The Hollywood Sign Girl: Peg Entwistle

I am always curious and frequently surprised at which movie stars, films, and Hollywood events survive the decades to become meaningful to modern-day audiences. Despite the efforts of film historians and scholars to discover and research important figures and then explain their contributions to the art and evolution of American cinema, movie buffs tend to uncover their own “significant” stars and stories, latching onto them for reasons that have little to do with the advancement of acting, aesthetics, or technology. Though actress Peg Enwistle is not mentioned in any of my film history books, she has a mighty presence on the Internet and in pop culture, less for her talents as an actress and more for what she represents. After costarring in only one Hollywood film, Entwistle committed suicide by jumping off the “H” in the Hollywood sign.  Since then, Peg has come to symbolize the dark side of Hollywood, which can smash the hopes and dreams of aspiring actors and actresses who still flock to the Dream Factory to break into the movies.

The Hollywood sign was only nine years old when Entwistle jumped to her death. It had been erected in the early 1920s by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, who had been searching for a way to promote his new real estate development called Hollywoodland. Chandler paid $21,000 to Thomas Goff, owner of the Crescent Sign Company, to create a huge sign on top of Mount Lee in the Hollywood hills. Using wood and sheet metal, Goff created 13 letters that spelled out HOLLYWOODLAND. Each letter was approximately 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. The structure used nearly 4,000 20-watt light bulbs to illuminate its three sections—HOLLY, WOOD, and LAND. On July 13, 1923, the Hollywoodland sign was officially dedicated and illuminated for the first time. (The “LAND” section was removed when the sign began to deteriorate in the 1940s.)

PEG JUMPED FROM THE LETTER "H."

Chandler had planned to remove the sign once the land in the development was sold. But, the erection of the sign coincided with the emergence of Hollywood as an influential social and cultural force as well as the elevation of movie stars as America’s “aristocracy” in the minds of movie fans. Also during this time, the Hollywood area experienced a boom in the growth of restaurants and nightclubs along Sunset Boulevard, which became a glamorous playground for the stars. Almost immediately, the sign began to take on meaning beyond its original intent. By the time Entwistle decided to commit suicide in 1932, the sign had already become iconic. By jumping off the sign, Entwistle seemed to have made an ironic but powerful statement about Hollywood’s identity as the Dream Factory.

Since poor Peg supposedly sacrificed her life to become a symbol of the lost dreams of all aspiring stars who never made it, she deserves to have her career acknowledged. However, accurate information about her life and career is not easy to come by, and conflicting details abound on the Internet. Millicent Lilian Entwistle was born in Port Talbot, Wales, to Robert S. and Emily Entwistle on February 5, 1908. Even Peg’s birthday is disputed, because her death certificate lists February 6 as the date of birth. However, a certified copy of her birth certificate, which was transcribed exactly from the original 1908 birth entry in Port Talbot, lists February 5; the other date probably came from her Uncle Charles Harold Entwistle, who tended to guess at the dates and ages of family members in interviews and for family obituaries. For a while, Robert S. Entwistle worked as an actor and occasionally traveled to New York City to appear on Broadway. Millicent Lilian immigrated to America when she was eight years old, along with her father Robert, her Uncle Charles Harold (called Harold), her stepmother Lauretta, and her Aunt Jane. Sadly the little girl lost both of her parents when she was quite young. Her birth mother died between 1908 and 1916, and her father was killed in 1922. Robert, who became a shop proprietor when he moved to New York, was struck and killed on Park Avenue by a chauffeur-driven private car. Uncle Harold took in the three Entwistle children, because stepmother Lauretta was apparently out of the picture by this time.

Though Uncle Harold lived in Ohio, he was both an actor and the manager of a New York-based actor named Walter Hampden. In 1925, Hampden gave Millicent Lilian, who now called herself Peg, a walk-on in his Broadway production of Hamlet. Shortly thereafter, Peg became a student in Henry Jewett’s repertory company in Boston. Jewett was a distinguished actor and director of the classics who had opened the Repertory Theater in Boston in 1923. He and his troupe quickly gained national attention, though his company and theater would not survive the Depression.

