TERRY SHERWOOD recounts the heartbreaking story of the Port Talbot-born actress Peg Entwistle whose Hollywood dreams ended in tears
The Golden Age of Hollywood is filled with brilliant successes and dismal failures. The film community likes a feel good story. That continues to this day. Fitting in this category is the tragic end of Millicent Lilian Entwistle, simply known as “Peg”.
She was born in Port Talbot, Wales, and moved to New York at an early age, graduating from the New York City Theatre Guild. Peg appeared in many Broadway productions, including a show with Humphrey Bogart in Los Angeles. Even a young Bette Davis is reported to have said she wanted to be like Entwistle after watching her in an Ibsen play.
Peg was offered a screen test with RKO that she passed and was given a one picture contract for a small role in Thirteen Women (1932). After initial reviews of the picture, most of Peg Entwistle’s role was left on the cutting room floor.
She went to audition after audition trying to get another role – like so many people. On the evening of Sunday Sept 1, 1932, Peg Entwistle told the uncle she was living with that she was going to visit friends. Instead, she made the climb up the hill to the Hollwyood sign and using an electrician’s ladder that had been left there, climbed to the top of the letter H and stepped off.
An anonymous hiker later found a shoe, then a jacket and a purse and finally her body down the slope. Her remains laid unclaimed and unidentified in the morgue until a suicide note was published and her uncle recognized the initials.
“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.”
Peg married actor Robert Keith in New York in 1927 and was granted divorce in 1929 on charges of cruelty, claiming Keith had never told her of fathering a child from a previous marriage. The child was Brian Keith who rose to fame as an American stage and screen actor, later to kill himself via a gunshot wound in 1997 after his daughter had committed suicide.
Urban legend says she was offered a role in a major production days after her death, the role of a woman who commits suicide.
Peg Entwistle passed into history known today by some as “The Hollywood Sign Girl.” Ghost sightings of a sad woman making the trek up the mountain in thirties style clothing occurs today. When approached by hikers, she disappears. Through it all there is the lingering scent of gardenias which was Peg Entwistle’s favorite fragrance.
A musical based on the life of Peg Entwistle debuted in the UK in October 2014 called “Goodnight September,” and received positive reviews and audience feedback from its premier performances.
Today, there are reports that Peg Enwistle’s story will be getting the big screen treatment giving her the large role she wanted so much in life. There is a Welsh woman haunting the Hollywood sign.
Born in Ottawa, Canada, TERRY SHERWOOD is a lifelong fan of “Classic Horror” film and literature that inspired them. He is a contributing Writer/film reviewer for DIABOLIQUE online magazine and CLASSIC FILM UNION BLOG on TCM SITE.