Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign
by Hope Anderson
My interest in the actress Peg Entwistle, who in 1932 committed suicide from the Hollywood Sign (which then read Hollywoodland), began in 2006, when I began researching the neighborhood’s history for my documentary, Under the Hollywood Sign. Though seventy-four years had passed since her death, she was a local legend, her memory refreshed by occasional claims of sighting her ghost at the Hollywood Sign. Yet no one seemed to know anything about her life, aside from the fact that she had acted in a single movie called Thirteen Women, whose failure spurred her suicide.
Online I found only three or four photos of Peg, one of which—the half-nude in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon—didn’t even resemble her, apart from the platinum bob that was so popular in the early 1930s. Through this and other fictions, Anger shaped an indelible impression of Peg Entwistle as a talentless, inexperienced wannabe starlet. As I would learn, she was none of those things, having been an acting prodigy who made her Broadway debut at seventeen. From then until the very end of her life, she worked steadily on stage, in New York, Boston and Los Angeles, as well as on national tours.