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Roscoe Conkling ARBUCKLE






A.K.A.: "Fatty"
Classification: Homicide ?
Characteristics: Rape ?
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 3, 1921
Date of birth: March 24, 1881
Victim profile: Virginia Rappe, 30 (aspiring actress)
Method of murder:
Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Status: Not guilty verdict on April 12, 1922. Died on June 29, 1933
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2

Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle, also known as Fatty Arbuckle (March 24, 1887 – June 29, 1933), was an American silent film comedian, director, and screenwriter. Arbuckle is noted as one of the most popular actors of his era, but he is best remembered for a heavily publicized criminal prosecution that ended his career. Although he was acquitted by a jury with a written apology, the trial's scandal ruined the actor, who would not appear on screen again for another 10 years.

Early life and career

Born in Smith Center, Kansas, to Mollie and William Goodrich Arbuckle, he had several years of Vaudeville experience, including work at Idora Park in Oakland, California. One of his earliest mentors was comedian Leon Errol. He began his film career with the Selig Polyscope Company in July 1909. Arbuckle appeared sporadically in Selig one-reelers until 1913, moved briefly to Universal Pictures and became a star in producer-director Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops comedies.

Arbuckle was also a talented singer. After Enrico Caruso heard him sing he urged the comedian to "give up this nonsense you do for a living, with training you could become the second greatest singer in the world".

On August 6, 1908 he married Araminta Estelle Durfee (1889-1975), the daughter of Charles Warren Durfee and Flora Adkins. Durfee starred in many early comedy films under the name Minta Durfee, often with Arbuckle.

Screen comedian

Despite his massive physical size, Arbuckle was remarkably agile and acrobatic. Mack Sennett, when recounting his first meeting with Arbuckle, noted that he "skipped up the stairs as lightly as Fred Astaire"; and, "without warning went into a feather light step, clapped his hands and did a backward somersault as graceful as a girl tumbler". His comedies are noted as rollicking and fast-paced, have many chase scenes, and feature sight gags. Arbuckle was fond of the famous "pie in the face," a comedy cliché that has come to symbolize silent-film-era comedy itself.

The earliest known use of this gag was in the June 1913 Keystone one-reeler A Noise from the Deep, starring Arbuckle and frequent screen partner Mabel Normand. (Note, the first known "pie in the face" on-screen is in Ben Turpin's Mr. Flip in 1909. However, the oldest known thrown "pie in the face" is Normand's).

In 1914 Paramount Pictures made the then-unheard of offer of $1,000 a day/25% of all profits/complete artistic control to make movies with them. The movies were so lucrative and popular that in 1918 they offered Arbuckle a 3-year/$3 million contract.

Arbuckle disliked his screen nickname, which he had been given because of his substantial girth. However, the name Fatty (big buster) identifies the character that Arbuckle portrayed on-screen (usually, a naive hayseed) -- not Arbuckle himself. When Arbuckle portrayed a female, the character was named "Miss Fatty" (as in the film Miss Fatty's Seaside Lovers). Hence, Arbuckle discouraged anyone from addressing him as "Fatty" off-screen.

Buster Keaton

Arbuckle gave Buster Keaton his first film-making work in his 1917 short, The Butcher Boy. They soon became screen partners, with deadpan Buster soberly assisting wacky Roscoe in his crazy adventures. When Arbuckle was promoted to feature films, Keaton inherited the short-subject series, which launched his own career as a comedy star. Arbuckle and Keaton's close friendship never wavered, even when Arbuckle was beset by tragedy at the zenith of his career, and through the depression and downfall that followed. In his autobiography Keaton described Arbuckle's playful nature and his love of practical jokes, including several elaborately constructed schemes the two successfully pulled off at the expense of various Hollywood studio heads and stars.

Charlie Chaplin

After English actor Charlie Chaplin joined Keystone Studios in 1914, Arbuckle mentored him. Chaplin's most famous character, "the Tramp", was created after Chaplin "borrowed" Arbuckle's trademark balloon pants, boots and tiny hat.

