Thursday, January 12, 2012

She jumped from the H -- and into Hollywood History

SHE JUMPED FROM THE H -- AND INTO HOLLYWOOD HISTORY:  Listen up, kids -- if you think Hollywood is a strange (but fabulous!) place, wait 'til you read this one, okay? On the morning of Monday, September 17, 1932, an anonymous woman called the station of the Central Los Angeles Police Department and said "I was hiking near the Hollywoodland sign (now just "Hollywood") today and near the bottom I found a woman's shoe and jacket. A little further on I noticed a purse. In it was a suicide note. I looked down the mountain and saw a body. I don't want any publicity in this matter (that's a first in this town!), so I wrapped up the jacket, shoes and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the Hollywood Police Station." Then the mysterious caller hung up. Blonde, blue-eyed Lillian Millicent "Peg" Entwistle, aged 24, lay dead in a ravine below Mount Lee in the Hollywood hills, 140 feet beneath the legendary sign.  As it turned out, a workman's ladder had been left behind the letter "H" -- and it was ultimately the highest that poor Peg would ever climb in Tinseltown.  And everything started out so good too (hang in there -- the strange parts are still to come!).  Only a year earlier, Peg had been already been in eight consecutive Broadway shows -- all flops! Fed up with the not-so-Great White Way, she and her uncle Harold made the move to Hollywood -- living at 2428 Beachwood Drive, practically in the shadow of that iconic Hollywoodland sign. At first, things were looking up when she appeared in the play The Mad Hopes opposite Billie Burke and Humphrey Bogart. RKO Studio liked what they saw and offered her a contract for which she did The 13 Women -- her first film -- but she found that most of her parts lay on that famous cutting room floor.  After that came nothing but audition after audition (sound familiar?) and waiting for that infamous phone to ring at her uncle's house (sound even more familiar?). By now, her heart was broken.  But it had been broken before -- you see, in 1927 Peg was married to Robert Keith for two years and Robert at the time already had a six-year-old son by the name of Brian Keith (yes! Uncle Bill from TV's 1960s Family Affair show!).  In 1997, Brian Keith would also commit suicide by shooting himself (!!) only two months after his own daughter Daisy committed suicide as well (!!).  The note in Peg Entwistle's pocket 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."  Wow--how incredibly sad. She had told her uncle that she was walking to the nearby drugstore and then to visit friends, but in truth she was headed for a place in the grim files of Hollywood history.  The coroner's report established that Peg died from multiple fractures of the pelvis as a result of a suicide attempt.  If only that workman hadn't left his ladder on the backside of the letter "H" -- who knows what kind of ending this Hollywood story would have had.