The Tragic Tale of Peg Entwistle: From Broadway Dreams to the Hollywood Sign

Peg Entwistle was a Broadway actress who harbored aspirations of becoming Hollywood’s next big star. However, her journey to stardom was fraught with challenges, ultimately leading to a tragic end that etched her name into Hollywood legend. Born in Port Talbot, Wales, on February 5, 1908, as Millicent Lilian Entwistle, she moved to the United States with her family at a young age. Her mother, English stage actress Adelaide “Addie” Entwistle, remarried and settled in New York City, where Peg’s passion for acting began to blossom.

Millicent Lilian ‘Peg’ Entwistle, a British-born actress, embarked on her stage career in 1925, captivating audiences with her talent and charisma on Broadway. In the bustling theater scene of Broadway, Peg found her calling, captivating audiences with her performances. Despite her talent and success on stage, she yearned for the silver screen’s allure and the promise of Hollywood fame.

In April 1927, Peg married actor Robert Keith in a ceremony at the New York City Clerk’s office. However, their union was short-lived, and Peg filed for divorce in May 1929, citing charges of cruelty. She also revealed that her husband had concealed his prior marriage and the existence of a six-year-old son, Brian Keith, who would later follow in his father’s footsteps as an actor. Peg’s tumultuous marriage and subsequent divorce added another layer of complexity to her already troubled life, foreshadowing the challenges that would ultimately lead to her tragic end.

In 1932, she made her film debut in “Thirteen Women,” but her role was significantly reduced in the final edit. Disheartened by the setback and struggling to find meaningful work in Hollywood, Peg’s dreams began to unravel. On a fateful day of September 18, 1932, Peg took a solitary walk to the iconic Hollywood sign overlooking Los Angeles. In a moment of profound despair, she climbed the ladder to the top of the “H” and leaped to her death.

Later on the same day, a woman hiking below the Hollywoodland sign stumbled upon a series of belongings—an abandoned shoe, purse, and jacket. Curiosity piqued, she opened the purse to discover a haunting suicide note nestled within. Upon gazing down the mountainside, she spotted a lifeless body lying below. Disturbed by her findings, she promptly alerted the Los Angeles police, leaving the items at the steps of the Hollywood police station. It wasn’t long before a detective, accompanied by two radio car officers, located the body in a ravine beneath the sign.

The identity of the deceased remained a mystery until her uncle, with whom she resided in the Beachwood Canyon area, came forward and recognized her remains. He pieced together her absence with the description provided, notably the initials “P.E.” inscribed on the suicide note, which had garnered attention in the newspapers. According to her uncle, on September 16, 1932, she had mentioned going for a walk to a drugstore and visiting friends.

However, instead of embarking on the intended outing, she seemingly made her way to the southern slope of Mount Lee, adjacent to the Hollywoodland sign, where she ascended a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and tragically ended her life by jumping. The coroner’s report attributed her death to “multiple fractures of the pelvis,” confirming the grim reality of her suicide. The note left behind, bearing the poignant words – “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.,” offered a glimpse into the turmoil that plagued her final moments.

Peg’s body was discovered two days later by a hiker, along with a suicide note in her pocket expressing her disillusionment with life. Peg’s tragic demise captured the public’s imagination, sparking speculation and fascination with her story. The Hollywood sign, once a beacon of hope and opportunity, became a haunting reminder of the industry’s darker side. Over the years, rumors emerged of sightings of Peg’s ghost wandering near the sign, a spectral figure forever linked to the city’s lore.

In recent times, Peg Entwistle’s life and death have garnered renewed interest, inspiring artists and storytellers to revisit her story. Acclaimed television producer Ryan Murphy featured her in his Netflix series “Hollywood,” shedding light on her struggles and legacy. Through the lens of modern storytelling, Peg’s tale serves as a poignant reminder of the pressures and pitfalls faced by aspiring actors in Hollywood’s golden age.

The Hollywood sign, originally erected in 1923 as a promotional billboard for a real estate development, has transcended its commercial origins to become a symbol of the entertainment industry’s glamour and allure. Yet, Peg Entwistle’s tragic leap serves as a poignant reminder of the harsh realities lurking behind the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown. Her untimely death continues to resonate, casting a shadow over the city of dreams and reminding us of the fragility of fame and the human cost of chasing stardom.

Today, as visitors flock to Griffith Park to catch a glimpse of the iconic sign, Peg Entwistle’s memory lingers, a cautionary tale woven into the fabric of Hollywood’s history. Her legacy endures as a testament to the perils of fame and the enduring allure of the silver screen, ensuring that her name will forever be associated with both the bright lights and the shadows of Hollywood.

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