In January 1926, 17-year-old Entwistle played opposite Walter Hampden in Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, a production directed by Blanche Yurka. A teenaged Bette Davis and her mother, Ruth, caught Entwistle in her well-received role as Hedvig. According to more than one biography, Davis was truly inspired by Entwistle’s performance, with biographer Charlotte Chandler claiming Peg’s turn as Hedvig was the reason Davis wanted to become an actress. Davis reportedly noted, “I want to be exactly like Peg Entwistle.” In 1929, when Yurka was casting the road version of The Wild Duck, she hired a young Bette Davis to play Hedwig. Later, Davis seemed to agree with the view that Hollywood had wronged Entwistle, and that this was the reason for her suicide. When Davis recalled how she was dumped by Universal in 1932, the same year Entwistle committed suicide, she remarked that she had thought her career “was over before it begun, like Peg Entwistle’s.”

PRETTY PEG

In the late 1920s, Entwistle became a member of the New York Theatre Guild and began acting on Broadway, landing the role of Martha in The Man From Toronto. She performed in at least ten plays and worked with some of the most important stage luminaries of the day, including George M. Cohan, William Gillette, Dorothy Gish, and Laurette Taylor.   Her longest running play was the 1927 hit Tommy in which she costarred with Sidney Toler.  It ran for 232 performances.

Entwistle could handle a variety of material, from classics to drawing-room mysteries to comedies. Her versatility was evident when she traveled with various Guild shows, because she often played several roles during one tour. In the summer of 1929 in a San Francisco tour, for example, she played four characters in four plays in four weeks. During her run as a stage actress, Peg received more than her fair share of good notices and featured articles, including a career biography in The New York Times on February 20, 1927, and a lengthy interview in the Oakland Tribune on May 5, 1929.

Entwistle was certainly no chorus cutie or casting-couch ingénue. She was a well-trained actress who had an approach to creating her characters and handling the emotion of the material. In the Oakland Tribune article, Peg admitted her preference for roles with depth and emotion: “I would rather play roles that carry conviction. Maybe it is because they are the easiest and yet the hardest things for me to do . . . To play any kind of an emotional scene I must work up to a certain pitch. If I reach this in my first word, the rest of the words and lines take care of themselves. But if I fail I have to build up the balance of the speeches, and in doing this the whole characterization falls flat.”

UNCLE HAROLD'S HOME AT 2428 N. BEACHWOOD CANYON DRIVE

In May 1932, stage producers Edward Belasco and Homer Curran hired Entwistle to support Billie Burke in the Los Angeles production of the play The Mad Hopes. Costarring with the two blonde beauties was another East Coast stage actor, Humphrey Bogart. The production was intended as a try-out for a Broadway run, but the sold-out performances nonetheless garnered excellent reviews. The Hollywood Citizen noted, “Miss Entwistle is an accomplished actress.” While in Hollywood, Peg lived with her Uncle Harold, who had relocated a few years before to 2428 N. Beachwood Canyon Drive, which is directly south of the Hollywood sign.

By June 1932, Entwistle had signed a contract for producer David O. Selznick for a one-picture deal with RKO Studios. Peg was set to star as Hazel Cousins in Thirteen Women, alongside Irene Dunne. In the early sound period, producers and studios regularly mined Broadway for stage-trained actors who could handle spoken dialogue. Given Entwistle’s reputation and good press, it is logical that a studio would offer her a deal.

