A Hollywood Scandal for the Ages
Two days later, Virginia Rappe was rushed to a hospital. There, a friend claimed that Fatty Arbuckle had raped Rappe at the party. The next day, Rappe died of peritonitis, caused by a ruptured bladder. Medical examinations found no evidence of rape. Newspapers had a field day, however, and printed increasingly salacious stories. Some alleged that Fatty had killed Virginia Rappe with his weight while he assaulted her. Other stories claimed that Arbuckle had penetrated Rappe with a piece of ice. That eventually grew into accusations that he had ruptured her insides with a bottle of Coca Cola or champagne.
Police investigators theorized that the heavy impact of the overweight Fatty atop Rappe during intercourse ruptured her bladder. He denied any wrongdoing, but was arrested and charged with a slew of felonies. The Hollywood scandal was a major media event, and generated OJ Simpson levels of interest. Fatty was regarded by those who knew him as good natured and shy with women – “the most chaste man in pictures“, as some put it. Charlie Chaplain, for example, “knew Roscoe as a genial and easy going man, who would not harm a fly“. However, newspapers went with a far different image, and depicted him as a gross pervert who routinely used his massive bulk to overpower and have his way with innocent girls.