Guest Author - Amber Grey
It’s a morbid tale of rejected stardom. A girl, like so many others, travels to Hollywoodland in search of becoming a movie star. A few months later, the girl finds that dream has failed her. One night, she climbs to the top of the hill where “Hollywoodland” is spelt across the rocky terrain. The girl climbs onto one of the letters and jumps to her death. Is it truth or urban legend?
This unfortunate story is indeed true. The girl’s name was Milicent Lilian Entwistle aka Peg Entwistle. In fact, Peg was very well-known for her work on Broadway. She received rave reviews for the parts she played and co-starred with such famous faces as Dorothy Gish. Peg had such an enormous talent that she influenced a young Bette Davis who saw her perform as “Hedvig” in “The Wild Duck.” After the performances, Davis exclaimed to her mother, “I’m going to be like Peg Entwistle!” Later in her career, Davis often credited Peg for her aspirations to be an actor.
Peg’s arrival in Hollywood was to act in a play titled “The Mad Hopes.” Amongst the cast was a young Humphrey Bogart. After the play closed, Peg intended to return to New York. However, RKO Studios approached her with one-picture contract. They immediately cast her in a part for an upcoming film titled, “Thirteen Women” (1932) starring Irene Dunne and Myrna Loy. Peg went to Hollywood instead. She shot her scenes for the film. Sadly, the results of the film were considered by the studio to be so poor that RKO held the picture from being released. In an effort to save the film, the studios cut the original eighty minute film down to fifty-nine. Several scenes of Peg's were left on the cutting room floor but footage of her still survive in the final cut.
Without work, money or hope, Peg committed suicide on September 16, 1932. She was only twenty-four years old. When her body and personal items were discovered without any kind of identification, the tabloids dubbed Peg as “The Hollywood Sign Girl.” The newspapers printed her suicide letter in hopes that someone would identify her. It was Peg’s uncle who recognized the handwriting and the initials “P.E.”
The day after her suicide, a telegram arrived for Peg, requesting her to act in a play. The lead role had required her to commit suicide in the final act. In years to come, Peg’s death would be capitalized in various films about the cruel nature of Hollywood. However, there is a website titled “The Hollywood Sign Girl,” which delves deeply into the myths and facts of Peg Entwistle, allowing Peg’s spirit to remain dignified.