The History of the Sign: A Sign Of The Times: Tragic Suicide Off The H
The advent of synchronized sound sent the picture industry reeling, as the big studios frantically re-tooled and acting careers were ruined and made overnight.
Still, the “talkies” took movie mania to new heights, and Hollywood was booming in 1929 when the stock market crashed.
Although the studios, which rely heavily on speculative capital, were hit hard initially, the Depression meant even bigger business as Americans flocked to theaters for ever more lavish, escapist productions.
The “Hollywood Sign Girl”
The element of sound promised new opportunities for vocally trained stage actors. Unfortunately, most of the thousands of would-be stars and starlets who flocked to Hollywood were met with cold rejection.
In 1932, Peg Entwistle, a New York stage actress, became the symbol of the dark side of the Hollywood dream. Emboldened by her Broadway success, the ambitious young actress soon set her sights on the silver screen. She packed her bags for Hollywood and moved in with her uncle on Beachwood Drive – virtually in the shadow of the Hollywood Sign.
Unfortunately, Peg failed to make a splash, and she spent most of the brutally hot summer of ’32 hanging around her uncle’s house, waiting for a phone call that never came. Finally, on the evening of September 18th, Peg told her uncle that she was going to meet some friends at a nearby drug store, but this was a sad lie.
She instead made the arduous hike up the canyon hill to the Hollywood Sign, her one-time beacon of hope but now a symbol of failure and rejection. She climbed 50 feet up a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and plunged to her death. Peg Entwistle – dubbed by tabloids as the “The Hollywood Sign Girl” – was only 24 years old.
In a cruel twist of irony, a letter to Peg arrived the day after her death from the Beverly Hills Playhouse. She was offered the lead role in a play…about a woman driven to suicide.
Here is a clip of Peg Entwistle’s rare film performance in Thirteen Women released the year she died, 1932.