A photo insert in a nonfiction book provides a visual reference for readers. They have a face in mind—or faces as the subject evolves throughout the text. But very often one image will serve as the emblem for that person.
Maude Delmont, Rappe’s companion at “Fatty” Arbuckle’s Labor Day party, is a case in point. We are fairly certain that she sat for newspaper photographers twice, before and after her testimony at the San Francisco Coroner’s inquest on Wednesday, September 14, 1921. No other photographs of Delmont were used to identify her, as far as we know (save for an ersatz photograph used in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon that is really of Arbuckle’s estranged wife Minta Durfee).
In the above photo we see Delmont, presumably in the office of District Attorney Matthew Brady or the Detective Bureau.. She is in a black outfit, worn in mourning for Rappe, as described by reporters. There are also details that suggest this image, with the water glass and the police matron, was taken before her testimony. This testimony would be the only time she faced Arbuckle in a courtroom setting. While on the stand Delmont asked for warm water and a coffee cupful was procured, thus delaying the proceedings. The image below, from the Daily News, credited Underwood, has a coffee cup near Delmont’s left hand. Apparently, she brought the cup back with her to this office setting afterward.
Each image can be read differently. The first image features a gesture with the left hand that seems staged, theatric, connoting a “troubled heart” and the like. (That Delmont worked as an extra in motion pictures still needs to be confirmed.)
The second image shows a more relaxed woman, who looks as though she were falling asleep. If one knows that she had been given an injection to help her remain calm through her morning testimony before a coroner and his all-male jury, this photograph may have caught Delmont at the moment the drug was wearing off.
What occurred immediately following the taking of this photo is revealing and worth telling. In the Detective Bureau, Delmont confronted Rappe’s manager, Al Semnacher, and hit him in the face with her purse (visible on the table in the first image). She berated him for not bringing Rappe’s adopted aunt to San Francisco to accompany her “niece’s” body back to Los Angeles. She further embarrassed him by shouting that he wasn’t a man if he didn’t pay her $250 hotel bill ($1,600 adjusted for inflation), which may have included Rappe’s final expenses at the same hotel.
As she weakened in her hospital bed, Rappe repeatedly expressed her wish that Arbuckle take responsibility for paying her expenses. It seemed to be the only thing she held against him. The wish never reached Arbuckle. If it did, even having an inkling or intuition that she wanted money, Arbuckle likely discharged himself from any debt, doing what any good lawyer or manager would advise. To admit any responsibility invited “notoriety.”
Both Rappe and Delmont were of limited means at the time and were financially unprepared for the events that unfolded. Neither woman ever received money from Semnacher or Arbuckle.
[Needless to say, we are looking for additional photographs, especially original or reproductions suitable for our work-in-progress. We would enjoy hearing from anyone with leads to relevant materials and images.]