A psychological thriller, Thirteen Women tells the story of thirteen former members of a sorority who visit a clairvoyant to have their horoscopes read. What the women do not know is that a fellow student who is part Asian, played by Myrna Loy, harbors resentment towards them because they kicked her out of the sorority for being non-white. She hypnotizes the clairvoyant, and through him, she manipulates the women into killing each other or themselves. Peg’s character, Hazel Cousins, is compelled to stab her husband. The film was based on a novel, which portrays Hazel Cousins as a lesbian who starves herself to death in a sanitarium after being jilted by her female lover. I have not seen the film, and I could find only conflicting and incomplete descriptions of the plot, so I do not know if the film version features this aspect of Hazel’s character. The plot intrigues me for a variety of reasons, from the fact that there are so many women in the cast to the role racism plays in the story to the possible inclusion of a lesbian relationship.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg7XcyHUSLg]

MYRNA LOY AS URSULA, THE WRONGED ASIAN, IN 'THIRTEEN WOMEN'

During previews, the film received negative feedback from test audiences.  The film’s general release was held back by RKO, who decided to cut the running time by eliminating scenes deemed unnecessary. Because of this, Entwistle’s screen time was greatly reduced, though I wonder if the lesbian subplot had anything to do with it. According to the IMDB, Thirteen Women clocks in at a skimpy 73 minutes, with a 59-minute TCM print also available. If anyone has seen the film, I would be interested to know what they thought of it.

For reasons unknown, Entwistle’s RKO contract was not optioned. Many web scribes attribute her suicide on September 16, 1932, to a combination of her reduced part in Thirteen Women and RKO’s disinterest in her. It was Uncle Harold Entwistle who originally spun Peg’s story this way when he told the press that she was despondent because she had yet to impress Hollywood. Using this reasoning, it has been easy for amateur biographers to turn Peg Entwistle into a symbol for all actors who have crushed by the Hollywood star system. Web scribes are fond of adding this tragic footnote to her story: Two days after her body was discovered, Uncle Harold opened a letter addressed to her from the Beverly Hills Playhouse. It was mailed the day before she jumped. The letter contained an offer for her to play the lead role in a stage production—in which her character would commit suicide in the final act. Again, this too-good-to-be-true tidbit originated from an interview with Uncle Harold.

UNCLE HAROLD'S HOUSE WITH THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN LOOMING IN THE BACKGROUND

However, I am skeptical that Entwistle killed herself after such a short time in Hollywood because she was despondent over her film career. Did she really feel her career was a failure after less than five months, especially after experiencing a successful stage career? Thirteen Women was her first film, and it didn’t officially open until after her death. Did she know how much of her part had been cut? Even if her part was cut, that doesn’t preclude her from landing other film roles at other studios.  Also, why was she so desperate for success so quickly? She lived with her uncle and was in no danger of being out on the street if she didn’t land work. The ambiguous suicide note found in her belongings, which she stacked neatly in a pile at the bottom of the giant “H” of the Hollywood sign, 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 note hardly seems to reference her career. Frankly, it sounds personal to me.

THE SIGN IN PEG'S ERA

Yet, to question Peg’s reasons for committing suicide would be to deny the actress her fame and her status as a potent symbol. Romanticized as a tragic victim of Hollywood, Entwistle makes the perfect pop culture subject. In The Day of the Locust (1972), John Schlesinger’s version of Nathaniel West’s novel about the dark side of Hollywood, her suicide is related in a scene involving a tour group, though her name was changed to Camille McRae. In the same year, Dory Previn composed a song titled “Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign,” which included the lyrics “She jumped from the letter ‘H’ ‘cause she didn’t become a star. She died in less than a minute and a half; she looked a bit like Hedy Lamarr.” The more recent film Stand-Ins (1997), a drama about a group of actresses who work as look-alikes of famous Golden Age stars, opens with a staging of Entwistle’s suicide, which sets the dark tone for the film.

They say Peg Entwistle’s ghost haunts the area around the Hollywood sign, but her spirit also lingers between the lines of the life stories of every forgotten starlet and failed actress. Peg’s fate in Hollywood offers another example of how the myth is more meaningful to movie lovers and movie-goers than the facts, and I don’t have a problem with that.

Alleman, Richard. Hollywood: The Movie Lover’s Guide. NYC: Broadway Books, 2005.

Chandler, Charlotte. The Girl Who Walked Home Alone—Bette Davis, A Personal Biography.   Simon and Shuster, 2006.

