Was Virginia Rappe in therapy?

Dr. Victor La Tour, the “metaphysician” and psychologist—in the nascent field of applied psychology—is rarely mentioned or discussed in previous Arbuckle case narratives though he testified for the prosecution at the first Arbuckle trial as did his wife Blanche La Tour. In 1920, La Tour had treated Virginia Rappe for a nervous condition. His wife claimed that Rappe had been to his office on ten occasions. His treatment likely coincided with Rappe’s exercise and weight-loss program that occupied her throughout the summer and fall of that year.

Under cross-examination, Arbuckle’s lawyers tried to pin down Dr. La Tour on Rappe’s physical condition in order to support their assertion that Rappe suffered from a bladder disease.

Undoubtedly coached by two assistant district attorneys, La Tour and his wife managed to avoid falling into any traps that would have Rappe being treated for an organic condition. The kind of medicine that a metaphysician practiced promised to cure what conventional doctors could not in the early twentieth century—that included a host of chronic conditions, including cystitis and pelvic pain.

A man in his early fifties, Dr. La Tour’s advertisements in Holly Leaves and the Hollywood Citizen described him as a Ph.D., psychic advisor, healer, teacher, and author of books that “HELP and Heal,” including his latest title, The New Life Science, “a rational treatise on practical metaphysics.” His office on Hollywood Boulevard was called the “Home of Truth” that promised “a home of the Universal, a place of rest, prayer and meditation,” where everyone “regardless of creed, cult or nationality is invited to take advantage of the benevolent influence of this institution.”

A 1917 testimonial in the Santa Barbara Morning Press (CDNC)

The Metaphysical Magazine of the 1890s published many essays about the core philosophy of the metaphysician, which asserted that human beings suffered a range of mental and psychosomatic disorders that were self-inflicted delusions—the “psychic factor of the organism.” The metaphysician’s purpose was to impress upon the sufferer that it was not the physical condition that regulated mental state, but the other way around.

“The human mind is so constructed that it cannot be entirely and permanently deceived,” it was stated in the magazine’s Healing Philosophy. “In the midst of the deepest delusion there is an internal “something” that speaks of hope and forces conviction that impels thought in the direction of salvation from the impending disasters.” One saw a metaphysician when “drug doctors”—that is, conventional “licentiate” physicians—had no drugs that could treat the illness. Metaphysicians, however, offered alternative treatments, chief among them hypnosis, seen in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a panacea.

Dr. La Tour was undoubtedly in the tradition—if not a student—of the flamboyant occultist Alexander J. McIvor-Tyndall, who flourished in Chicago during the World’s Fair and afterward in Los Angeles from 1895 to 1905. As “Professor Tyndall”, he gave séances, read palms, and performed such feats as driving a horse and carriage blindfolded at breakneck speed through the crowded city streets. Later, as “Dr. McIvor-Tyndall”, he styled himself as a psychologist and metaphysician. He opened an institute for teaching on “Self-Culture” and lectured on such subjects as “The Psychic Wave” of mental unrest and “The Psychology of Women’s Rights”—often accompanied by a violinist.

Dr. La Tour surely filled the void Dr. McIvor-Tyndall left in Los Angeles. La Tour gave lectures himself and even appropriated much of the other’s mantle including his book Cosmic Consciousness: The Man-God whom We Await and his pen name “Ali Nomad”. La Tour was also entrepreneurial. He attempted to establish a health colony in Arizona which led to his 1918 arrest for the petty embezzlement of $50 paid by a female student, patient, or both who “did not derive the benefit from the lessons that she was promised.”

Despite practicing “pseudoscience” and even “quackery,” on a practical level Dr. La Tour served his patients much like a modern psychiatrist or life coach and Hollywood in the silent era provided plenty of patients. In Rappe’s case, La Tour’s testimony suggests he saw her for a short time. But his memories of her—without the prosecution’s guardrails—suggest he knew his patient better and longer—or he exaggerated them.

Source: Hollywood Citizen, 1918 (Newspapers.com)

The following piece from the Tacoma Sunday Ledger quotes Dr. La Tour at length during a lecture series that covered such topics as “how to be a millionaire” and “how to live to be 100 years old.” He obviously inserts himself. It is hard to imagine him waving back at Rappe as she is chauffeured away to San Francisco. It made for a better story. Nevertheless, his personal opinion of Rappe might have some basis in fact from having talked to her during his sessions.

