Peg Entwistle’s Tragic Fall From Grace

Posted in Rewind by - November 06, 2013
Peg Entwistle’s Tragic Fall From Grace

Peg Entwistle’s Tragic Fall From Grace

“No stars are gonna twinkle twinkle me into suicide” – Peg Entwistle as Hazel Cousins in ‘Thirteen Women’.

English born actress Peg Entwistle will forever be known as the girl who jumped from the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign. But she was actually a talented actress who had great potential.

Born Millicent Lillian Entwistle in Port Talbot, Wales, on February 5th 1908, Peg spent the first few years of her life in London. In 1912 the family moved to the US where her father Robert had been hired as a stage manager in New York.

Peg’s mother died in 1921 from meningitis, and her father passed away two years later from injuries sustained in a hit-and-run accident. Soon after, Peg was adopted, along with her brothers, by their uncle Charles and Aunt Jane.

In 1924, at just 16 years old, Peg enrolled in Repertory school, where she excelled in acting. Soon afterwards she became the youngest actress to be recruited into the New York Theatre Guild. Peg spent the next few years touring, receiving rave reviews for her performances. After a successful run in Los Angeles, Peg started packing to return to New York, when she received a call from RKO Pictures.

David O. Selznick was producing a picture for up-and-coming actress Irene Dunne called ‘Thirteen Women’. Peg auditioned for, and won the role of Hazel Cousins. This psychological thriller tells the story of thirteen college friends, who each receive (by mail) a horoscope predicting their imminent deaths. Myrna Loy co-starred as the mysterious Ursula Giorgi, the half Asian vixen who is behind the plot, which has each woman being tricked into either killing themselves or each other. It turns out that Ursula was once snubbed by the other women at their college, due to her being of mixed race, and had sworn revenge on them.

‘Thirteen Women’ is a fairly entertaining film, and it’s a shame that so much was cut from it. The only version available is the truncated 59 minute edit, which takes out around 14 minutes of film, including most of Peg’s characters subplot. In fact, the final print deleted two of the female characters entirely, reducing the story to just eleven women. Peg’s main scene from ‘Thirteen Women’ is when her character watches in horror at the death by falling, of a trapeze artist. Did this scene give Peg ideas?

The movie was a flop, and Peg’s contract was not extended. Stuck in Los Angeles with no offers of stage or film work, Peg became depressed and saw only one way out of her situation. On the evening of Friday September 16th 1932, Peg left her Uncles home saying she was going to visit friends. Two days later a hiker found a coat, shoe and purse near the famous ‘Hollywoodland’ sign, before spotting Pegs body 100 feet below the letter ‘H’. It was assumed by police that Peg had climbed a workman’s ladder which had been left at the back of the letter ‘H’ and jumped to her death. A suicide note was found in her purse which read, “I’m afraid I’m a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this thing a long time ago it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.

What Peg didn’t know was that a letter had just been sent to her by the Beverly Hills Playhouse, with the juicy offer of the lead role in a play about a woman who is driven to suicide. A cruel twist in this sad saga.

Now forever known as ‘The Hollywood Sign Girl’, Peg had great talent, and should have risen high in her career, instead of falling so tragically into the annuls of Hollywood history.

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