One of the last films in which Virginia Rappe appears and which was in theaters in the summer of 1921, was A Game Lady (1921), directed by Henry Lehrman for First National Pictures. Like other photographs, these publicity photos from that film tell a story.
There is no extant copy of A Game Lady, but Rappe likely appeared in as many scenes as needed to show that she was the hunters’ quarry rather than game birds. There is no synopsis, but the two-reel comedy likely was formulaic, like other Henry Lehrman films, in which the sheer momentum of the action—scenes of the hunters’ misadventures as they seek the hand of Rappe’s “game lady” — was the point rather than story or character development. These photographs are from a series of lobby cards that were included in a Los Angeles Record article in the days after her death. Rappe doesn’t appear to be a comic performer in these photos but rather an object of desire.
The actor on the left is Rappe’s uncredited costar, the comic Jimmy Savo in hunting attire. Savo was making the transition from vaudeville to motion pictures at the time. The actor on her left (in the middle in the second photo) is Billy Engle, an old Lehrman standby.
A Game Lady is one of the films that shows Rappe after she had regained her figure following a regimen of diet and exercise that was supervised by her masseuse at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. She is dressed in a “riding habit” like the one she wore when she accompanied her manager Al Semnacher and his friend Maude Delmont on the drive to San Francisco and Arbuckle’s ill-fated Labor Day 1921 party.
A Game Lady was still showing in theaters as late as the third and fourth week of September. But like Roscoe Arbuckle’s films, it too was pulled from screens for cultivating the morbid curiosity of American moviegoers.