The Scandal

At the height of his career, Arbuckle was under contract to Paramount Studios for $1 million a year -- the first multi-year/multi-million dollar deal paid by a Hollywood studio.  He worked tirelessly, filming three feature films simultaneously. On September 3, 1921 Arbuckle took a break from his hectic film schedule and drove to San Francisco with two friends, Lowell Sherman (an actor/director) and cameraman Fred Fischbach. The three checked into the St. Francis Hotel, decided to have a party, and invited several women to their suite. During the carousing, a 30-year-old aspiring actress named Virginia Rappe became seriously ill and was examined by the hotel doctor, who concluded her symptoms were mostly caused by intoxication.

Rappe died three days later of peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder. Rappe's companion at the party, Maude Delmont, claimed before a grand jury that Arbuckle had somehow pierced Rappe's bladder while raping her. Rappe's manager Al Semnacker (at a later press conference) accused Arbuckle of using a piece of ice to simulate sex with her, which led to the injuries. By the time the story was reported in newspapers, the object had 'evolved' into being a Coca-Cola or Champagne bottle, instead of a piece of ice. In fact, witnesses testified that Arbuckle rubbed the ice on Rappe's stomach to ease her abdominal pain. Arbuckle was confident that he had nothing to be ashamed of, and denied any wrongdoing.

Delmont later made a statement (incriminating Arbuckle) to the police, in an attempt to extort money from Arbuckle's attorneys; but, the matter soon spun out of her control.

Roscoe Arbuckle's career is cited by many film historians as one of the great tragedies of Hollywood. His trial was a major media event and stories in William Randolph Hearst's nationwide newspaper chain were written with the intent of making Arbuckle appear guilty. The resulting scandal destroyed both his career and his personal life. Morality groups called for Arbuckle to be sentenced to death, and studio executives ordered Arbuckle's industry friends (whose careers they controlled) to not publicly speak up for him. Charlie Chaplin was in England at the time. Buster Keaton did make a public statement in support of Arbuckle, calling Roscoe one of the kindest souls he had known. Film actor William S. Hart, who never worked with Arbuckle, made public statements which presumed that Arbuckle was guilty.

The prosecutor was San Francisco District Attorney Mathew Brady, who was determined to get a conviction as he was planning to use the case in his campaign to run for governor. To this end, Brady made public pronouncements of Arbuckle’s guilt, and pressured witnesses to make false statements. During the hearing and despite the judge threatening a motion to dismiss the case, Brady refused to allow the only witness accusing Arbuckle, Maude Delmont, to take the stand and testify. Delmont had a long criminal record with convictions for racketeering, bigamy, fraud and extortion. The defense had also gotten hold of a letter from Delmont admitting to a plan to extort Arbuckle. Along with Delmont’s constantly changing story, for her to testify would have ended any chance of going for trial. In his summation, the judge demolished every bit of the prosecution's evidence, and harangued Brady for producing such a flimsy case. The judge found no evidence of rape, but decided that Arbuckle could be tried for manslaughter.

The first trial: What evidence the prosecution presented was often greeted with laughter from the courtroom; the spectators stood and cheered for Arbuckle after he testified. The jury returned deadlocked with a 10 - 2 not guilty verdict, and a mistrial was declared.

The second trial: The same evidence was presented, but this time one of the witnesses, Zey Prevon, testified that the district attorney had forced her to lie. Another witness who claimed Arbuckle had bribed him turned out to be an escaped prisoner charged with assaulting an 8 year old girl; plus, fingerprint experts testified that the case's fingerprint evidence was faked. The defence was so convinced of an acquittal that Arbuckle was not called to testify. However, the jury interpreted the refusal to let Arbuckle testify as a sign of guilt. It returned deadlocked with a 10 - 2 guilty verdict -- another mistrial was declared.

