and old over time. Conspicuously missing was Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. His ashes had been scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Aside from Henry Lehrman, who would be buried by her side, following his death in 1946, Rudolph Valentino, her early co-star and whom H. L. Mencken once described as “catnip to women,” would also be buried nearby after his untimely death in 1926.

Valentino died of peritonitis as well, following an operation for gastric ulcers. And like Rappe, he had died too young to plan ahead. He was buried in a crypt originally intended for another man, much as her grave was intended for someone else. Henry Lehrman, to his credit, had done the right thing. He provided one of a pair cemetery plots, that he had purchased to share with a future wife, to be used instead for the eternal rest of Virginia Rappe and there he joined her twenty years later.

The honorary pallbearers for Arbuckle’s casket included Bert Lahr, in the middle position. (Newspapers.com)

[*] pp. 000–000: Newspapers.com, California Digital Newspaper Collection, Lantern (Media History Digital Library of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research), and Ancestry.com.

Update on the work in progress

Someone who, a hundred years from now, falsely repeats something evil about me, injures me right now.

Immanuel Kant*

Spite Work: The Trials of Virginia Rappe and “Fatty” Arbuckle, a revisionist history by James Reidel and Christopher Lewis is a completed manuscript of 970 mspp. and presently being copyedited

The titles of the book’s parts reflect the “biblical length” of the endeavor.

  • The Introduction includes a review of literature and discussion of the earlier works about the Arbuckle case and their treatment of the model and actress Virginia Rappe. This part also features a biographical essay about Roscoe C. Arbuckle from birth to about 1916.
  • 1 Virginia discusses Rappe’s origins and early life. There is even a “tortured” genealogy (she could have joined the D.A.R.).
  • 2 Virginia covers Rappe’s Hollywood period.
  • The Apocrypha of Maude focuses on Arbuckle’s Labor Day Party itself and her fatal injury in room 1219 of the St. Francis Hotel.
  • The Wisdom of Lazarus is a narrative based on the preliminary investigation of Rappe’s death as a criminal matter. As a result, a criminal trail followed. This part also includes an account of Rappe’s interment, which anticipated other fulsome Hollywood funerals to come.
  • 1 Judges through 3 Judges covers a day by day account of the three trials in which Arbuckle wasn’t the only defendant. There was a liminal one as well: the mutable personhood of Rappe herself. We end with the aftermath of the third trial.
  • The Epilogue follows the fates of key figures in the Labor Day party and Arbuckle–Rappe trials.

Needless to say, COVID-19 impacted the research and writing of this book in good ways and bad. We had hoped to meet the centenary of the Arbuckle–Rappe case with a finished book. We were also in a race against declining interest, attention spans, and all the vicissitudes of publishers wanting to pass on just about everything that comes across their iPhone screens.

But there are other scholars at work, too. So, the “special taste” for books about events that took place a hundred years ago during the hoary Silent Era have company.

Our publication plans will be announced on some future date.

Virginia Rappe in an anticipatory pose with her favorite black obsidian ring in view, Photograph by Albert Witzel.

*The curious epigraph that prefaces the book.

The modern Sappho on the Arbuckle jury

[This entry is from our research, to trace how various individuals found their way into the Arbuckle case and how they fared afterward. Some end in tragedy. Some in ellipses, like Maude Delmont. But Irene Wilde was exceptional.]

Irene Wilde (1884–1964) was one of five women on the jury of the third Arbuckle trial jury (March–April 1922). She was a poet and writer, albeit described a “newspaperwoman” by the San Francisco Call. But this was an exaggeration not of her choosing, for Wilde had won the Call‘s a runner-up prize for “Jingle of the Month” (December 1921) and was awarded for best “Molly O Poem” the following month (January 1922). The latter contest asked for paeans to Molly O, the title character in a recent film starring Mabel Normand. Normand, of course, had been Arbuckle’s costar at Keystone Studio—and the clever Mrs. Wilde brought a touch of erudition to her verse with the use of the very Irish “mavoureen” [darling].

Another exaggeration, one, that wasn’t disclosed during the trial, was that she claimed her husband, Richard Wilde, was a relative of Oscar Wilde, albeit born in California and humbly employed as a timekeeper by the Pullman Car Company.[1] But Irene had her own accomplishments. Raised on a farm in North Carolina, she attended the Baptist College for Women (i.e., Meredith College) in Raleigh and the University of Chicago. During her student years, she took joy in seeing her name in print and published many of her first poems in newspapers as Maude Irene Haire. Eventually, she made her way west, teaching high school English in Goldfield, Nevada, before arriving in Berkeley in 1918, where she married her husband, her first and his third.

Unlike the businessmen and housewives who may have felt their lives had been interrupted by their jury assignments, Wilde probably saw her month off from walking the floor as a sales clerk in an art supply store as a boon to her writing. Not only did she write poems but authored a droll insider account for the Call about the vicissitudes of being a juror.[2] This she had ready for publication the day after the jury acquitted Arbuckle for the death of Virginia Rappe on April 12.

“We felt that there was absolutely no case against Arbuckle,” Wilde said to reporters. “It was nothing but conjecture and surmise. The facts were all on the other side.”[3]

Wilde, too, signed the jury’s unprecedented statement in which they wished Arbuckle success and urged the American public to see him “entirely innocent and free from all blame.”