“Peg Entwistle,” Welsh Community Encyclopedia. http://www.welshpedia.co.uk/wiki/wales/index.php?title=Peg_Entwistle.

Sikov, Ed. Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis. Holt Paperbacks (reprint), 2008.

34 Responses The Hollywood Sign Girl: Peg Entwistle
Posted By debbe : January 18, 2010 3:22 pm

I used to live in that apartment building in the picture….. right next door. weird. great blog. never knew the real story.. just the lore that someone had jumped. thank you suzidoll. weird that i lived next door. …..

Posted By debbe : January 18, 2010 3:22 pm

I used to live in that apartment building in the picture….. right next door. weird. great blog. never knew the real story.. just the lore that someone had jumped. thank you suzidoll. weird that i lived next door. …..

Posted By cee : January 18, 2010 7:05 pm

i recognize the name walter hampden as the actor who played the elder actor giving a speech at the sarah siddons society award dinner in all about eve…back to bette davis again!

Posted By cee : January 18, 2010 7:05 pm

i recognize the name walter hampden as the actor who played the elder actor giving a speech at the sarah siddons society award dinner in all about eve…back to bette davis again!

Posted By mattman5000 : January 18, 2010 8:32 pm

It is rumored that the famed Hollywood watering-hole the PIG ‘N’ WHISTLE was named after her and this incident. Any truth to this rumor?

Posted By mattman5000 : January 18, 2010 8:32 pm

It is rumored that the famed Hollywood watering-hole the PIG ‘N’ WHISTLE was named after her and this incident. Any truth to this rumor?

Posted By Lisa Wright : January 19, 2010 12:01 am

How interesting that she left a note and her belongings stacked under the H. Really tragic and interesting how a myth is created and has the staying power that this one has. Thanks for the background and for finding that clip. Really interesting!

Posted By Lisa Wright : January 19, 2010 12:01 am

How interesting that she left a note and her belongings stacked under the H. Really tragic and interesting how a myth is created and has the staying power that this one has. Thanks for the background and for finding that clip. Really interesting!

Posted By NCeddie : January 19, 2010 5:12 am

Thanks for your research and thoughtful input into this piece.
I had imagined this suicide victim to be a chorine wannabe and fodder for a heartless casting couch scenario.

I agree that the suicide may well have been a response to personal factors rather than professional fears. Why did Miss Entwistle choose the H? Was that letter the easiest and most accessible to climb? Or was it an attempt to leave a cryptic message? Could there have been a dark shadow to her relationship with Uncle Harold? Perhaps more light into the life of Charles Harold Entwistle might enlighten us.

Posted By NCeddie : January 19, 2010 5:12 am

Thanks for your research and thoughtful input into this piece.
I had imagined this suicide victim to be a chorine wannabe and fodder for a heartless casting couch scenario.

I agree that the suicide may well have been a response to personal factors rather than professional fears. Why did Miss Entwistle choose the H? Was that letter the easiest and most accessible to climb? Or was it an attempt to leave a cryptic message? Could there have been a dark shadow to her relationship with Uncle Harold? Perhaps more light into the life of Charles Harold Entwistle might enlighten us.

Posted By CA : January 19, 2010 6:17 am

We called her St. Peg, patron saint of starving actors. Good post.

Posted By CA : January 19, 2010 6:17 am

We called her St. Peg, patron saint of starving actors. Good post.

Posted By Keith : January 19, 2010 8:57 am

As usual, you provide (in my opinion) the best written, most thoughtful and original musings on the movies. Thanks!!!

Posted By Keith : January 19, 2010 8:57 am

As usual, you provide (in my opinion) the best written, most thoughtful and original musings on the movies. Thanks!!!

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : January 19, 2010 10:36 am

I think about Peg Entwistle a lot, actually, especially now that I live in Los Angeles, where dreams seem to come true in direct proportion to finding good parking. She certainly is a symbol of dreams dashed and I’m glad you decided to write about her. If we were to put together a sort of Holy Trinity of doomed starlets (or starlet wannabes), who might we put up there with Peg and Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia?