His describing her as Jewish, for example, may have started with something she mentioned about her origins. Or it could simply be something he assumed, based on the racialist stereotyping common then (Irish ancestry explained an alcoholic; an assimilated Jewish woman would be prone to neuroses, and so on.) given her invented name, which he heard as Rappé.

The article also raises a few other questions: Was Rappe in an abusive relationship with Henry Lehrman? Was it Lehrman’s suggestion that she go to San Francisco to see Arbuckle? Was there the hope of a contract? Was there any quid pro quo?


Film City Scored by Psychologist: Dr. LaTour Warns Tacoma Girls against Hollywood; Tells of Experiences

Dr. Victor LaTour who, with Helen St. Albans, is giving a series of lectures at the Masonic Temple on Psychology, ending Tuesday, July 8. was a psycho-analyst in Hollywood for many years. Dr. LaTour declares he sounded warning to three movie stars who met unnatural deaths. He says he warned Virginia Rappe, beautiful film star, whose death followed a “gay party” given by Roscoe Arbuckle, of her untimely death. He was called as a witness in the Arbuckle case in defense of Miss Rappe.

“Even though you have youth, beauty, brains, histrionic ability and money, do not dissipate these attributes by endeavoring to get in the movies,” counsels the psycho-analyst. “Beautiful young women by the hundreds have lost everything and have ruined their lives, scores of them meeting untimely deaths, because of their mad search after fame in Hollywood. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce issued warning to be published all over the country that over 400 persons a day were arriving in the film colony hoping to get on. Old, young, fat, thin, blonde, brunette, men and women of all kinds, with their meager savings of years of toil after tireless effort, to go back to their home town ‘broke,’ disheartened and disillusioned,” stated the psychologists.

Warns Virginia Rappe

“Virginia Rappe, a beautiful young girl, who was then a star in Henry Lehrman productions and who was endeavoring to keep her hard-won laurels, came to me distraught, with nerves snapping, for she was naturally high strung and temperamental, a French Jewess. She needed my help and sought it, but was then leaving on the fatal trip to San Francisco where she met her death. The last I saw of her she was waving a goodbye as the party drove off in the expensive car. Some uncanny facts in the case are that all the men in the Arbuckle part have since met violent deaths except Arbuckle. Miss Rappe went to San Francisco with the idea of getting a contract from Arbuckle and she was hoping that during the evening of conviviality she would succeed. I warned her not to go and also to pull away from Henry Lehrman, who was on a trip to New York at the time and was keeping the wires hot, back and forth, in regard to this contract. The beautiful star was brought back to Hollywood in that tragic way, her life snapped out at its very beginning.

“Miss Nixon from Loreta, Tex., who I warned, was a beautiful young girl of Spanish type, a school teacher, with all of the fire and romance of her Spanish ancestors. I was called to see her late one night by the clerk of the Clark Hotel. She ws in a fit of hysteria over a love affair with a well-known producer and director of the film colony. After quieting her, which took a little time, I heard her story of her love affair and as we talked, I drew from her a tale the fact that she had a pistol, some poison and a wonderful jeweled dagger which was a family heirloom. She had decided to commit suicide with one of these three possessions.

Gets Pistol from Her

“I managed to get away from her the pistol and the poison, but she would not part with the jeweled dagger as there was sentiment connected with it. She told me in the course of the discussion that one of her forebears, who had a disappointment in a love affair, had stabbed her lover with this same dagger.  I told her to go back to her little home town in Texas, but she would not give up her sweetheart, although I counselled her to stop all correspondence with the man. One day she ran away to Chicago, met him there in the Morrison Hotel, and stabbed herself with the jeweled dagger in the crowded lobby, in the presence of her sweetheart. I had warned her that if she did not leave him she would not live one year.

“The third girl whom I warned, who met a tragic end, was from Louisville, KY.—a beautiful Southern girl, who moved in the best society of that city. She was talented, an actress with a wonderful personality, and she wanted to be good. The latter wish thoroughly dominated her consciousness. Because of the difficulties and the barriers of her success, which confronted her in every direction, she began to drink alcohol very heavily. She had boasted to her friends that she would ‘get in’ and had taken that vow upon herself. After tireless effort and searching, when she finally realized her ideals would have to be given up in order to ‘get in,’ she committed suicide and was found dead in an apartment in the center of Hollywood.

“These are not the only cases in which I know the intimate details the trials and struggles of the girls who come to Hollywood to ‘get in’ as I warn all movie-struck girls of Tacoma to remain in their home city and live useful lives with their friends and families.”

Source: Tacoma Daily Ledger, 6 July 1924, 6-A.


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