Source: San Francisco Examiner, 17 March 1922

The twelve men and women left it implicit that they saw Virginia Rappe as culpable for, as one of Arbuckle’s lawyers put it, for being “the pitcher that went to the well too often”—and having lived a dissolute life with a diseased bladder that happened to burst after the comedian unwittingly followed Rappe into his bedroom.

However the national coverage of the scandal and the fact that a woman died were enough to convince Paramount mogul Adolph Zukor that the public would never again see Arbuckle films as family fare—so he discreetly directed Will Hays to keep the ban on Arbuckle pictures in place. The actor soon put his beloved Pierce-Arrow “palace” car up for sale to pay his legal costs. The wife who “stood by her husband” during the trial, Minta Durfee, left him to return to her single life across the country in New York City. And Irene Wilde? She was perhaps best situated and equipped to write a tell-all book about the third Arbuckle trial. She could have indicated why the comedian’s version of events trumped everything that the prosecution did to contradict him. But books that dished about sordid trials and scandals were not yet in vogue. Instead, Wilde kept her trial stories to herself and relocated to Los Angeles in 1923, and eventually found permanent employment as a high school librarian.

She published two books of verse, won twenty-six poetry contests, and had one poem in Poetry: The Magazine of Verse. She was called a “modern Sappho” by the Los Angeles Times and nominated to be the poet laureate of California by the League of American Penwomen and her many supporters in Southern California. (The women of the Chaparral Poetry Society named one of their chapters for her.)

Source: Los Angeles Times, 7 June 1936

Wilde also published a novel in her lifetime, The Red Turban (Liveright, 1943). According to its jacket copy, the story revealed “an enlightening and stimulating contrast between the ideals of and poetry of the East, and the speed of the flashing, brilliant life of the moving picture colony in California.”

[1] “Rites for Poet Irene Wilde Set,” Los Angeles Times, 3 September 1964, III:3.

[2] See Irene Wilde, “Trials of a Trial Jury,” San Francisco Call, 13 April 1922, 2.

[3] “Arbuckle Jurors Explain Action—Unanimous from Start, They Assert,” San Francisco Chronicle, 13 April 1922, 2.

The urodynamics of the Arbuckle case

Consideration and respect for the female is all but universal in the sexual relationships of the animals
below man; it is only at the furthest remove from the “brutes” among civilized men
that sexual
“brutality” is at all common.

Havelock Ellis

Bladder rupture, the most consequential event leading to the death of Virginia Rappe, is a rare occurrence when cystitis is the cause. Other variables are needed and cystitis is a wide and generic term. In cases of interstitial cystitis (IC), a type of bladder pain syndrome (BPS), the cause is still unknown. But for a rupture to occur there must be urine retention and bladder distention as well as reduced bladder capacity due to unknown etiology, and so on.[1]

When it happens, the rupture occurs at the vault or the junction of the superior and posterior walls—i.e., the site of Rappe’s injury. The defense in the Arbuckle trials hoped to convince the jury that hers was a rare case, an exotic bladder wall disease or a spontaneous rupture, that happened by chance on September 5, 1921, at a party given by Roscoe Arbuckle and his friends at the St. Francis Hotel. The defense didn’t need to be too exacting about how likely one of those scenarios was — they merely needed to introduce doubt about the theory that Roscoe Arbuckle contributed to the rupture. They also implied that Rappe was sexually promiscuous at an early age and had been pregnant in her early teens, subtly characterizing her as a “fallen woman,” and their client had simply happened upon her in his bedroom after the rupture had occurred due to natural causes. 

Arbuckle’s lawyers found physicians in San Francisco for authority and physicians in Chicago who would state for the record that they treated or may have treated Virginia Rappe between 1908 and 1914. Truly exotic conditions, such as tuberculous cystitis weren’t mentioned during the three trials. Because it was never mentioned in the trial transcripts or newspaper coverage, they almost certainly didn’t know that Rappe’s mother, Mabel Rappé[2], had died of tuberculous lymphadenitis (also known as tuberculous adenitis or by the traditional names scrofula and the “king’s evil”). Having mentioned such a thing would have either strengthened the defense’s argument or further confused jury members who were tasked with distilling a variety of anatomical descriptions and medical conditions in their effort to find the truth.

Tuberculous lymphadenitis is the most common form of the tuberculosis infection that appears outside the lungs, which presents as a swellings and ulcerations in neck from infected lymph glands. Virginia Rappe, as an adolescent, would have been exposed to TB. The third most common is genitourinary tuberculosis, which is often misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or cystitis. both acute and chronic.

The physicians who examined Rappe’s bladder shortly after her death and later, preserved in formaldehyde for weeks, didn’t see the tell-tale ulceration caused by bladder TB. They only observed what appeared to be a mild form of acute cystitis and that Rappe’s bladder was smaller than a normal human female’s bladder. And, anatomically speaking the tear in her bladder, no wider than a penny, was where it would occur if the rupture was due to a distended bladder.

As one contemporary medical text put it, “Rupture of the bladder usually results from severe crushing accidents”—and this is what Arbuckle’s prosecutors saw as the crime for which they originally wanted Arbuckle tried for murder, not manslaughter. All 264 pounds of him was the murder weapon. He had forced himself on her without her consent and caused her bladder to pop like a balloon.

