Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe (Fake News: Fact Checking Hollywood Babylon Episode 3) / by Karina Longworth

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At a boozy party over Labor Day weekend 1921, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, silent Hollywood’s superstar plus-size comedian, followed sometime actress Virginia Rappe into a hotel room. They were alone together for only a few minutes, but in that time, Rappe fell ill, and died several days later from her sickness. Arbuckle was tried for murder, and accused of rape in the newspapers. The story of the definitive sex-and-death scandal in early Hollywood history, which left a woman dead and effectively killed off a star comedian’s career, has been plagued with misinformation and distortions for nearly 100 years. Today we’ll closely examine Anger’s text to demonstrate how he implies both Arbuckle and Rappe’s guilt, and we’ll also use more recent scholarship on the case to try to suss out what really happened in that hotel room, and how the facts were distorted throughout Arbuckle’s three trials. 

This episode includes graphic descriptions of sexual violence. 

 Portrait of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle wearing a smoking jacket and surrounded by kneeling young ladies, c. 1918

Portrait of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle wearing a smoking jacket and surrounded by kneeling young ladies, c. 1918

 Virginia Rappe, c. 1920

Virginia Rappe, c. 1920

 Trashed hotel suite at the St. Francis Hotel, 1921

Trashed hotel suite at the St. Francis Hotel, 1921

Music:

Original music was composed for this episode by Evan Viola. Most of the rest of the music used in this episode, with the exception of the intro and outro, was sourced from royalty-free music libraries and licensed music collections. The intro includes a clip from the film Casablanca. The outro song this week is Modern History by The Auteurs.

Excerpts from the following songs were used throughout the episode:

The Smoke Room - Gunnar Johnsén 

Widow’s Dance - Håkan Eriksson

Sophisticated Gentlemen 3 - Magnus Ringblom 

1920s Chicago 3 - Magnus Ringblom 

Kansas City flashback 2 - Magnus Ringblom 

Blue Zones - Martin Gauffin 

The Old House - Håkan Eriksson 

Bad News Piano 17 - Oscar Collin

Jazz and Blue Piano 1 - Jonaton Jarpehag

Bad News Piano 3 - Oscar Collin 

Paris Waltz - Håkan Eriksson 

Meditation for Viola and Piano 14 - Jonaton Jarpehag

My Simple Thing 3 - Peter Sandberg

Credits:

Our special guest this week is Gideon Yago.

This episode was written, narrated and produced by edited by Karina Longworth.

Editors: Sam Dingman and Jacob Smith.

Research and production assistant: Lindsey D. Schoenholtz.

Social media assistant: Brendan Whalen.

Logo design: Teddy Blanks.

 Arbuckle's Mug Shot 1921

Arbuckle's Mug Shot 1921