What Really Happened:

Roscoe Arbuckle Speaks

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 belief 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
MOVIE WEEKLY


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