Occasionally, in the diseased bladder, the pressure of retained urine may cause rupture; rarely this occurs during labor. The initial symptoms are usually as if something gave way inside. If the bladder has been greatly distended, there may be a momentary feeling of relief. Pain in the whole abdominal cavity results. Shock is added, the patient is prostrated and unable to walk. Treatment by surgical means is imperative.[3]

The term “distended bladder” was rarely used by the Arbuckle’s lawyers and prosecutors—even though Rappe, having been locked out of one bathroom in Arbuckle’s three-room suite, had been observed hurriedly walking to the vacant bathroom in Arbuckle’s bedroom—room 1219. The word “urine” also seems to have been studiously avoided during the trials—as if a matter of decorum or to avoid confusion with one of Arbuckle’s prosecutors who bore the homophonic surname of U’Ren. But urine is the bodily fluid on which the Arbuckle case sets sail, so to speak. 

Once Rappe disappeared into 1219, Arbuckle followed and closed and locked the door.

In our narrative, we have to accept that the amount of time Rappe and Arbuckle were alone in 1219 is, well, fluid. Arbuckle’s lawyers pared the time down to ten minutes. The prosecution stretched it to as long as forty-five. If one accepts that Virginia Rappe went to 1219 to pee, she was unsuccessful in accomplishing that.

In Arbuckle’s “Good Samaritan” testimony of the first and third trials, he explained that he didn’t seek help for Rappe because she had only vomited, despite the lack of any reported evidence of this other bodily fluid in the room. In his testimony he also never mentions any sexual activity.

But it is implied by the prosecution that Arbuckle assaulted Rappe, that she resisted, and that his weight caused her bladder to rupture. And for that to happen, her bladder had to be nearly full.

Without saying it explicitly, the prosecution’s intention was to show that Arbuckle didn’t give Rappe a chance to use the bathroom—and if he did—nothing came out of her—or not enough. To the prosecution, any surplus of unaccounted-for time was left to the juror’s imagination. The prosecution made no inference that Rappe did anything with Arbuckle that was consensual. They only saw a clumsy rape attempt and a coverup.

In our narrative, we see the possibility for consensual sex, but also non-consensual, and something in between that we will call “business,” for which Rappe expected a quid pro quo in the form of a career boost, a source of income to replace what she lost after her breakup with the comedy director Henry Lehrman. (That he himself had nudged her in the direction of Arbuckle as a benefactor was discussed in the film colony if not in court.) And this brings us to the most indelicate question from the Arbuckle case that, if discussed openly in the lost trial transcripts, never made the family newspapers: Can the weight of a man during intercourse cause his willing or unwilling partner’s bladder to rupture?

One intrepid medical journal gave this question at least a terse but intriguing answer. The Urologic and Cutaneous Review 26, no. 4 (1922) featured a short piece that reacts to the outcome of first trial’s hung jury of ten to two for acquittal.

Bladder Injuries from Coitus

In a recent California manslaughter case, one of the issues raised was whether bladder rupture could result from a force applied external to the abdomen during coitus. At the first trial, the jury disagreed; a hysterical jurywoman [i.e., Mrs. Helen Hubbard] insisting despite every argument on a verdict of guilty. The bladder is so protected by the abdomen that rupture from any but extreme violence producing concussional effects is doubtful and the bladder must also be unhealthy. Concussional effects of this type would produce extreme discolorations. These were not present in this case. The question is a different one where injuries of the bladder by coitus within the vagina occur.* Cases of this type have been repeatedly reported. The evidence against internal violence was so great that external violence was insisted on by the prosecution. (p. 252)

*Medical Standard.

Where does this intriguing brief take us? What is the author saying?

He (or possibly she) sees the human urinary bladder as well protected by bone and surrounding tissue inside the pelvic cavity or arch. But this protection is lost when the organ overdistended. Furthermore, the author only considers “extreme violence,” which would result in extreme abdominal bruising (ecchymosis) if we are reading this correctly. But he seems to only consider the bruises to Rappe’s arm, not those found on her midriff, thighs, and calves. This is probably because the trial testimony didn’t put emphasis on the other discolorations.

Without a solid reference to the Medical Standard, we can’t investigate what is meant by “injuries of the bladder by coitus.”[4] We can only guess what is meant by the “evidence against internal violence.” (There is, indeed, a wealth of veterinary literature from this period about bladder ruptures in female livestock due to coitus that could lend itself to the human act.) The newspaper and extant court reportage are silent on any kind of sex acts performed on Rappe beyond Arbuckle allegedly slipping ice into her vagina to, as he put it, restore her to consciousness. The prosecution only focused on a rape attempt that they discreetly referred to as an “assault,” and used pioneering fingerprint evidence taken by Edward O. Heinrich to show that a struggle occurred as Rappe presumably tried to exit room 1219 through the hallway door.

While the author of the note acknowledges a body of evidence that supports the possibility that coitus can injure a bladder, the meaning of “internal violence” is left to the imagination and left out of the Arbuckle–Rappe paradigm. What he alludes to, however, isn’t the “honeymoon night” of normal, human coitus in 1921, that is, the ventral–ventral or “missionary” position with the requisite gentle massage that leads to, at least, the male climax. Hence, we must look elsewhere for a source of “internal violence” or a combination of external and internal violence or force or pressure. 

Rappe’s escort to the Arbuckle party, Maude Delmont, as well as another attendee, said that the party got “rough.” That is to say, some men began to force themselves on women. These men were inebriated and partially clad to facilitate sexual activity. The pornography of the day, if it accurately reflects the norms of the era, rarely shows a man completely undressed. They are even shown in their shoes, stockings, and garters as though they were off to work.

