Today is the birthday of Peg Entwistle (1908-1932). A moderately successful actress in her time, she is best known for having committed suicide by jumping off the Hollywood sign. As the years go by, her legend snowballs. Today in Hollywood she is a tourist attraction; her ghost is said to haunt the famous sign to this day, as the mysterious “Woman in White”.
Entwistle’s story will never cease to be intriguing because no one quite knows why she did it. The common explanation is that she was unsuccessful in Hollywood. She had only appeared in one film Thirteen Women (1932), her role was small and most of it wound up on the cutting room floor. Other than that, she had auditioned and auditioned, to no avail. And yet, here’s the thing: she’d only been at it for a few months (she arrived in April or May, she committed suicide in mid September). Three to four months? Surely one ought to be able to take more discouragement than that! Hell, I’ve been taking it for 25 years!
Furthermore, she knew the life and its vicissitudes. She was second generation theatre folk. Both her father and uncle were actors. And she had enjoyed success! She had been in ten Broadway shows. Her Hedvig in The Wild Duck inspired Bette Davis to become an actress! And she had gotten good reviews for a play she appeared in when she first moved to Los Angeles, which also starred Humphrey Bogart and Billie Burke! So what was it? Perhaps she thought the world was coming to an end. In September, 1932 it must have seemed like it, with the Depression in full swing. And if she wasn’t earning any money….
At any rate, a good day to remember to lift your friends’ spirits when they’re down!
(And here’s an interesting bit of trivia — from 1927 through 1929, Entwistle was married to Robert Keith, father of Brian Keith!)