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : January 19, 2010 10:36 am

I think about Peg Entwistle a lot, actually, especially now that I live in Los Angeles, where dreams seem to come true in direct proportion to finding good parking. She certainly is a symbol of dreams dashed and I’m glad you decided to write about her. If we were to put together a sort of Holy Trinity of doomed starlets (or starlet wannabes), who might we put up there with Peg and Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia?

Posted By suzidoll : January 19, 2010 1:36 pm

Thanks for all of your kind comments. I always appreciate it when someone comments on my posts.

Keith: You are very kind.

Mattmann: I had not heard that about the Pig ‘n’ whistle. Seems a stretch but you never know.

NCeddie: I had not thought to make the connection between Uncle Harold and the letter “H.” He certainly tap-danced to the press after she died with all sorts of opinions on her state of mind and possible reasons for her suicide. Now, I am more suspicious that it had nothing to do with the direction of her career.
RHS: If you think of third starlet, let me know. I can’t think of any at this time.

Posted By suzidoll : January 19, 2010 1:36 pm

Thanks for all of your kind comments. I always appreciate it when someone comments on my posts.

Keith: You are very kind.

Mattmann: I had not heard that about the Pig ‘n’ whistle. Seems a stretch but you never know.

NCeddie: I had not thought to make the connection between Uncle Harold and the letter “H.” He certainly tap-danced to the press after she died with all sorts of opinions on her state of mind and possible reasons for her suicide. Now, I am more suspicious that it had nothing to do with the direction of her career.
RHS: If you think of third starlet, let me know. I can’t think of any at this time.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : January 20, 2010 1:30 am

Virginia Rappe springs to mind.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : January 20, 2010 1:30 am

Virginia Rappe springs to mind.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : January 20, 2010 1:40 am

It is rumored that the famed Hollywood watering-hole the PIG ‘N’ WHISTLE was named after her and this incident. Any truth to this rumor?

I’d say False! The Hollywood Boulevard franchise of that (then) strictly West Coast chain of cafes opened its doors in July of 1927, before Peg had hit L.A. and obviously well before her death.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : January 20, 2010 1:40 am

It is rumored that the famed Hollywood watering-hole the PIG ‘N’ WHISTLE was named after her and this incident. Any truth to this rumor?

I’d say False! The Hollywood Boulevard franchise of that (then) strictly West Coast chain of cafes opened its doors in July of 1927, before Peg had hit L.A. and obviously well before her death.

Posted By Dave M. : January 21, 2010 7:16 am

Great post. I never knew what an accomplished actress she was or the history of the sign. I love seeing those old pics before the ‘LAND’ was removed. Very mysterious as to why she killed herself.

Following up on Richard’s trilogy of doomed starlets, the one that springs to my mind is Barbara Payton, a fate brought on by much reckless behavior but a tragic story nonetheless.

Posted By Dave M. : January 21, 2010 7:16 am

Great post. I never knew what an accomplished actress she was or the history of the sign. I love seeing those old pics before the ‘LAND’ was removed. Very mysterious as to why she killed herself.

Following up on Richard’s trilogy of doomed starlets, the one that springs to my mind is Barbara Payton, a fate brought on by much reckless behavior but a tragic story nonetheless.

Posted By moirafinnie : January 21, 2010 9:27 am

Hi Suzi,
The balanced, analytical skill and scholarship that you’ve applied to the subject of this nearly legendary figure has restored some of Peg Entwistle’s humanity. Thank you for writing it so well with such clarity and balance.

