This blog is dedicated to the memory of David Weintraub, who took on insidious astroturfers and won.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tragic Story of Talented Actress Peg Entwistle Explained

Peg Entwistle as Hazel Clay Cousins in Thirteen Women, her only
credited movie role.

A tabloid dubbed her the Hollywood Sign Girl. In 1932, she committed suicide by jumping off that famous landmark. It had been initially put up to advertise for a housing development called Hollywoodland. The pure irony is that if she had waited one day, she would have received an offer to play the lead role in a play, one who commits suicide.

Peg was a manic depressive who had simply given up on life at age 24. But that's getting ahead of the story. Let's first take a brief look at her history.

I found a couple good links which provide the major details. I'll list those at the end. She had simply experienced so much trauma throughout her whole life, that she decided to end it. She was born in 1908. Her mother died when she was two. Her father remarried when she was six years old.

In 1916, she came over with the rest of her family from across the pond to New York City. Her father Robert had gotten a job as a stage manager.

Tragedy hit in 1921. Her stepmother Lauretta died from meningitis. A year later Robert died from a hit and run accident. He had survived for weeks, but just before Christmas 1922 he passed on. Keep in mind the connection to Christmas. It will come into psychological play when we get to the part about Thirteen Women.

As an older teenager, Peg ended up living and acting in Boston. She was very good at the craft. Bette Davis saw her in a production and later claimed Entwistle had been her inspiration. Peg was no two-bit actress, and she had much success getting roles in theatre.

A couple years later she relocated to New York and continued finding work on Broadway. In 1927, she married another actor named Robert Keith. Ironically, Robert's son Brian from another relationship took his own life in 1997. He is best known for his portrayal of Uncle Bill on the television series Family Affair. His suicide was similar to that of Annette Appollo's, a sort of self-inflicted euthanasia. Adding to even more irony or perhaps coincidence as the better word, the child star who played Buffy on that same show had earlier died of a drug overdose. There have been instances of death by internet. We can also easily find examples of death by Hollywood or the curse of child stardom.

This is where things perhaps get a bit dicey. Apparently Robert Keith never told Peg about his previous marriage or his son Brian. More importantly, it would be nice to know if the following is true about claims of domestic violence. If so, that might have been the straw that broke the camel's back in regards to Peg's mental health condition. I find no reason to disbelieve this. In the Wikipedia entry on Peg it says,
She was granted a divorce from him in May 1929, when telling the judge that Keith "pulled a handful of hair from her head and that only intervention of a New York hotel detective saved her from great bodily injury."[11] Aside from charging him with cruelty, she claimed that he did not inform her that he had been married before and was the father of a six-year-old boy (actor Brian Keith).[9]
Source #11 reads as "Pulled Hair - Stage Star Gets Divorce After Tale of Fight With Husband", The Pittsburgh Press, May 3, 1929, p. 47. Source #9 reads as "Girl Ends Life After Failure In Hollywood", Syracuse Herald, September 20, 1932, p. 5.

Despite all her acting skills, Peg was unable to find success in Hollywood. She was definitely cute, but she didn't have the outrageously good looks of many of the other actresses of her day. For example, while many might not think Bette Davis was a hottie because of her later roles, in the early thirties she was quite the sultry babe with somewhat exotic looks. Peg had more of a plain Jane thing going.

She finally got her break with the part in Thirteen Women. However, in screenings the flick didn't get good responses. It was sliced and diced fron 73 minutes to 59 with most of the cuts having to do with Peg's scenes.

This wasn't the greatest movie made. It can be watched here. I don't think it was that bad a movie. I think retaining those 14 minutes would have made it better. It had a very good cast, and the plot while unorthodox and perhaps tough to believe was still thought provoking on many levels.

Basically twelve women were sent horoscopes by a well-thought of psychic. Their connection to each other was they had been sorority sisters. Each prediction had them either hurting themselves or someone close to them. The premise was that consistent suggestion can lead to action. The movie opened with the following quote from a psychology book.