The third trial: By this time Arbuckle's films had been banned, and newspapers had been filled for seven months with alleged stories of Hollywood orgies, murder, sexual perversity and lies about Arbuckle's case. Maude Delmont was touring the country giving one-woman shows as "The woman who signed the murder charge against Arbuckle", and lecturing on the evils of Hollywood. This time, it took the jury a mere 6 minutes to return a unanimous not guilty verdict; five of those were taken to write a statement of apology. Unfortunately, public opinion had long-since been turned strongly against Arbuckle; six days after the verdict, the censorship board banned Roscoe Arbuckle from ever working in U.S. movies again.

The Arbuckle case was one of four major Paramount-related scandals of the period. In 1920 Olive Thomas died after drinking a large quantity of medication meant for her husband (matinee idol Jack Pickford) which she had mistaken for water. In 1922 the murder of director William Desmond Taylor effectively ended the careers of actresses Mary Miles Minter and former Arbuckle screen partner Mabel Normand and in 1923 actor/director Wallace Reid's drug addiction resulted in his death. The scandals caused by these tragedies rocked Hollywood, leading major studios to include morality clauses in contracts.

Owing to the scandal, most exhibitors declined to show Arbuckle's latest films. Ironically, one of the few feature-length films known to survive is Leap Year, one of two finished films Paramount withheld the release of, amid the scandal. It was eventually released in Europe, but was never theatrically released in the United States or Britain.


On January 27, 1925 he divorced Araminta Estelle Durfee in Paris. She had charged desertion. Arbuckle married Doris Deane on May 16, 1925.

Arbuckle tried returning to moviemaking, but industry resistance to distributing his pictures lingered after his acquittal; he retreated into alcoholism. In the words of his first wife, "Roscoe only seemed to find solace and comfort in a bottle."

Buster Keaton attempted to help Arbuckle by giving him work on Keaton's films. Arbuckle wrote the story for a Keaton short called "Daydreams." Arbuckle allegedly co-directed scenes in Keaton's Sherlock, Jr., but it is unclear how much of this footage remained in the film's final cut.

Arbuckle also directed a number of comedy shorts under the pseudonym William Goodrich for Educational Pictures, which featured lesser-known comics of the day. Louise Brooks, who played the ingenue in one of them (Windy Riley Goes Hollywood, 1931), told Kevin Brownlow, "He made no attempt to direct this picture. He sat in his chair like a man dead. He had been very nice and sweetly dead ever since the scandal that ruined his career. But it was such an amazing thing for me to come in to make this broken-down picture, and to find my director was the great Roscoe Arbuckle. Oh, I thought he was magnificent in films. He was a wonderful dancer -- a wonderful ballroom dancer, in his heyday. It was like floating in the arms of a huge doughnut -- really delightful."

Arbuckle is said to have helped Bob Hope early in his career with a crucial job referral.

In 1929 Doris Deane sued for divorce in Los Angeles, charging desertion and cruelty. On June 21, 1931 Roscoe married Addie Oakley Dukes McPhail (later Addie Oakley Sheldon, 1906-2003) in Erie, Pennsylvania. Shortly before this marriage, Arbuckle signed a contract with Jack Warner to star in six two-reel Vitaphone short comedies under his own name.

The six Vitaphone shorts, filmed in Brooklyn, constitute the only recordings of his voice. Silent-film comedian Al St. John (Arbuckle's nephew) and actors Lionel Stander and Shemp Howard appeared with Arbuckle. The films were very successful in America, although when Warner Brothers attempted to release the first one ("Hey, Pop!") in the UK, the British film board cited the 10-year-old scandal and refused to grant an exhibition certificate.

Roscoe Arbuckle had finished filming the last of the two-reelers on June 28, 1933; the next day he was signed by Warner Brothers to make a feature-length film. At last, Arbuckle's professional reputation was restored, and he was welcomed back into the world he loved. He reportedly said, "This is the best day of my life." The exhilaration may have been too much for him: he died that night of a heart attack. He was 46. He was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

William Goodrich pseudonym

According to author David Yallop in The Day the Laughter Stopped (a biography of Arbuckle with special attention to the scandal and its aftermath), Arbuckle's father's full name was William Goodrich Arbuckle. A persistent but unsupported legend credited Keaton, an inveterate punster, with suggesting that Arbuckle become a director under the alias "Will B. Good." The pun being too obvious, Arbuckle adopted the more formal pseudonym "William Goodrich".

