By 1921, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was one of the most successful performers in Hollywood. Smithsonian Magazine reports that he’d just finished a $3 million deal with Paramount Pictures (that would be about $45 million in today’s money) and had just signed a fresh contract for more films. He appeared to be on top of the world.
But he was also tired. Britannica explains that Arbuckle had just completed three films back-to-back. His friend, Fred Fischbach, insisted that Arbuckle needed to get away, so he booked hotel suites in San Francisco and arranged an epic three-day party over Labor Day. Despite Arbuckle suffering burns on his buttocks from accidentally sitting in acid shortly beforehand, the party went ahead.
As reported by BBC News, an actress who attended that party, Virginia Rappe, fell ill and had to be taken to the hospital. She died a few days later, and her friend who had also attended the party, Maude Delmont, accused Arbuckle of raping Rappe. While details of the party are jumbled, Delmont had a history of extortion against men. In fact, All That’s Interesting reports that Delmont even sent telegrams crowing that she was going to bleed Arbuckle for money, and she was never called to testify in court because the prosecution knew her reputation and habit of changing her story wouldn’t serve their case, despite the fact that she was a the accusing witness.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).