In November 2011; I took a trip from my home in England to Hollywood, California. I stayed in the Beachwood Canyon area which is where Peg lived for the last 6 months of her life. This was a long trip to make for a single weekend stay, but the aim of the trip was to further my research, thereby enabling me to connect more deeply with the story. Prior to visiting Hollywood, everything I knew about Peg had come from the perspectives of others. I visited Peg’s house at 2428 North Beachwood Drive where she had lived with her uncle, I took the walk from her house to the sign and met up with local historian and filmmaker Hope Anderson (writer and director of the documentary ‘Under the Hollywood Sign‘,).
Peg's Hollywood home on Beachwood Drive in 2011
The only movie featuring Peg
It occurred to me during my trip that there was no evidence that Peg took the current tourist route to the top of Mount Lee that leads up behind the sign. This was confirmed by Hope who showed me the shortcut path that Peg would have taken. This path is now part of the restricted area around the sign; so apart from the start of my walk down Beachwood Drive, I was not in fact able to directly walk in Peg’s footsteps. It is known that Peg’s body was discovered on September 18th by a walker; the walker must have been walking around the front of the sign. This area was not fenced off and restricted until the 1980s, after a series of attacks by vandals, but back in 1932, it was possible to approach the sign. I have learned that the locals in the Beachwood Canyon area would often picnic in the hills as well as close to the sign so it is very likely that September 16th was not Peg’s only visit to the sign. Taking the tourist route and walking from Peg’s house to the sign took me one hour and fifty-one minutes, Peg’s direct walk to the sign would have taken her less time than my journey.
I often wonder what thoughts were going through her head that evening and how there would have been many moments for a change of mind during her last walk, but with a pre-written suicide note there is no doubt of Peg’s intentions to jump. When I reached the top of Mount Lee I found myself experiencing the ultimate view of the Beachwood Canyon and Hollywood, with Lake Hollywood slightly to my right and Beachwood Drive straight ahead of me. It was quite touching to know that this was the last thing that Peg saw during her last moments.
This photo was taken on my second visit to Hollywood, in 2014.
The Belasco Theatre, where Peg appeared in 'The Mad Hopes.
The suicide note itself, which 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.” confirms Peg had been unhappy for a long time after many traumatic events in her personal life; this note was not referring to her struggling career as an actress which is what many choose to believe. She had been in Hollywood for just 6 months and had been in a stage show and a movie so she couldn’t have been out of work for as long as it normally takes for someone to encounter the amount of depression required to take their own life. This note was surely referring to issues going back many years and may have included the absence of her mother who died when Peg was just 2 years old and also the sudden death of her father in 1922 by a hit and run driver when Peg was 14. Peg was never ultimately happy and there was a short disastrous marriage plus a series of unhappy events that contributed to her state of mind in 1932.
After receiving copies of many historical newspaper clippings and documentation from the New York Library or Performing Arts it became clear to me how Peg has been so misrepresented. Her stage career in New York was moderately successful and she was a well-established actress during that time and arrived in LA after a special invitation to appear in a show called ‘The Mad Hopes’. In those days there wasn’t a worldwide media audience to measure a celebrity’s success.
The stage musical ‘Goodnight September’ played its preview performances on Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th October 2014.
Hope Anderson’s Ebook
‘Peg Entwistle and The Hollywood Sign
is available to purchase on Amazon.
Click here to view the eBook on Amazon