Yallop's book also states that Roscoe Arbuckle was extremely large and heavy even at birth and that William Goodrich Arbuckle did not believe the child was his own offspring; this disbelief led him to name the child after a politician whom he despised: Roscoe Conkling.


Many of Arbuckle's films, including the feature Life of the Party, survive only as worn prints with foreign-language inter-titles. Little or no effort was made to preserve original negatives and prints during Hollywood's first two decades. By the early 21st century some of Arbuckle's short subjects (particularly those co-starring Chaplin or Keaton) had been restored, released on DVD and even screened theatrically. Arbuckle's early influence on American slapstick comedy is widely cited.

Director Kevin Connor will helm the Roscoe Arbuckle feature film, The Life of the Party, as reported by the website Dark Horizons. Preston Lacy will portray Arbuckle and Chris Kattan will play Buster Keaton. The movie is being produced by Doug Peterson and writer Victor Bardack.

The 1975 James Ivory film The Wild Party has been repeatedly but incorrectly cited as a film dramatization of the Arbuckle/Rappe scandal. In fact it is loosely based on the 1920s poem by Joseph Moncure March. In this film, James Coco portrays a heavy-set silent-film comedian named Jolly Grimm whose career is on the skids, but who is desperately planning a comeback. Raquel Welch portrays his mistress, who ultimately goads him into shooting her. This film may have been inspired by misconceptions surrounding the Arbuckle scandal, yet it bears almost no resemblance to the documented facts of the case.

In April and May of 2006, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City exhibited most of the surviving Arbuckle films.

Further reading

  • Edmonds, Andy (January 1991). Frame-Up!: The Untold Story of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. New York, NY: William Morrow & Company. ISBN 0688091296.

  • Yallop, David (August 1991). The Day the Laughter Stopped. London: Transworld Publishers. ISBN 055213452X.

  • Oderman, Stuart (July 2005). Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle: A Biography Of The Silent Film Comedian, 1887-1933. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786422777.

  • Neibaur, James L. (December 2006). Arbuckle and Keaton: Their 14 Film Collaborations. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786428317.


Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

By Wanda Felix

Abandoned By Hollywood

A Truly American Scandal

Mack Sennett recalled meeeting him: "A tremendous man skipped up the steps as lightly as Fred Astaire. He was tremendous, obese --- just plain fat. 'Name's Arbuckle,' he said, 'Roscoe Arbuckle. Call me Fatty! I'm with a stock company. I'm a funnyman and an acrobat. But I could do good in pictures. Watcha think?' With no warning he went into a featherlight step, clapped his hands, and did a backward somersault as graceful as a girl tumbler."

Adela Rogers St. Johns remembered the early days in Hollywood like this: "Everybody loved everybody. There were love affairs going on, and everybody had an excitement about the whole thing that I've never seen since. None of us knew even vaguely what we were doing. None of us knew what this picture business had come to; the greatest form of art and entertainment the world has ever known was put together there for awhile. It didn't last long but it was great, and here we were, right in the middle of the goldfish bowl, with everybody beginning to look at us."

By 1921 Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was one of the highest paid actor/directors in the motion picture business. But on September 5 of that year, during a weekend party he was throwing at the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco, the water in the goldfish bowl turned murky. Virginia Rappe (Rap-pay), a girl attending the party, ran screaming from a bedroom, took sick and died four days later.

On September 17 Roscoe Arbuckle was arraigned in San Francisco charged with the rape and murder of Virginia Rappe. The legendary producer, Adolph Zukor (who footed the legal bill) tried to bring in the great trial lawyer, Earl Rogers, father of Adela, but Rogers was in ill health and couldn't take the case.

Adela remembered her father speaking to her about Fatty's plight, "They will make it very tough on him, because of his weight. A man of that enormous fatness being charged with the rape of a young girl will prejudice them, even just the thought of it."