Arbuckle, given his size and assuming his intention was to have a discreet “quickie” without interruption, probably would have favored a dorsal–ventral position or, in other words, doggy-style. If he was considerate to Rappe—whether consensual or submissive to her host, a “good fellow” to use Delmont’s term—such a route would have been tolerable, a small mercy.

But haste and other factors must be considered, especially in regard to Arbuckle. He had been drinking. We know from his wife, Minta Durfee, that he suffered from periodic impotence, erectile dysfunction. Any kind of erection only had a certain duration. Courtship, “spooning,” and foreplay were out of the question given the need for immediate gratification. Thus, Rappe needed something to hang onto to brace herself for intercourse from behind, whether normally or Venus aversa. There was the pedestal sink in the bathroom and possibly the toilet bowl. Two brass beds were in room 1219—with sturdy brass rails to catch any fall as well as provide a bolster. The beds themselves had either bedsprings or box springs, which would have lacked the firmness of modern mattresses and were, of course, noisy. Given the presence of the revelers in room 1220 and the atmosphere of “merrymaking,” the rhythmic report of bedsprings would have invited unwanted interruptions to privacy and the concentration that Arbuckle might have needed. But, again, this presupposes that Arbuckle’s purpose for entering the room was something other than what he described under oath. 

The “concussional effects” spoken of above—the pounding, the crush on Rappe and the hard surface underneath her—could have come with sexual climax or the urgency to revive a flagging erection or, given the obstruction of Arbuckle’s paunch, to find and keep inside his “mate” for the duration.

Let’s not laugh at the double entendre here. This could be the real tragedy that Arbuckle’s defense and prosecution had to dance around, that the motion picture industry of 1921 surely didn’t want getting out of room 1219 alive, that had to be put behind them at any cost.

Screen Shot 2022-11-13 at 12.37.16 PM

[1] See, for example, Philip M. Hanno et al. (eds.), Interstitial Cystitis (London: Springer Verlag, 1990).

[2] Her 1905 death certificate reveals that she used this spelling.

[3] “Bladder, Diseases of,” Encyclopedia Americana (New York: Encyclopedia American Corporation, 1923), IV:50. Save for treatment, this article agrees with the medical literature of the early twentieth century and to this day.

[4] The Hathi Digital Library has an almost complete run of the Medical Standard, but we have yet to find what article is cited here.

Virginia Rappe’s “Pyjamarama” of 1915

Rappe in recumbent pose (Private collection)

Anyone who writes objectively about the manslaughter trials of Roscoe Arbuckle will notice that the image of Virginia Rappe, his alleged victim, fades from the press coverage of the three trials between November 1921 and April 1922. Immediately following her death on September 9, 1921 though there was a surfeit of Rappe photographs published. Many of these were purchased and licensed by Underwood & Underwood, a pioneer of modern press photography. Newspaper publishers and editors soon discontinued using images of Rappe in their coverage of the Arbuckle case and she was reduced to a name and sometimes just a label such as “beautiful young motion picture actress”.

Perhaps the disappearance of Rappe’s image was due to column space. Despite the improvements in photo reproduction, text-driven journalism had yet to cede column space to photojournalism. Perhaps, too, newspapers were in keeping with the ban on Rappe’s on-screen image.

During the second week of September 1921, like Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, motion picture executives placed a ban on any motion pictures in which Rappe appeared. In her case it wasn’t due to the public censure brought on by American clubwomen and clergymen. The mores of the time were applied differently to Rappe, for it was considered disrespectful but also distasteful to publish the image of a young woman who had died in such questionable circumstances. Details of her life and death revealed a world that was foreign to most and might influence impressionable young women or stir the more prurient desires of young men. And there was a precedent for this: Rappe’s contemporary, Olive Thomas, had died in Paris almost a year to the day before in 1920 and under suspicious circumstances—a botched suicide attempt, an overdose—due to the dangers posed by the fast lifestyle of Hollywood.

One suite of Underwood & Underwood photographs is particularly notable. It came from a fashion shoot taken in either Chicago or San Francisco in mid-1915. But none of these were published despite the quality and allure of Rappe’s poses. That is to say, we haven’t been able to locate any of these images in newspaper archives, which suggests that her mode of dress might have been considered too morbidly ironic to include in a story of a scandal where pajamas were a prominent image.

On the fated September 5, 1921, at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle wore his pajamas well into the day. He wore them when he followed Virginia into his bedroom and they became drenched in his sweat around the time of Rappe’s mortal injury. Her escort to the party, Maude Delmont, had donned the actor Lowell Sherman’s yellow silk pajamas because her street clothes made it too hot to dance in the twelfth floor suite. For his part, Sherman remained dishabille in his BVDs.

One image from the pajama shoot was published in another time and context: when Rappe was rumored to be engaged to an Argentine diplomat attached to his country’s pavilion during the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Indeed, it is likely that the outfit she’s wearing was also modeled at the exposition (The wire service image was distributed with the caption, save for where the editor could insert the name of his respective newspaper to make it seem as though Rappe was an in-house fashion designer. She was independent.)

Rappe in a 1915 newspaper (Newspapers.com)

The setting for these photographs appears to be a mansion or luxury hotel. The pajamas are ahead of their time, for such a one-piece, high-waisted garment is more typical of post-WW1 sleepwear illustrated in pattern magazines and department store advertisements. The sheer fabric could be voile, silk, or gorgette. The outfit also includes a sleeveless jacket and Chinese “frog” or “knot” buttons. The billowy, Pierrot-like trousers or “pantaloons,” were considered both daring and feminist for the time but still have such feminine features as the lower legs finished with gathered bloomer cuffs.

