Virginia Rappe’s dog

One of the last photographs taken of Virginia Rappe before she left for San Francisco in September 1921 was with her dog “Jeff.” Like Roscoe Arbuckle’s dog “Luke,” Jeff was a Staffordshire bull terrier. The difference between the two was that Jeff had a brindle coat and, like Rappe, hadn’t made it big in pictures.

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Rappe and Jeff, 1921 (Calisphere)

Jeff was from a large menagerie of animals acquired by Rappe’s boyfriend, the comedy director Henry Lehrman, when he was in charge of Fox Studio’s Sunshine Comedy Co.

The menagerie also included: “Joe,” a monkey; “Theodore,” a cat; “Billy,” a goat; “Bum,” a bulldog; “Rats,” a terrier; “Ludwig,” a dachshund; as well as three unnamed white mice and four canaries.[1] Lehrman also had ostriches, ducks, chickens, a small herd of elephants, and a pair of lions.

Jeff’s first performance may have been this studio photograph with Virginia Rappe (below). He sits on a telephone stand while Rappe poses in a summer suit and Panama hat.[2]

Jeff and Virginia Rappe, about 1917 (Library of Congress)

The puppy bonded with her over time, due in part to her stepping in to comfort him when she thought his trainer was abusive.

Jeff was evidently indifferent about movie stardom, having once wandered away from a shoot in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park in August 1918, and found only after Lehrman was forced to offer a reward.

Eventually, Jeff became Rappe’s charge after he began routinely waiting at her car in the parking lot of Lehrman’s Culver City before she left for home. After refusing to recognize any other master, Rappe was allowed to keep Jeff as her own. But given Lehrman’s penchant for dangerous stunts, Jeff may have been easy to part with, having already lost an eye, which spoiled his appearance and ended his brief career.

[1] “Who Said Monkey Dinner?” Los Angeles Times, 29 July 1917, III:2.

[2] See “Lost Dog Star, Not Sirius, But Lehrman’s Jess [sic],” Los Angeles Herald, 10 August 1918, II:3; and “Aunt, Pet Mourn Death of Miss Rappe,” San Francisco Call, 16 September 1921, 2.