Indeed, they made it very tough on the fat man. As Kevin Brownilow puts it in Hollywood: The Pioneers:

"District Attorney Matthew Brady ... must have been beside himself. An intensely ambitious man, he planned to run for governor. Here presented to him in the most sensational terms, was the scandal of the century-an apparent open and shut case."

The ambitious Mr. Brady had a very helpful ally in William Randolph Hearst --- the undisputed champion of yellow journalism. Early director, and friend of Arbuckle's, Viola Dana recalled,

"Hearst was instrumental in wanting the motion picture industry in Northern California (i.e. San Francisco), and instead it settled in Southern California. I think that was part of his motive in crucifying Arbuckle."

Hearst crucified Arbuckle for another reason --- circulation ... Hearst was gratified by the Arbuckle scandal; he said later that it had "sold more newspapers than any event since the sinking of the Lusitania."

The ugliest twist, one many people are unaware of, is that Arbuckle was completely innocent. He was set up by a venal woman named Maude Delmont, known as "Madame Black." Delmont would provide girls for parties and then have the girl claim she was raped by a prominent director or producer. Concerned about his career, the victim would submit to Delmont's request for money to keep the story out of the press. When Rappe died a few days after the party, from a condition unrelated to the events at the St. Francis Hotel, Delmont gave Fatty Arbuckle's name to the police.

Arbuckle's wife stuck by him throughout the trial --- such was the public's scorn that she was shot at while entering the courthouse --- but the producers in Hollywood forbade his movie friends to testify on his behalf fearing that their careers would be besmirched and that the scandal would cut into profits.

After two trials resulted in hung juries, Fatty was acquitted at the third, with a written apology from the jury --- an apology unprecedented in American justice.

"Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle [they wrote]. We feel that a great injustice has been done him ... there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case and told a straightforward story which we all believe. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgement of fourteen men and women that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame."

It was, of course, too little too late. Will Hays, the ex-Postmaster General, had been installed as a kind of overlord-Pope charged with cleaning up the movies for America. As Arbuckle faced his second trial, so Brownlow puts it in his book:

Hays went into a sort of metaphorical desert to consult with his conscience ... On April 19, 1922 Will Hays made the first major policy decision of his new job. He banned Roscoe Arbuckle from the screen.

Roscoe Arbuckle's career was decimated. The funnyman who'd done handsprings down
the steps to introduce himself to Mack Sennet; the fat man who'd two years earlier signed a contract with Adolph Zukor for the astronomical sum of one million dollars a year; the director who'd acted as mentor to his friend Buster Keaton, would never rise again. A scandal fueled entirely by innuendo had been hideously successful. Fatty's time was past.

Arbuckle worked as a director, under another name, on several films after the trials. Keaton suggested he use the name Will B. Good, he did ... almost. Louise Brooks told Kevin Brownlow about working with Arbuckle at that time.

He was working under the name William Goodrich. He made no attempt to direct this picture. He sat in his chair like a dead man. He had been very nice and sweetly dead since that scandal had ruined his career. It was such an amazing thing for me to come in to make this picture and to find my director was the great Roscoe Arbuckle. Oh, I thought he was magnificent in films. He was a wonderful dancer --- a wonderful ballroom dancer, in his heyday. It was like floating in the arms of a huge doughnut --- really delightful.

Arbuckle died a few years later.

In the short history of the motion picture, Fatty Arbuckle is of central importance. His coat and hat were borrowed by a young Charlie Chaplin to create a character that became an American icon. He was a very close friend of Buster Keaton's and is credited with singlehandedly sheparding Keaton's early film career. That Arbuckle is usually conceived as a minor figure stands as testament to the power of the vendetta directed at him.

"Oh, we kept having scandals right along," said Adela Rogers St. Johns. "If you throw into one small town and one small industry, the people who can impress the world with their drama, their sex appeal, with their lovemaking, with all of the big emotional dramatic things that can happen, and you put them all together in one little bowl, you're going to have some explosions. I'm only surprised we had so few."