What actually was going on was subterfuge by the thirteenth woman played by Myrna Loy.

She played a so-called half breed, half Indian, half Asian. The twelve others had treated her cruelly back at the school. She concocted a plan to get revenge. She found her way into the psychic's life and mesmerized him. She would take his predictions, tear them up, and replace them with her own.

The first one in the movie pertained to the character played by Mary Duncan, a former silent movie star who awkwardly was trying to make the transition to talkies. She was definitely a doll face, but her voice was one which didn't help her chances at continued stardom into the new movie era. If you could have combined her looks with Entwistle's voice and acting skills, you would have had Hollywood's dream glamour star.

Mary played a trapeze artist. Peg's character arrived to see her old friend and watch one of her shows. Mary's character was worried about the horoscope sent to her.

The power of suggestion was too much for her to handle, and she froze during the act leading to her fellow trapeze artist falling to her death. Keep that in mind like I asked earlier for you to remember Peg's Dad dying right before Christmas. I believe the power of suggestion was too much for Peg in real life and was the main reason she took her life precisely the way she did.

This was the horoscope forged to Peg's character.

This was what the Swami had wanted to send her followed by the forgery. The prediction was originally supposed to be one of good tidings.

This was one sent to another of the ladies, where the reference is made to Christmas.

This is what I think exactly happened. Peg Entwistle from the earliest of ages suffered deep trauma with the loss of her mom. To compound that, she then lost her stepmother and father. She then got kicked around by an abusive husband. For all her talent, she was unable to make a dent in Hollywood. She ended up with financial difficulties. According to one blog, she even lowered herself to being photographed for soft porn.

Certain imagery from the movie Thirteen Women put her over the edge. I think the death of the trapeze artist put the idea of falling into her head. I have heard that falling in dreams is a sign of mental anguish. I also think the thought of one of the sorority sisters dying before Christmas reminded her of her father's painful death. I think at this point Peg simply felt doomed. It's very sad what happened to her. I'm sorry this blog entry has been such a bummer. I just found it important to pay this woman some respect. She was only twenty four fricken years old. She had so much talent. Maybe if Hollywood hadn't been full of itself in primarily looking for dream girls over talented ones, Peg would have lived to the 97 years that Mary Duncan reached. Now that I think about it, I have even more respect than ever for Greta Garbo quitting the movies and never looking back. Hollywood is all about chewing up their stars and spitting them out. Let's all try to empathise with the Peg Entwistles of the world whether famous or not. She deserved a better fate. I look at it that she didn't kill herself, but rather it was Hollywood who killed her. I think if she had experienced success with movies, she would've survived. It was her last hope. Acting was the one thing that brought her feelings of self-worth and dignity. Hollywood had no use for her. They were more interested in looks over acting skills. They killed her.

May Peg Entwistle rest in peace.

Related Readings:

Peg Entwistle, the suicide blonde of Hollywoodland

The Peg Entwistle House

Thirteen Women

Peg Entwistle Topless

Peg Entwistle- Wikipedia

Thirteen Women- Wikipedia


bob said...

Great article, thanks!
Very sad story, though.

Anonymous said...

Good writing!

socrates said...

Thanks Bob. I almost deleted the 2nd post by anonymous. It doesn't feel right. But there it is.

I fixed one double image. If I was paid, I'd do a much better job. Nevertheless, this kind of blogging I find enjoyable, even when the subject matter is a downer.

I've found some images to add to your new entry concerning the Project Monarch hoax.

I like what you wrote. It's got me thinking from a bunch of different angles. Maybe we can bounce some ideas off each other.

bob said...

Thanks for sprucing up the No Monarchs piece!

I look forward to some productive bouncing.

You've expressed some bitterness, in the past, over having been banned from RI before you'd even posted on it. I can understand your feelings about that.

Perhaps there might have been a silver lining in that, however. If you had been an active participant on RI, you might have become one of their members who have been subjected to the relentless cyber-stalking & mind-f*ck campaigns I've described in the No Monarchs piece.

socrates said...