Re: Private Factors in Entwistle’s Life
I also wondered if some aspect of Entwistle’s private rather than her professional life may have been a factor in her decision to take her life. Being a character actor fan, I noted that one of the few verifiable facts about the actress was her marriage from 1927 to about 1929 or 1930 to Robert Keith (1898-1966), a character actor, producer, director and playwright who had acted on Broadway in everything from Eugene O’Neill to Lillian Hellman plays during his long career. After having his own play “The Tightwad” produced briefly on Broadway in 1927 and in stock companies throughout the country, Keith was one of the Broadway veterans who was scooped up by Hollywood as a writer just as the Talkies began, working at Universal from the late ’20s through 1932 on several films, including the 1932 Tom Mix version of Destry Rides Again while also appearing in uncredited bit parts in movies. Perhaps their marriage was one of those that was a cause lost to jazz age impulsiveness, the separations that seemed inevitable in building any show biz career, or another factor. While we can’t know if this disappointment affected Peg Entwistle’s state of mind, it does seem that the young woman had endured more than a few cumulative losses in her private life with the death of family members and her divorce, perhaps contributing to some sense of isolation and instability, even though the dropped option at RKO hardly seems likely to have been as significant a factor from our viewpoint many years later.

Btw, Robert Keith is best remembered today as the father of actor Brian Keith, who was the only child of his marriage to stage actress Helena Shipman, which ended in 1926. The elder Keith is also noted for his excellent character work in films from the late ’40s and throughout the ’50s, including Fourteen Hours and Written on the Wind.

Re: Thirteen Women
I have seen the TCM print of the film and, while the novel it was based on may have had lesbianism as an explicit part of the storyline, that is only hinted at in the film when the characters refer to the exceptional closeness of the women as schoolgirls, those cryptic comments made by Hazel Cousins about “traveling with a friend”, and their warm exchanged expressions and linked arms as they watch the circus performance. There is literally nothing else to indicate that Hazel may have been conflicted by lesbianism that led to her murdering her husband and going bonkers. Maybe savvy pre-code audiences may have understood that something was going on and didn’t need it spelled out. If lesbianism is a part of the film, it is evident most of all in the behavior of the seductive Eurasian character played by Myrna Loy. Her part as a vengeful woman getting back at her former classmates for excluding her because of her mixed heritage manages to play on the pain of racism while piling on the clichés regarding “Orientals” and their arcane “black arts” that might threaten Western society.

When Myrna Loy (who has great fun in her part, despite the goofy plot and mixed message of racism) sidles up to her victims (both male and female), she uses her arcane powers to bend others to her will, they usually kill themselves once she is done toying with them–unless, of course, they have an iron will like lily white Irene Dunne–and they have Ricardo Cortez, as a smug policeman to assist them.

One of the frustrating aspects of this very brief movie is that, other than Loy and Irene Dunne, few of the other characters are on screen long enough to make much of an impression, though there is a morbid quality throughout the sketchy movie. The film may have been cut because of preview audience reactions, but I believe that it also may have been changed because RKO shifted the film’s emphasis to Dunne, cutting all the other character’s parts after the leading lady had a big hit earlier in September, 1932 in Universal’s Back Street (1932-John Stahl), just weeks before the general release of Thirteen Women.

Posted By moirafinnie : January 21, 2010 9:27 am

Hi Suzi,
The balanced, analytical skill and scholarship that you’ve applied to the subject of this nearly legendary figure has restored some of Peg Entwistle’s humanity. Thank you for writing it so well with such clarity and balance.

Re: Private Factors in Entwistle’s Life
I also wondered if some aspect of Entwistle’s private rather than her professional life may have been a factor in her decision to take her life. Being a character actor fan, I noted that one of the few verifiable facts about the actress was her marriage from 1927 to about 1929 or 1930 to Robert Keith (1898-1966), a character actor, producer, director and playwright who had acted on Broadway in everything from Eugene O’Neill to Lillian Hellman plays during his long career. After having his own play “The Tightwad” produced briefly on Broadway in 1927 and in stock companies throughout the country, Keith was one of the Broadway veterans who was scooped up by Hollywood as a writer just as the Talkies began, working at Universal from the late ’20s through 1932 on several films, including the 1932 Tom Mix version of Destry Rides Again while also appearing in uncredited bit parts in movies. Perhaps their marriage was one of those that was a cause lost to jazz age impulsiveness, the separations that seemed inevitable in building any show biz career, or another factor. While we can’t know if this disappointment affected Peg Entwistle’s state of mind, it does seem that the young woman had endured more than a few cumulative losses in her private life with the death of family members and her divorce, perhaps contributing to some sense of isolation and instability, even though the dropped option at RKO hardly seems likely to have been as significant a factor from our viewpoint many years later.