In His Own Words - Roscoe On The Scandal

The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was to keep still for the twelve weeks between September 10th, when I heard that Virginia Rappe had died in a San Francisco hospital, and November 28, when I went on the witness stand to tell my story for the first time.

As soon as I was told that I was being held responsible for Miss Rappe's death and that I would have to clear myself in the eyes of a jury and of the world, I wanted to tell the truth. No one but myself could tell the whole truth of the affair, for no one else knew. Other people knew part of the story, and some of them thought that they knew a great deal more than they really did, but I alone could tell everything.

However, I realized that my attorneys knew best and that if I spoke too soon there would be danger of hurting my case and that the wisest thing would be to keep silent until the right time came to speak. So although I did not look forward with any pleasure to going on the witness stand--no man likes to have to defend himself against charges that he knows are unjust--I was really glad that at last the chance had come to let the whole world know that I was not guilty of the crime charged against me.

I did not hurt Virginia Rappe in any way whatever. I never had any intention of hurting her. I would not hurt any woman.

Whatever motive inspired the people who accused me, it was not knowledge that I had done the thing they said I did. It seems almost impossible to me that anyone could be so cruel and malicious as to make such terrible charges against a man without the most positive proof to support those charges, and yet that is what happened.

I was accused of saying and doing things that never entered my mind, and not only that, but things I did say and do were twisted and misinterpreted until they sounded very different from the truth.

People have talked about me as entertaining a gay party in my rooms at the hotel that day. It has been referred to again and again as the "Arbuckle party."

It wasn't my party at all. The only person who came to those rooms that day at my invitation was Mrs. Mae Taube, with whom I had made an engagement to go driving in the afternoon.

Other people invited all the other guests. Most of the guests I had never seen before that afternoon. Miss Rappe came at the invitation of Fred Fishback, and he invited her at the suggestion of Ira Fortlouis, who had seen the girl and thought she would do for a model. Mrs. Delmont came with Miss Rappe. I really don't know how the others happened to come. The first thing I knew, they were there, and that was all there was to it.

I had arisen that morning about 11 o'clock, and had put on my pajamas, bathrobe and slippers. If I had had any idea that people were coming to the rooms, I certainly would have changed my clothes, but, as I say, the people simply walked in. When they were there, they made themselves at home, went back and forth between the rooms, and I had no time to dress. I hadn't invited them, but they were in my rooms, and I couldn't be rude.

There were three rooms in the suite, 1219, 1220 and 1221. The sitting room was 1220, and the other two were bedrooms, one on each side of the sitting room. Most of the time the people stayed in 1220, but they went into the other rooms whenever they wanted to.

Early in the afternoon I saw Virginia Rappe go into Room 1221. I did not see her come out again. It was almost time for my automobile to arrive, and so I went into Room 1219, which was my bedroom, intending to dress. I had no idea that there was anybody in the room.

I closed the door into 1220 and locked it, because the people were going back and forth between the rooms, and I wanted to keep them out while I was dressing.

I went straight to the bathroom, and as I opened the door, it struck against something. I pushed in, and saw Miss Rappe lying on the floor, clutching her body with both hands and moaning. Of course, I thought right away that she was ill, and my first thought was to help her.

As quickly as I could, I picked her up from the floor and held her while she suffered an attack of nausea. She seemed to be very sick, but she had been drinking some liquor, and I thought that was the trouble.

And by the way, the liquor which was served that afternoon was not mine. All I know about it is that Fred Fishback went to the closet in Room 1221 and brought out a couple of bottles of Scotch whiskey and a bottle of gin. Some orange juice and seltzer were sent up from downstairs, and everyone helped himself to drinks. Miss Rappe drank gin and orange juice, about three drinks.

As soon as Miss Rappe was able, I helped her out into the room. She said something about wanting to lie down, and I set her on the edge of one of the beds. She lay down, and I lifted her feet to the bed and left her there for a minute, as I thought that she was simply ill from too much liquor and would be all right if she could lie quietly.

