I have been reading The Hollywood Book of Death by James Robert Parish and thought I would share a story that stuck out to me.
“At age 17, actress Peg Entwistle made her stage debut and was soon working in prestigious Broadway productions. Unfortunately, her luck did not last long. In 1927, Peg married actor Robert Keith, only to shortly discover he had a 6-year-old son named Brian that he had abandoned and kept a secret from her. In the process of divorcing Robert, Peg generously paid his back alimony to keep him out of jail. Peg continued in her Broadway efforts, but the Depression hit the New York theater scene hard. Now out-of-work and broke, Peg decided to try the movies.
Peg arrived in Los Angeles in April 1932 and had to move in with her Uncle Harold to save money. His modest bungalow was at 2428 Beachwood Canyon Drive in Hollywood, not far from the “Hollywoodland” sign on Mount Lee. (The “land” portion of the sign was removed in 1945). In the following months, Meg had a number of setbacks and rejections in her Hollywood career. Her uncle later recalled that Peg tried desperately to raise the train fare to return to New York, but could not get a loan.
After dinner on September 18, 1932, wearing a dress that a friend had lent her, Peg left the Beachwood Canyon house. She told her uncle that she was going to the local drugstore. Instead, she walked up the nearby road that led to the big electric-light sign. Reaching the towering letters, she stopped beneath the “H”. Peg removed her coat and placed it neatly next to her purse. Then she slowly climbed up the electrician’s latter on the 50-foot-high “H”. Partway up, one of her shoes fell off. Finally reaching the top of the giant letter, Peg jumped from it and plunged to her death.
Several days later, a female hiker came across her coat and purse, still neatly arranged. A note was inside the purse; it read:
“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.”
The evidence found by the hiker led to Peg’s body, but it was so badly decomposed that they could not identify her. When news of the suicide made headlines, her Uncle Harold – already distraught about the vanished Peg – read the account and went straight to the morgue. After identifying the victim as Peg, he told the press, “Although she never confided her grief in me, I was somehow aware that she was suffering intense mental anguish…It is a great shock to me that she gave up the fight as she did.”
Ironically, a letter posted the day before Peg died soon arrived at Uncle Harold’s. It was from the Beverly Hills Playhouse, offering the actress the lead in their next production – the story of a woman who commits suicide.“