Btw, Robert Keith is best remembered today as the father of actor Brian Keith, who was the only child of his marriage to stage actress Helena Shipman, which ended in 1926. The elder Keith is also noted for his excellent character work in films from the late ’40s and throughout the ’50s, including Fourteen Hours and Written on the Wind.

Re: Thirteen Women
I have seen the TCM print of the film and, while the novel it was based on may have had lesbianism as an explicit part of the storyline, that is only hinted at in the film when the characters refer to the exceptional closeness of the women as schoolgirls, those cryptic comments made by Hazel Cousins about “traveling with a friend”, and their warm exchanged expressions and linked arms as they watch the circus performance. There is literally nothing else to indicate that Hazel may have been conflicted by lesbianism that led to her murdering her husband and going bonkers. Maybe savvy pre-code audiences may have understood that something was going on and didn’t need it spelled out. If lesbianism is a part of the film, it is evident most of all in the behavior of the seductive Eurasian character played by Myrna Loy. Her part as a vengeful woman getting back at her former classmates for excluding her because of her mixed heritage manages to play on the pain of racism while piling on the clichés regarding “Orientals” and their arcane “black arts” that might threaten Western society.

When Myrna Loy (who has great fun in her part, despite the goofy plot and mixed message of racism) sidles up to her victims (both male and female), she uses her arcane powers to bend others to her will, they usually kill themselves once she is done toying with them–unless, of course, they have an iron will like lily white Irene Dunne–and they have Ricardo Cortez, as a smug policeman to assist them.

One of the frustrating aspects of this very brief movie is that, other than Loy and Irene Dunne, few of the other characters are on screen long enough to make much of an impression, though there is a morbid quality throughout the sketchy movie. The film may have been cut because of preview audience reactions, but I believe that it also may have been changed because RKO shifted the film’s emphasis to Dunne, cutting all the other character’s parts after the leading lady had a big hit earlier in September, 1932 in Universal’s Back Street (1932-John Stahl), just weeks before the general release of Thirteen Women.

Posted By Jeff L. Shannon : February 2, 2010 10:49 am

ATTENTION TO SUZIE! need your assistance, please drop me a line soon as you get a sec.

Have revised comp. & need to update all online pals’ you of course being among them BIG-TIME!

This topic onthe legendary H. Sign-(which most don’t know was built in 1923 & was revised to just “HOLLYWOOD” in 1949.

It’s like the seemingly always there Hollywood, Blvd & it’s “Walk-of-Fame”-(est in 1960 with *J. Woodward, as it’s debut “Star”)
H. Blvd was still present, it just hadnot established this idea by the HCOC-(Hollywood Chamber of Commerce) until that year for some reason? & it took until June of 1961 for them to install the initial (1,558) “Stars” a lot posthumously of course-(Fairbanks, Sr., Valentino, *Bogie, J.D., Harlow, Lombard, W.C. Fields, Tom Mix, & a lot more)

I’m positive the traig Peg Entwistle was touched on here.
It just may be more of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” But, even the security guards-(with dogs,etc) often say there are off-the-wall rumblings around the area the actress jumped to her death in 1932. Who knows?
Closest I ever got to the sign was from “The Griffith Park 0bservatory” & depending on the fog/smog,etc you could barely see-it at night.

AGAIN, SUZIE PLEASE WRITE

& AGAIN I THANK YOU

Posted By Jeff L. Shannon : February 2, 2010 10:49 am

ATTENTION TO SUZIE! need your assistance, please drop me a line soon as you get a sec.

Have revised comp. & need to update all online pals’ you of course being among them BIG-TIME!