The thing is I have been cyberstalked. I can prove it. I filed a report with the local police. There's also that strange troll who won't go away from this blog.

So no silver lining there. Well maybe that I didn't end up wasting a lot of time at that specific RI dive. This is what I was trying to say on your thread about how the cybersmearing schtick isn't exclusive to the mc-sra crowd.

I proved that a disturbed cybersmear script was put in place against me. It's been going on since 2007 when myself and TLNL helped expose Michael Rivero. Of course, it's only two degrees of separation to get from Rivero to Jeff Wells through Tinoire. There is no degree of separation between Arcadia Ego and the person who I filed the report against. That guy sent me some very vicious emails, and Ego along with Tinoire and Wells ran with the disinfo football that I have sock puppets and make imaginary conversations. I knew Ego from a previous forum. That's how he had my ip address and had me banned from RI before I was able to make even one post. That event spurred me on to get back in there, which I've explained elsewhere. That Jeff Wells treated me like dirt and broke our deal spurred me on to figure out more about the satanic panic mind control hogwash and Wells' direct participation in spreading such rubbish.

bob said...

Yes, it is apparent to me that you have been victimized. Isn't it strange, how some people who laud the internet as a welcome haven for free speech will go to such lengths attempting to silence those who speak out against THEIR sacred cows?

socrates said...

I stumbled across another few stories similar to Peg's.

Marie Prevost got her career derailed because of a weight problem. It wasn't that she was obese, but according to Hollywood she was. She died at 38 as a broke alcoholic living in a run down apartment.

Sidney Fox took her own life at 34 after also getting the cold shoulder from Hollywood.

Gwili Andre set herself on fire using stills and promotional thingies from her earlier career as kindle. She did so a day after her 51st birthday. She was another lovely lady eaten up and spit out by the entertainment industry.

Peggy Shannon drank herself to death at age 34. She had been signed as a replacement for Clara Bow as the "It" girl. Bow only lived to 51 after being shunned by Hollywood and then diagnosed with schizophrenia.

I've a few more examples of tough endings for Hollywood stars or near stars.

Leslie Howard died at 50 after his plane was shot down by German fighters.

I'm now watching this Jean Harlow flick called Platinum Blonde. The first part has already been taken down from youtube. You have to watch these movies as soon as you find them or you run the risk of them getting deleted at any moment unless they are in the public domain.

The lead actor was this dude named Robert Williams. He looked and acted like Sean Penn. This was at the beginning of talkies, and it's always cool to witness some outstanding acting from way back. He was destined for stardom, but fate took him elsewhere. He died at 34 after his appendix burst.

His co-star Jean Harlow also had a terrible fate. She died of kidney disease at age 26.

Her husband had been found shot dead. That was ruled a suicide, but one source I just looked at says he was also married to someone else and was found naked with a bullet in his brain.

Wow what a bummer all this is. Please no one take any of this personally and never do anything stupid you'd regret, if you were still alive to be anle to.

socrates said...

I missed your post, Bob. Thanks for the support. I didn't mind a bit of it, but the extent of cybersmear abuse heaped on myself was astounding. I didn't want to go to the police, but some of it was close to being death threats. It's not my fault some dumbass hoax called Deep Sky was so easy to expose. The emails that guy sent me were disgusting. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm certain he broke the cyberstalking laws. There have been others, but they are at backwash blogs and just utter stupidity. So stupid, that the only slant it or they could come with after I documented it was to say I was trying to make myself look bad for the attention. I have survived this, because if anyone looks into it, at the stuff I screenshot etc., I am sure they will see I don't use sock puppets or am disinfo. I admit I'm a tad eccentric, but that's no big deal. I'm not even eccentric, just kind of a nerd-geek hybrid.

socrates said...

Oops typo. Nerd-freak hybrid. Nerd and geek are kind of the same thing, if I'm not mistaken. I'm thinking of that show Freaks and Geeks. Combine a nerdy band member with some weed. That's what I'm talking about. p:>

Lydia Rodriguez said...