These pajamas were also intended for loungewear given the matching silk ballet slippers. And there’s no chance the flamboyant nightcap would survive a night in bed. It is really a headpiece with wide organza crown, almost like a halo, trimmed with a ribbon, and in keeping with Rappe’s eccentric millinery designs, such as the “spider hat” and “peace hat,” that appeared in U.S. newspapers during the spring and summer of 1915.

Rappe in natural lighting (Private collection)

Unfortunately, Rappe’s designs didn’t catch on in 1915 and this motivated her to pivot her career. In spring 1916, she relocated to Southern California where she succeeded in being cast in small roles such as a juvenile vamp or slapstick love interest in the films of her reputed boyfriend, comedy director Henry Lehrman.

Rappe in prize fighter pose (Private collection)

Rappe’s type was that of a film colony “society girl” and the “best-dressed girl in Hollywood.” These titles had more to do with the company she kept, especially her intimate friends among the more committed motion picture actresses. Rappe sometimes sketched clothes for them that were executed on the sewing machine of her adopted “Aunt Kate” Hardebeck. One of these friends, Mildred Harris—the first Mrs. Charlie Chaplin—regifted a gown so that Rappe could be buried in one of her own designs.

N.b. We don’t profess to be experts in women’s sleepwear from the 1910s. Thus, grateful acknowledgement is extended to “sister” WordPress blogs, namely witness2fashion and the Vintage Traveler.

NOLA: Zey handicaps the prosecution

The following passage from our work-in-progress is based on research for an earlier deprecated post and prefaces the third Arbuckle trial narrative.

“Burn it up,” said Frank Mayo, “The Hollywood film colony is a pernicious influence.[1] Scatter it, abolish it—something ought to be down. Burn it up—I say!” The young leading man had been quoted after attending the funeral of William Desmond Taylor, as he reacted to the other actors and actresses who filled the pews of St. Paul’s Protestant Cathedral to overflowing. 

Horse Races, Oriental Park

Horse Races, Oriental Park

He blamed the mind-numbing lack of culture in Los Angeles. “One thing wrong is that there are no outside diversions. The result is everyone is bored to death. All you hear is pictures, pictures, until you are almost frantic.” Although he didn’t mention Roscoe Arbuckle by name, Mayo alluded to those actors who brought so much opprobrium for their “immorality and degeneracy.”

“You forget that some of the biggest stars in the business are among the undesirables. They have been raised to positions for which they are not fitted. They receive enormous salaries. They haven’t the brains or desire to improve themselves and they spend their money like drunken sailors. They are trying always to buy new sensations, bored to death with Hollywood and themselves.

On the day of Taylor’s funeral, February 7, Arbuckle returned to Los Angeles and kept himself and his thoughts on the murder to himself. But lying lower than the comedian was the woman who had told much of the story of one of his diversions from Hollywood on Labor Day last.

Zey Prevost had gone missing after the second trial’s verdict—and District Attorney Matthew Brady had reason to suspect that the defense was behind it. Arbuckle’s attorney Gavin McNab later claimed he had telephoned his office in the hours after the completion of the second trial and requested that “every legal method be employed to prevent the girl leaving the state.” He told Brady that he was just as anxious to have her testify at the third trial as the prosecution—and Brady later challenged that assertion, knowing that McNab was simply inoculating the defense from any insinuation that they had a role in Prevost getting away.

McNab’s telephone call came twenty-four hours after Brady discovered that Prevost had left San Francisco on Monday, February 6,  after he had issued subpoenas for her and Alice Blake to be placed under bond to ensure their appearance at the third trial. Brady also wanted to open a Grand Jury investigation into Prevost and her allegations of coerced testimony—and to pursue charging her as a hostile witness if necessary. If neither young woman could be found, Brady promised to seek bench warrants for their arrest—as well as for anyone helping them to evade his subpoenas.

The same pair of detectives were dispatched to find Blake and Prevost. Thomas Regan and Griffith Kennedy knew their haunts, the people they associated with in San Francisco’s demimonde—but they went to see the mothers first.  Blake’s assured them that her daughter was still in San Francisco and, by Monday night, Alice Blake appeared at Brady’s office. Mrs. Reis said she didn’t know her daughter’s whereabouts.

By mid-week, Prevost was still missing and the search for her widened. “I will lay the case before Chief of Police O’Brien,” Brady told the press,

and request that every police official in California be asked to watch for the missing girl. While not ready to assert positively that she has absconded, I feel nevertheless that I have good reason to take these steps. Of course, should Zey Prevost leave the state, there would be no way to compel her to return. We then would have to resort to reading into the record the testimony which she has thus far given against Arbuckle.

Despite the resignation in the District Attorney’s statement, he was determined to find Prevost. Brady knew she feared being charged with perjury and that he wanted to subject her to a Grand Jury investigation to clear his own office of any wrongdoing in extracting her initial statement as well as keeping her under the watchful eye of “Mother” Duffy. Prevost from the beginning was considered a flight risk and the only star witness known to have been approached by Arbuckle’s lawyers in the forty-eight hours after Virginia Rappe’s death.

Had Brady pressed the pursuit of Prevost across state lines he might have succeeded in pressuring her to surrender and return to San Francisco. But more likely his actions were pro forma. To justify Prevost’s testimony being read into the record of the forthcoming third trial, he had to show the court that had made an effort to find her and bring her back legally.

