1908 - 1932
She became a symbol of failure and Tragedy - Hollywood Style.
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 was at number #53. Peg's mom died young, and by the time Peg was 14, she had left Britain to pursue an acting career in America. By 1931, she was in 8 consecutive Broadway shows - that flopped. Hollywood (or course) beckoned, and she came to LA. She with her Uncle Harold at 2428 Beachwood Drive, in Beachwood Canyon almost in the shadow of the famous sign that originally read, "HOLLYWOODLAND."
She played opposite Billie Burke and Bogie in the play, The Mad Hopes, and RKO offered her a contract. The first film she did for them was The 13 Women, and Peg's part ended up mostly on the floor. She should have seen that as a sign of things to come. Get it? Sign? See Peg in the film below.
Her career was at a stand still after that. She did lots of auditions, and just hung around her uncle's house, waiting for work and trying to save enough money to go back to New York. She was so broke, she couldnt even manage train fare. On Sunday September 16, 1932, she told her Uncle Harold that she was going to walk up Beachwood Drive to the drug store, and then to visit friends. Instead she made a beeline for 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's shoe and jacket. A little further on I noticed a purse. In it was a suicide note. I looked down the mountain and saw a body. I don't want any publicity in this matter, so I wrapped up the jacket, shoes and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the Hollywood Police 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 long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E." The LA times published the letter in hopes that she would be identified. Her Uncle Harold recognized the initials, and identified 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 was married in 1927 for two years to an actor named Robert Keith. Robert had a very young son named Brian, who grew up to be "Uncle Bill," on the TV show Family Affair, and committed suicide in 1997 - shortly after his daughter committed suicide. Fun family. Peg's uncle ruled this out as the cause of her decision to off herself, because it had happened two years prior to the jump.
Supposedly the next day a letter arrived in the mail from the Beverly Hills Playhouse, offering her the lead role in a play - about a woman driven to suicide. I choose to think someone made this bit up, to give it a Hollywood ending spin.
Her funeral was held at the now demolished Strother Mortuary on Hollywood Boulevard, across from the Pantages Theater. Its now a 20 Million Dollar Hotel and shopping complex with a subway below. Ah... Hollywood. She was cremated at Hollywood Memorial Park, and shipped to Ohio for burial, at Oak Hill Cemetery, Glendale, Ohio. She was buried with her father on January 5, 1933.
I am proud to have been part of the group that donated funds to have Peg's grave marked. REST IN PEACE, dear Peg.
In 2010 I was a proud contributor to the fund for 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 estate development along Beachwood Canyon. It cost $21,000 to build, and the letters are 30 feet wide and 45 feet tall. It was originally lit by 4000 light bulbs. Maintenance was discontinued in 1939, and in 1949 the LAND portion of the sign was removed. It was so rundown, that in 1978 the chamber of commerce restored it, and for $28,000 each, the following 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 about this woman that was casually hiking near the sign when she stumbled on Peg's body... Yesterday I went on a hike. My buddy Jayne told me of a trail she had hiked before, near the sign, so Jayne, Steve Goldstein from Beneath Los Angeles.com and I went for it. After passing this sign, and the conspicuous absence of NO TRESPASSING signs, we climbed Mt. Lee. We wound our way up behind the sign, passing Forest Lawn, and got very close to the tower on top. Seeing those letters up close was pretty gobsmacking.
Steve and I quietly surveyed the area, contemplating our next move. We hopped the fence, and from the other side quickly began our descent. I knew there were cameras all over the place, and I've seen the helicopters a thousand times, so I knew we had to be quick. We got all the 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 Lake Hollywood was stunning.
I heard the camera buzz in to action, and knew we had to fly, and fly we did. I stopped smoking over a year ago, but I was really out of breath when we got back up top. Just in time for Jayne to make us aware of a bees nest that had erupted into mayhem. I mean thousands of them. We had to walk right past them, and Jayne advised to do it quickly and quietly. I felt like I was in The Birds. We scrambled back to the other side of the fence, and started our descent, when the helicopter arrived. At that point I realized I dropped my camera, so I had to 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. No one. Nothing. I was shocked, and thrilled. We made it to actually touch the Hollywood Sign, one of the things I've always wanted to do. Thanks to Jayne and Steve for making it happen.