I stepped out of the room for a minute, and when I came back, Miss Rappe was lying on the floor between the two beds, again clutching her body and moaning. All this time she said nothing that I could understand, just moaned and seemed to be in pain.

I picked her up and laid her on the bed. Then I went out into 1220, and found Zey Prevost [Prevon] there.

I said: "Virginia is sick" and Miss Prevost went into Room 1219.

Mrs. Delmont was not in 1220 when I came out. I know that she has said and Miss Prevost has testified that they knocked at the door from 1220 into 1219, and Mrs. Delmont has insisted that she kicked as well as knocked, but I never heard a sound, and when I came out to get somebody to help Miss Rappe, Mrs. Delmont was not in sight.

She came in a moment later from Room 1221, and went into Room 1219 with Miss Prevost.

I followed them into the room, and saw Miss Rappe sitting on the bed, tearing at her clothing. She had both hands gripped in her waist, and was ripping it to shreds, gritting her teeth and making noises. She tried to tear the green jacket she was wearing, but she could not tear it. Then she took hold of her stockings and garters and ripped them off.

I told Mrs. Delmont and Miss Prevost to make Miss Rappe stop tearing her clothing, but she wouldn't stop. She acted like a person in a terrible temper, almost beside herself. She didn't scream or say anything, just moaned and tore at her garments.

One sleeve of her waist was hanging by a thread. I thought perhaps the best thing would be to try to quiet her instead of opposing her, so I sent over to her and took hold of the sleeve, and pulled it off, saying: "All right, if you want it off, I'll help you." All I meant was that she seemed in an uncontrollable spasm of some kind, and I was afraid that if tried to argue with her, she might hurt herself.

After that I went out of the room, and when I came back a little later, Miss Rappe was lying unclothed on the bed and Mrs. Delmont was rubbing her with a piece of ice. I picked up a piece of ice that was lying on Miss Rappe's body, and asked Mrs. Delmont what was the idea. It seemed to me pretty dangerous treatment for anybody but a doctor or a nurse to try.

Mrs. Delmont turned on me angrily and told me to shut up and mind my own business--that she knew how to take care of Virginia. It made me angry, for all I wanted to do was to help the sick girl, and Mrs. Delmont was talking to me in a way I didn't like, so I told her to shut up or I would throw her out of the window. Of course, I wouldn't really have done it; it was just one of those things one says in a moment of anger without any idea of literal meaning.

That is an example of how things I really did say have been twisted and turned against me. It has been made to sound as if I had said that to Virginia Rappe while she lay there suffering and ill. I said it, but I certainly did not say it to Miss Rappe, nor did I mean her when I said it. I would have been a brute to have spoken to a sick girl like that.

I realized by that time that Miss Rappe was probably more seriously ill than I had thought, and should have a room to herself, so I went back into the other rooms and asked Mrs. Taube to telephone to the manager of the hotel and ask for another room. The manager came up in a few minutes, and told us where we might take Miss Rappe.

We rolled her up in a bathrobe--she had been lying nude on the bed all this time, and uncovered except after I had managed to pull the spread out from under her and cover her with it. Then I took her in my arms and started down the hall toward the other room. When I was nearly there, she started to slip from my arms; she was limp and half-conscious, and very hard to hold. I asked the hotel manager to lift her up a little, but he took her in his arms and carried her into the room.

After she was put to bed, I told them to get a doctor, and then I went back to my rooms.

I did not know that Virginia Rappe was even seriously ill until I got word of her death. I went back to Los Angeles the next day, because I had reservations on the steamer for my party and my car. There was never any thought in my mind that Miss Rappe was suffering from anything more than the effects of too much liquor or an attack of slight illness. The news of her death was my first intimation that it was serious.

The State's witnesses have testified that they heard screams coming from my rooms. I know that all afternoon the window was wide open, and any sound louder than an ordinary conversation could have been heard without any difficulty; and people who occupied adjoining rooms have declared that they heard nothing.