Good thesis but it doesn't make any sense with what she wrote on her suicide note. Her note made it seem as though she had caused a lot of pain. What was that all about?

socrates said...

Hi Lydia, yikes I can't remember much of this one. I've seen too many movies in between then and now. At the time it seemed interesting.

Now I'm thinking suicide is a statistic; that Peg's death was no more or less important than any other's. Even though she was a "down to earth" actress with skills, she deserves no standing ovation for being a drama queen coward.

Peg simply didn't have the charisma to succeed in the Hollywood system. She didn't have "it." She was like anyone else with depression. You're probably correct my article was good but off-kilter. It's been a while.

brittany slater said...

Thank you for posting this article about Peg Entwistles fight with Hollywood. In my book, this wonderfully talented woman won. She won because now, thanks to her sad choice to tragically end her gentle life, we are informed of Hollywood's bastard reputation. Like you said,acting was Peg's only hope. I wish she could have sought comfort from people that loved her in her life. But since she didn't, her death will always be a truthful portrait of Hollywood. Hollywood's brutal reputation is well deserved. Not only does this industry find every (unethical, scam and illegal) way to suck dry every last cent from an actors pockets but they also only seek out the in shape and clean skinned cardboard cut out humans. I'm Britt. I've been acting for 15 years in film, commercial and theatre. I'm on my 12th miserable month in LA. I am blessed to have two agents and a manager but I have YET to book any work. Its a really really really really volatile and expensive business/place to survive inside of. I hate it.
:)RIP Peg Entwistle

socrates said...

Thanks for the comment.

I went through a similar thing trying to become a high school teacher. I finally landed the job in 2001. But then the towers fell and I was let go despite having a contract. There is a Massachusetts' clause which lets schools dismiss a new teacher within a certain period of time. It becomes basically an at will termination.

I asked what I did wrong. They told me they didn't have to say. It didn't matter to them that they had ruined my career. My old job as a house sub was gone. To this day I wonder which administrator or powerful teacher wanted the job for one of their nephews or nieces.

So this sort of thing is going on everywhere and in all walks of life. The following cliche is very true. It's often not about what you know, but who you know.

For actors/actresses, the system does look for cardboard cutouts, like you say. For schools, superintendants and principals/dept. head desire huge presences that can facilitate behaviour modification. Old school thinkers/peaceniks have the notion that education should be about motivating and inspiring every student to participate in a democracy. We needn't apply to most school systems. With budget cuts, one is hard pressed to even find substitute teaching these days.

Being a sub is probably the equivalent of yourself having to do commercials or other stuff below your skills. We were raised to think the American Dream is a beautiful and authentic reality. Then later on we realise it is more akin to a lottery system.

You need to decide what you want out of live. If you don't want to give up on this dream, you might want to head back east towards New York. Maybe you can move up the charts for Broadway/Off-Broadway or get on a soap opera. Or keep plugging away in Hollywood.

But no matter what, keep your wits while waiting on tables or whatever you do to pay rent.

It's not always about skill. There's the saying don't confuse luck for skill. Too many do that.

It was bad luck for Peg she had those mental health issues before they have become more understood. I don't think she jumps, if she was born twenty years later. Method acting was coming into play.

It's a pretty good story this one. I only heard of it because I developed an old movie fetish. Back then, I'd go to IMDB and web surf the people from the flicks. I read her bio. If Bette Davis thought she was one of the best, I have no doubt she was.

Unfortunately, Peg Entwistle hasn't been the only sad story out of LaLa Land.

It might actually be to your spiritual benefit to not so-called succeed.

I know you don't want to hear that or perhaps think people are just being nice, but it's true.

There's more to life than fame and fortune or even fulfilling our chosen career paths.

I sincerely wish you well. Keep your chin up.

james said...

I hope you will all give my new Peg Entwistle book a read. "Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide: A Biography" is due to be released later this summer through McFarland & Company publishers. It is currently available for pre-order at McFarland, Amazon, and others. Thank you for the interest!