Pop Culture

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: The Peg Entwistle Story

Hollywood and films are both synonymous and iconic, and truly a collection of tall tales and urban legends as well. Some are myths – purely conjecture, and it’s always astonishing to hear the rumors – Stallone once did porn, footage of Brandon Lee’s fatal shooting can be seen in the final cut of The Crow, James Dean’s death Porsche claimed more victims after him, Richard Gere has a gerbil fetish – the list of completely rubbish untruths is miles long.

But beyond the glittering lights, there are many true Hollywood stories. Long the center of the world’s movie industry, there are always salacious tales that go along with that infamy. Let’s explore one of the more fascinating ones.

One of the most interesting that comes to mind is the Peg Entwistle story. Millicent Lilian ‘Peg’ Entwistle was a British actress who gained notoriety when she jumped to her death from the “H” in the Hollywoodland (now just “Hollywood”) sign in 1932. She originally had some modest success on Broadway, appearing in several productions.

Like so many others, she went to Hollywood believing she had the talent to make it in the film industry.  She hit the stage and was chosen to act in a play called “The Mad Hopes.” The reviews in the Los Angeles Examiner (founded in 1903 by William Randolph Hearst) were very promising:

“Belasco and Curran have staged the new play most effectively and have endowed this Romney Brent opus with every distinction of cast and direction. (producer) Bela Blau … has developed the comedy to its highest points. Costumes and settings are of delightful quality, and every detail makes the production one entirely fit for its translation to the New York stage. In the cast Peg Entwistle and Humphrey Bogart hold first place in supporting the star (Billie Burke) and both give fine, serious performances. Miss Entwistle as the earnest, young daughter (Geneva Hope) of a vague mother and presents a charming picture of youth.”

Peg seemed poised for fame and fortune, and even successfully won a small supporting role in the then upcoming movie “Thirteen Women” with stars Myrna Loy and Irene Dunn. Sadly, she would never live to see herself on the silver screen. She got a call telling her most of her scenes had been cut from the movie, setting into action the following event. 

In September 1932, an unidentified female was hiking below the Hollywoodland sign, when she found a woman’s shoe, purse, and jacket. She opened the purse and amongst its contents, found a suicide note. After seeing this, she looked down the mountain in horror, and saw the body below. Hollywood police were then notified.

Later, a detective and two radio car officers found the body in a ravine, just below the sign. Entwistle remained unidentified until her uncle, with whom she had been living in the Beachwood Canyon area, identified her remains. September 16 was surmised by police and is widely believed to be the date of her death. The body was found on the 18th of September.

Her suicide note read simply:

I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.

The movie was released a month after her suicide to neither critical nor commercial success. Most notably, the movie was later called “one of the earliest ‘female ensemble’ films.” In 2014, roughly 100 people marked the anniversary of Entwistle’s death by gathering in the parking lot of Beachwood Market in the Hollywood Hills near the Hollywood sign to watch Thirteen Women on an outdoor screen. Proceeds from a raffle, and from food and beverages sold at the screening were donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Entwistle’s name.

The public’s fascination with Peg Entwistle received fresh attention with the recent release of the Netflix/Ryan Murphy miniseries, “Hollywood.” The tale is prominently featured in the storyline of the show, but of course, heightened and embellished as only Hollywood can do. There have also been songs written about Peg, most recently one by Lana Del Rey. It’s also widely rumored that her ghost haunts the area around the Hollywood sign, only adding to the legend and mystique.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected].