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.

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