Although Regan and Kennedy came up empty handed, they had learned from Prevost’s friends that she was in a “Southern city.” She had been seen boarding a train at the Southern Pacific’s depot at Third and Townsend streets and was believed to be “well supplied with money.” The clue meant that Prevost had a week’s head start and that she was probably bound for New Orleans, where she had relatives—and it was the city where she been her reportedly headed when she was suspected of attempting to flee San Francisco before her first Grand Jury appearance.

Brady dispatched his detectives to New Orleans and an Associated Press wire datelined Saturday, February 11, confirmed that Regan and Kennedy were heading in that direction. Quoting “Miss Tease Dowling,” a burlesque hall performer, whose artistry was implicit in her stage name, refused to say that Prevost was in the city. “But if Zey ever got to New Orleans, she’d hike right out to Cuba. She’s in Cuba by now. Sure ‘nuff.”

The next day Regan and Kennedy arrived and were tipped off by the local press and police that a pretty young woman in silk stockings and a new fur coat who answered to Prevost’s description had been located at the Chalmette Hotel registered under the name “Zaybelle Elruy.” When a newspaperman addressed her as Zey Prevost in the lobby, Miss Elruy hotly denied being the same person—and, according to guests, claimed to be en route to Cuba.

On Monday, February 13, while the young woman kept to her room on the third floor, Regan and Kennedy staked out the lobby along with a number of reporters. As the time passed, the two detectives began to realize something wasn’t right. They went up to the Elruy room and encountered two “toughs,” one older and one younger, barring their way. While a scuffle ensued between the four, Elruy lowered several suitcases on a rope and then herself into a courtyard and fled.

Eventually, the local police arrived and arrested her champions, Arthur J. Kleinmeyer, aged 52, and George J. Beckett, 23, for disorderly conduct and interfering with police business. Inside Elruy’s room, was a theatrical trunk that likely further confirmed her real identify. But Zey Prevost didn’t need to travel on to Miami, Florida, and set sail for Havana—by steamer or the new flying boat service.

Matthew Brady, after conferring with his assistants Milton U’Ren and Leo Friedman, withdrew the detectives. California law was clear. Prevost couldn’t be compelled against her will to return to California unless she faced a criminal charge. Obviously, her daring escape spoke for her. With his limited funds, Brady would have to read Prevost’s testimony into the record. There was no other option. But her further actions, in any event, indicated the influence of Arbuckle’s defense team.

With Mardi Gras only days away, Prevost remained securely ensconced in New Orleans—and Brady followed her there in private telegrams sent by such sources as the chief of police in New Orleans, Guy Molony. He asked Brady, “Do you want her? If so, wire this office at once, stating charge.” Molony also informed Brady that Prevost was enjoying the winter racing season at the Fair Grounds until it moved on to Oriental Park in Havana—hence her desire to travel to Cuba.

Not unlike her demand that the District Attorney pay her a witness fee before the second trial, Prevost’s chutzpah before the third became public in the San Francisco Chronicle in the waning days of February.

The lure of the ponies is the only reason for her continued sojourn in the Crescent city, frankly admits the young woman, who District Attorney Brady of San Francisco would like to see back on the coast. But for all Zey cares, Brady and the other prosecutors can paddle their own canoes in trying to convict the comedian. Although her testimony at former trials of Arbuckle as to certain details of the party was considered one of the main points on which the state based its hope for conviction, Zey now sings a different tune. Friday, when greeted on Canal Street by a Chronicle representative, Miss Prevost talked freely of the Arbuckle case. 

“If you followed the trial closely, big boy,” she said in a bantering tone, “you know they ain’t no case. The would-be reformers just want to ‘pop it’ to Roscoe, and so they painted him as black as they could.

“The truth about the whole thing is that ‘Fatty’ was just giving a little party like many other persons in the moving picture and theatrical world have been accustomed to give. Fact that Miss Rappe was taken seriously ill at this party and died shortly after naturally was considered to be a result of the party.”

“Personally, I think Arbuckle was absolutely innocent of any direct causes of her death. It is true a gay time was had by all, but I do not think the funmaking should have been construed as a wild orgy, for this certainly was not the case.

“Roscoe is more to be pitied than condemned. He was really a victim of circumstances. The fact that he was one of the most famous and most widely known comedians in the world naturally resulted in his being the center of publicity. Had the party been given by some lesser light in all probability little would have been said or written about it.” 

Crescent City Jockey Club/Fair Grounds Race Course, 1900s (Library of Congress)

[1] 000–000: Mildred Morris, “‘Burn It Down!’ Mayo’s Advice on Hollywood,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7 February 1922, 2; “Prevost Girl Enigma of Arbuckle’s Third Trial,” San Francisco Call, 25 February 1922, 3; “Prevost Is Center of New Arbuckle Row,” San Francisco Call, 10 March 1922, 1; Oscar H. Fernbach, “Zey Prevost Again Cited,” San Francisco Examiner, 5 February 1922, 16; “Two Arbuckle Girls Missing; S.F. Hunt On,” San Francisco Examiner, 6 February 1922, 13; Oscar H.