They have made a great deal out of some finger prints that were found on the door of Room 1219--the door that lead into the hallway. Experts have tried to show that the prints must have been made by Virginia Rappe's fingers and mine, and that when they were made, her hand was against the door and I was trying to drag it off.

I don't know where they get such ideas. There seemed to be marks on the door when it was brought into the courtroom, but I certainly did not put them there. I am positive that I never touched that door with my hand all day, as I had not gone out into the hallway, but only into the other rooms of the suite. Certainly I never touched it in the way they said I did. It's a mystery to me.

Jesse Norgaard, who said he was a janitor at the Culver City studios when Miss Rappe and I were both working there, testified that once I asked him for the keys to her rooms, saying that I wanted to play a joke on her. I suppose the idea was to show that I tried to force myself into her room when she didn't want to let me in.

That is absolutely false. I never made any such request of Norgaard, nor did I offer him money for the keys, as he said I did. In fact, when I saw Norgaard on the witness stand, I couldn't remember ever having seen him before. He may have been at the studios, but there were so many people there that I couldn't remember them all.

All this talk of my having been infatuated with Miss Rappe or trying to "get her," is absurd. I knew her for several years; we had worked at the same studios, and I had met her in other places, but that was absolutely all.

I knew when I went on the witness stand that my cross-examination was going to be as rigid as it could be made, but I had no fear, for I was telling nothing but the truth. I know that the lawyers tried many times to catch me on details, but they couldn't, because everything I said was true, and there was no need to remember what I had said the first time. No man can do any more than to tell the truth, and it was the truth I told on the witness stand.

A great many very harsh and unjust things have been said about me since this affair began and they have hurt me very much. I have always had many friends, but I found when this trouble came, who my real friends were.

It has hurt me deeply to think that the people to whom I have tried to give good clean enjoyment for so many years could turn on me and condemn me without a hearing. I suppose every man accused of crime must expect that, but it didn't make it any easier for me.

I have been very grateful to the other people who refused to believe that I was guilty merely because I was accused of crime. There have been many of them. I have received many many letters and telegrams from people all over the country, assuring me that they believed in me, and I am glad to know that I have these real friends.

If everything is straightened out at last and I am cleared of all the charges, I hope that these friends will be as ready to welcome me back on the screen as I shall be glad to get back. I like to make people laugh and enjoy themselves. It pleases me because children are amused at my pictures, and I have always tried very hard not to do anything in any picture that would offend or be bad for the children.

One really good thing has come out of all this trouble. It has been the means of reuniting my wife and myself after five years of separation. We are happy to be together again, and we have discovered that the things that kept us apart were very unimportant after all.

Mrs. Arbuckle has been wonderfully loyal to me during all this trouble. She came all the way across the continent to be with me, and every minute she has stuck by me. Her faith and love, and the faith and love of her mother, who is like a mother to me, have been my greatest helps all these long hard weeks.

While, through the technicalities of the law, I have not been legally acquitted of the charge of manslaughter in connection with the death of Virginia Rappe, I have been morally acquitted.

After the organized propaganda, designed to make the securing of an impartial jury an impossibility and to prevent my obtaining a fair trial, I feel grateful for this message from the jury to the American people. This comes, too, after hearing only part of the facts, as the efforts of the District Attorney succeeded, on technical objections, in excluding from the jury the statements from Miss Rappe to several people of high character, completely exonerating me.

The undisputed and uncontradicted testimony established that my only connection with this sad affair was one of merciful service, and the fact that ordinary human kindness should have brought upon me this tragedy has seemed a cruel wrong. I have sought to bring joy and gladness and merriment into the world, and why this great misfortune should have fallen upon me is a mystery that only God can, and will, some day reveal.

I have always rested my cause in a profound believe in Divine justice and in the confidence of the great heart and fairness of the American people.

I want to thank the multitude from all over the world who have telegraphed and written to me in my sorrow and expressed their utmost confidence in my innocence. I assure them that no act of mine ever has, and I promise them that no act of mine ever shall cause them to regret their faith in me.

Roscoe Arbuckle
December 31, 1921



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