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." 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).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.
Peg Entwistle, the suicide blonde of Hollywoodland
The Peg Entwistle House
Peg Entwistle Topless
Peg Entwistle- Wikipedia
Thirteen Women- Wikipedia