Fernbach, “Zey Prevost Flees, Brady Starts Hunt,” San Francisco Examiner, 7 February 1922, 13; “Zey Prevost Flees State,” San Francisco Examiner, 10 February 1922, 6; “Trace Zey Prevost,” Birmingham News, 11 February 1922, 1; Associated Press, “Zey Prevost in 3 Floor Drop Evades Sleuths,” San Francisco Call, 13 February 1922, 1; “Zey Prevost Is Traced to New Orleans,” San Francisco Examiner, 14 February 1922, 1; “Arbuckle Case Witness Hides; Charge Needed for Return,” San Francisco Call, 24 February 1922, 3; “Arbuckle to Be Pitied, Says Zey Prevost,” San Francisco Chronicle, 25 February 1922, 13; “Brady Planning to Use Girl’s Testimony,” San Francisco Chronicle, 25 February 1922, 13; “Prevost Girl’s Return Asked,” San Francisco Chronicle, 25 February 1922, 7.

Maude Delmont’s unrealized disambiguation

The following is an interpolation from our work-in-progress that allows for a segue between the second and first Arbuckle trials.

The day after second Arbuckle trial ended in a hung jury, the San Francisco’s newspaper announced the possible engagements of the two women who were present when Virginia Rappe passed away in September.[*]

Sidi Spreckels, the widow of the late John Spreckels Jr., had been linked to Art Hickman, the musician, composer, and leader of what is now considered the first real big band: the orchestra at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. But until recently, he had been the house bandleader at the St. Francis.

“Well,” said Hickman when approached by reporters, “we are great friends and have been for a long time. Many people have asked me about this rumored engagement. I cannot say a thing.”

Three days later, her attorney, Gavin McNab’s brother John, issued a terse denial that read in part that Mrs. Spreckels “isn’t contemplating matrimony at this time” and that “her rumored engagement is only gossip.” Maude Delmont’s rumored engagement was of a longer duration and contingent on her willingness to walk on stage.

On February 1, Bambina Maude Delmont became front-page news in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska. Newspapers in those cities profiled her and with whatever scant information she gave them, tried to make up for what little was known of her—that she grew up in Lincoln and spent two years running a beauty shop in Omaha. But when the local reporters and editors tried to search their files for anything about her, they came up empty handed. This allowed Delmont to fill a void of two decades after she arrived in Lincoln on January 31 and registered at a downtown hotel under the name “Mrs. J. C. Hopper.”

But the presence of the “Avenger” was no secret. Reporters were waiting for her when she got off her train as it arrived from Los Angeles at 1:20 on Tuesday afternoon. The young woman who had left twenty years ago on a career that was no less an adventure in fiction—the kind Willa Cather could not have experienced or written—had come home a celebrity. But just what kind eluded the press. They called her an actress, but she had only performed at Keystone Studio but had nothing to share about working with “Fatty” or the “Little Tramp.” She only mentioned that she had appeared with Minta Durfee, whom, despite everything, was “right charming” years ago—and she wasn’t “permanently reconciled” with her husband. But Delmont did want to talk about him and the role “money and influence” had played in his troubles.

“I’d might glad if Fatty could convince me personally that he is innocent,” she said. “But I was the first one to enter the room where Miss Rappe lay ill, and Fatty, I’m afraid, never could clear himself in my eyes.” As to what happened on Labor Day 1921, Arbuckle’s predicament had temporarily drawn her to his side.

When the asked if she believed Arbuckle would be acquitted, Delmont said she was certain that he would. What made her so certain? With an ironic smile, Delmont shrugged her shoulders and simply answered, “Money.”

Her impromptu press conference continued. Delmont described meeting met Rappe (“I fell in love with the girl at first sight.”) just two days before the party in Arbuckle’s suite at the St. Francis Hotel. She mentioned the 500-mile drive from Los Angeles with Semnacher and other incidents at the party.

Delmont enjoyed the attention she got—of being the person her high school teachers called “Maudie”—just as Rappe had been allowed to call her. On her first day in Lincoln, she was recognized by one admirer after another, including Robert Druesedow, a state representative, who saw her in the hotel dining room.

“I knew her when she was a girl,” he said of Delmont, whose hair was now described as totally gray. Other diners also recognized her as well as she spoke to a reporter from the Omaha Daily Bee. “Arbuckle could never convince me of his innocence,” she said. “I was the one who told the truth at the trial. Highly paid lawyers tried to sacrifice my reputation in an effort to protect their client, Arbuckle. I am trying to forget the tragic death of my friend, Virginia.”

Delmont also intimated that she would soon stop in Omaha and continue on to New York City. She also openly discussed being a convicted “bigamist.”

That, she said, was a technical charge that cost her a total of two weeks in jail. But how she left California without violating her probation was something that she didn’t have to explain. She was in Lincoln on legal business. She had come as a representative of her mother, sister, and herself “to dispose of some modest real estate holdings” that belonged to her grandmother, a Mrs. Catherine Stone. That Delmont had no such blood relative wasn’t explained either—but there was a deceased person with that name, the widow of a small-town clothier, who had passed away on January 28 in nearby Central City, Nebraska. Her obituary had appeared in the newspapers of that city, Grand Island, and elsewhere—making it easy to borrow the late Mrs. Stone to make a better story for Delmont’s real purpose in Lincoln: her deliberate rendezvous with an old boyfriend, Lawrence T. Johnston.


