The Death of Peg Entwistle from the Hollywood Sign

Peg Entwistle
1908 – 1932

She became a symbol of failure and Tragedy – HollywoodStyle.

The blonde, blue eyed actress was born Lillian Millicent Entwistle, in this house in Port Talbot, Wales, in 1908. She spent her early years on Comeragh Road, in London. The family home wasat number #53. Peg’s momdied young, and by the time Peg was 14, she had left Britain to pursue an acting career inAmerica. By 1931, she was in 8 consecutive Broadway shows – that flopped. Hollywood (orcourse) beckoned, and she came to LA. She with her Uncle Harold at 2428Beachwood Drive, in Beachwood Canyon almost in the shadow of the famous sign thatoriginally read, “HOLLYWOODLAND.”

She played opposite Billie Burke and Bogie in the play, The MadHopes, andRKO offered her a contract. The first film she did for them was The 13Women,and Peg’s part ended up mostly on the floor. She should have seen that as a sign of thingsto come.  Get it?  Sign?  See Peg in the film below.

 

Her career was at a stand still after that. She didlots of auditions, and just hung around her uncle’s house, waiting for work and trying tosave enough money to go back to New York.  She was so broke, she couldn’t even manage train fare. OnSunday September 16, 1932, she told her Uncle Harold that she was going to walk upBeachwood Drive to the drug store, and then to visit friends. Instead she made a beelinefor the H. She climbed up the workman’s ladder behind the letter H.Yesiree, she dove.

The next morning an anonymous woman called the Central LA police station and said,”I was hiking near the Hollywoodland sign today and near the bottom I found a woman’sshoe and jacket. A little further on I noticed a purse. In it was a suicide note. I lookeddown the mountain and saw a body. I don’t want any publicity in this matter, so I wrappedup the jacket, shoes and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the HollywoodPolice Station.” Then she hung up.

The note read:

“I am afraid I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a longtime ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.” The LA times published the letterin hopes that she would be identified. Her Uncle Harold recognized the initials, andidentified her body in the morgue.

Thank you Bob Siler for the Death Certificate.

There was a rumor that Peg had jumped because of an ill-fated love affair. She wasmarried in 1927 for two years to an actor named Robert Keith. Robert had a very young sonnamed Brian, whogrew up to be “Uncle Bill,” on the TV show Family Affair, andcommitted suicide in 1997 – shortly after his daughter committed suicide. Fun family.  Peg’s uncle ruled this out as the cause of her decision to offherself, because it had happened two years prior to the jump.

Supposedly the next day aletter arrived in the mail from the Beverly Hills Playhouse, offering her the lead role ina play – about a woman driven to suicide.  I choose to think someone madethis bit up, to give it a Hollywood ending spin.

Her funeral was held at the now demolishedStrother Mortuary on Hollywood Boulevard,across from the Pantages Theater.  Its now a 20 Million Dollar Hotel andshopping complex with a subway below.  Ah… Hollywood. She was cremated at Hollywood Memorial Park, and shipped to Ohio for burial, atOak Hill Cemetery, Glendale, Ohio. She was buried with her father on January 5,1933.

I am proud to have been part of the group thatdonated funds to have Peg’s grave marked.  REST IN PEACE, dear Peg.

In 2010 I was a proud contributor to the fundfor Peg’s gravestone.

Liz Taylor was only 7 months old when Peg died, so it’s doubtful that she sent flowers.

People say that Peg still haunts the sign, with her favorite scent,Gardenia.

Trivia about the sign:

The sign was built in 1923, and originally read HOLLYWOODLAND, for a real estatedevelopment along Beachwood Canyon. It cost $21,000 to build, and the letters are 30 feetwide and 45 feet tall. It was originally lit by 4000 light bulbs. Maintenance wasdiscontinued in 1939, and in 1949 the LAND portion of the sign was removed. It was sorundown, that in 1978 the chamber of commerce restored it, and for $28,000 each, thefollowing people sponsored the letters:

H – Terrence Donnelly, Publisher Hollywood Independent Newspaper

O – Giovanni Mazza, Italian movie producer

L – Les Kelley – Originator of the Kelley Blue Book

L – Gene Autrey – With his pioneer television station KTLA

Y – Hugh Hefner – Creator of Playboy Enterprises

W – Andy Williams – Singer

O – Warner Brothers Records

O – Alice Cooper – In memory of Groucho Marx

D – Dennis Lidtke

March of 2005 – so… thinking aboutthis woman that was casually hiking near the sign when she stumbled on Peg’sbody…  Yesterday I went on a hike.  My buddy Jayne told me of atrail she had hiked before, near the sign, so Jayne,Steve Goldstein from Beneath Los Angeles.com and Iwent for it.  After passing thissign, and the conspicuous absence of NO TRESPASSING signs, we climbed Mt.Lee.  We wound our way up behind the sign, passing ForestLawn, and got very close to thetower on top.  Seeing thoseletters up close was pretty gobsmacking.

Steve and I quietly surveyedthe area, contemplating our next move.  Wehopped the fence, and from the otherside quickly began our descent.I knew there were cameras all over the place, and I’ve seen the helicopters athousand times, so I knew we had to be quick.  We got allthe way down to the letters,and stopped at the H. From there we could see the camera at the top of the O. The view of LakeHollywood was stunning.

I heard the camera buzz in to action, and knewwe had to fly, and fly we did.  I stopped smoking over a year ago, but Iwas really out of breath when we got back up top.  Just in time for Jayneto make us aware of a beesnest that had erupted into mayhem.  I mean thousands of them.  Wehad to walk right past them, and Jayne advised to do it quickly andquietly.  I felt like I was in The Birds.  We scrambledback to the other side of the fence, and started our descent, when thehelicopter arrived.  At that point I realized I dropped my camera, so I hadto go back to the bees nest, and the helicopter came swooping overhead. All the way back down, I was sure there would be police waiting for us.  Noone.  Nothing.  I was shocked, and thrilled.  We made it to actuallytouch the Hollywood Sign, one of the things I’ve always wanted to do.  Thanks to Jayneand Steve for making it happen.

www.findadeath.com

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