Lawrence T. Johnston, late 1910s (Ancestry.com)

The son of a prominent Nebraska lawyer, Johnston had served as a bailiff in Lincoln n the 1890s and early 1900s and later as a judge in Idaho. His real ambition, however, was in vaudeville. He studied ventriloquism and by 1920 had performed all over the United States and as far away as Australia. When he and Delmont were reunited, he was still an itinerant judge in Idaho as well as the “King of Ventriloquists,” who boasted a dummy that cried “real” tears.

Delmont and Johnston had been engaged several times before in their youth. “The last time,” however, he said, “she married a Cincinnati millionaire.” But after hearing about the death of Delmont’s grandmother and her coming to Lincoln, Johnston claimed that he left an engagement in Sioux City, Iowa to be reunited with his old flame—and to make her a star. He told the press that he was now vice president of a motion picture corporation and that his company intended soon to star Delmont. “We feel that she will be a great asset to us,” Johnston said. In the interim, however, he convinced Delmont to cash in on her notoriety.

The couple left Lincoln on Friday, February 3—the day the second Arbuckle trial ended in a hung jury—for Kansas City, Missouri. There Johnston was to appear at the Globe Theater and Delmont intended to rest due to ill health.

Once more she was met by newspapermen—but this time they wanted her reaction to the majority vote for conviction. “Politics,” Delmont said, “is playing a part in the handling of the case. I am very much surprised that the second jury stood ten for conviction and two for acquittal—surprised that the prosecution did that well.”

“Why, nobody ever thought it would be that strong,” she continued. “Everyone on the coast expected an acquittal when I left there. Arbuckle is being tried on the murder complaint to which I swore—and yet my testimony is not good enough to be introduced into the trial. They wanted to get me out of the way and they succeeded.”

Delmont also spoke of the “intrigue” that was woven throughout the affair, apparently in reference to Zey Prevost and Alice Blake, who had eclipsed her as a witness.

“Yes,” she said, “I received an offer or was ‘approached’ in connection with my testimony of the death of Miss Rappe.”

Delmont refused to answer any more questions about who had tried to get her to change or withhold her statement to San Francisco’s district attorney. But she had a reason to withhold such details, for she had been approached in another way, perhaps en route by a theater promoter, to give a lecture during the couple’s layover in Kansas City. Regarding this new opportunity, Delmont could only say that she wanted to discuss “the woman’s side of the affair”—and that many young girls who went to Hollywood so as to “get into the movies” were exploited.

Delmont’s lecture was announced in the Saturday morning Kansas City Times of February 4. The venue was Kansas City’s Empress Theater on McGee Street. Although no times were given, the tickets for her “$5,000 act” would be “at pre-war prices,” that is, ten, twenty—and thirty cents for balcony and front-row seats. The advertisement promised that Maud “Bambina” Delmont would appear as “Herself / The Woman Who Signed the Murder Charge Against Arbuckle / The Most Sensational Act on the American Stage.”

Presumably in character as the “Complaining Witness in the Arbuckle Trial,” Delmont was to “tell of the famous Arbuckle-Rappe murder case” and “rip wide the screen which hides Hollywood and the movie colony. Hers is a story for Every Father and Mother, every Young Man and Young Woman in Kansas City.”

But if she ever took the stage was left in doubt. The San Francisco Call reprinted the lone Kansas City advertisement ten days later and could only speculate that Delmont’s run at the Empress had been abortive, based on a letter that she had written to a friend in San Francisco.

Mrs. Delmont’s gray negligee with henna trimming and black hair streaked with gray, minus the usual henna trimming, is making the same hit in Kansas City that it did here when first she received representatives of the press and gave her version of the fatal party. But evidently the stage is not making much of a hit with her—or else she is not making much of a hit on the stage—for she expects to sign a contract in Chicago to appear before the women’s clubs of that country.

What is known is that Delmont had a falling out with Lawrence Johnston and the couple parted ways. Delmont traveled on to Chicago and Johnston returned to the vaudeville circuit, realizing, perhaps, that it was easier to make money with his dummy doing the talking than Maude Delmont, who turned out to be a source of disappointment for him once more. Months later, Johnston emphatically told a stage gossip columnist in Portland, Oregon, that when he reached Lincoln, he had “something to say in the matter” and that he and Maude “never were, are not and never will be married.”


[*] pp. 000–000: “Mrs. Spreckels to Wed Again?” San Francisco Examiner, 4 February 1922, 5; “Engagement Denied by Mrs. Spreckels,” San Francisco Examiner, 7 February 1922, 11; “Bambina Delmont Returns to Lincoln in Estate Case,” Morning World-Herald, 1 February 1922, 1; “Mrs. Maude Delmont Arrives in Lincoln,” Lincoln Journal Star, 1 February 1922, 4; “Longtime Romance Buds: Mrs. Delmont and Lawrence Johnston Engaged,” Nebraska State Journal, 3 February 1922, 1; “Arbuckle Witness Coming to Omaha,” Omaha Daily Bee, 2 February 1922, 2; United Press, “10 to 2 Jury Surpise to Maude Delmont,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 5, 1922, 8; “Politics Playing Part in Arbuckle Case, Woman Says: Bambina Delmont Hints at Deep-laid Intrigue,” Springfield Leader and Press, 5 February 1922, 1; “Arbuckle’s Accuser is Here Mrs. Delmont,” Kansas City Star, 5 February 1922, 10; E.C.B., “Stage Gossip and Film News,” Oregon Daily Journal, 18 September 1922, 8; “Mrs. Delmont Plays in 10-20-30s; Also in Return Engagement with Ex-Fiancé,” San Francisco Call, 13 February 1922, 3.