This topic onthe legendary H. Sign-(which most don’t know was built in 1923 & was revised to just “HOLLYWOOD” in 1949.

It’s like the seemingly always there Hollywood, Blvd & it’s “Walk-of-Fame”-(est in 1960 with *J. Woodward, as it’s debut “Star”)
H. Blvd was still present, it just hadnot established this idea by the HCOC-(Hollywood Chamber of Commerce) until that year for some reason? & it took until June of 1961 for them to install the initial (1,558) “Stars” a lot posthumously of course-(Fairbanks, Sr., Valentino, *Bogie, J.D., Harlow, Lombard, W.C. Fields, Tom Mix, & a lot more)

I’m positive the traig Peg Entwistle was touched on here.
It just may be more of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” But, even the security guards-(with dogs,etc) often say there are off-the-wall rumblings around the area the actress jumped to her death in 1932. Who knows?
Closest I ever got to the sign was from “The Griffith Park 0bservatory” & depending on the fog/smog,etc you could barely see-it at night.

AGAIN, SUZIE PLEASE WRITE

& AGAIN I THANK YOU

Posted By Jeff L. Shannon : February 2, 2010 10:52 am

& on theeven more tragic Virginiaappe,shewas laid to rest in thatnow fairly famous cemetary-(due to it almost being condemned a few yrs back)
“Hollywood Forever, Cem.”-(which borders Paramount & old RKO Radio)
Speaking of which, you can often get a postcard perfect shot from this park of THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN!

Posted By Jeff L. Shannon : February 2, 2010 10:52 am

& on theeven more tragic Virginiaappe,shewas laid to rest in thatnow fairly famous cemetary-(due to it almost being condemned a few yrs back)
“Hollywood Forever, Cem.”-(which borders Paramount & old RKO Radio)
Speaking of which, you can often get a postcard perfect shot from this park of THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN!

Posted By James and Peg : February 11, 2010 10:55 pm

Hi,
Very nice article–been waiting a long time for somebody to line things up a bit more accurate than usual. You are very close about what drove Peg to do what she did.

I’ll detail it all in her book. Oh, the note actually reads: “I am afraid I’m a coward…”; no comma after “afraid.”

This is a big deal in light of the context of the facts within my book’s narrative.

I am curious why you ignored her marriage to RK, though.

I saw the original 1hr 57min print and have the shooting scripts and production notes–Hazel’s lesbian affair is shown in the film. Peg was given 22 minutes of face time. She is the “star” in nearly the entire opening. After the first set-up page (establishing), she has dialogue in the next 21 pages of the script. Of course, now we see just the 3-plus minutes of her.

My book has three chapters dedicated to the production of “Thirteen Women” alone.

Also, RKO did option her. Oh, there are so many amazing things that will astound!

I like what you say about her place in history with the Sign. My book shatters the myths of her suicide, but will in no way diminsh the legend.

I have lived with Peg and her family for 5 years now. (Both figuratively and literally.) While her brother and niece have been a joy to know, Peg’s life and end have become a two-edged sword.

If not for my mentor, author Eve Golden, I would probably have climbed the damn Sign myself.

Again, thanks for writing a thoughtful, well-researched article about Babs. I sent the link to her family.

Wish I could tell you more–actually I can, but not here!

Please feel free to write me. You can see pics of me with her brother on my FaceBook, too.

Best to you–
James Zeruk Jr.

Posted By James and Peg : February 11, 2010 10:55 pm

Hi,
Very nice article–been waiting a long time for somebody to line things up a bit more accurate than usual. You are very close about what drove Peg to do what she did.

I’ll detail it all in her book. Oh, the note actually reads: “I am afraid I’m a coward…”; no comma after “afraid.”

This is a big deal in light of the context of the facts within my book’s narrative.

I am curious why you ignored her marriage to RK, though.

I saw the original 1hr 57min print and have the shooting scripts and production notes–Hazel’s lesbian affair is shown in the film. Peg was given 22 minutes of face time. She is the “star” in nearly the entire opening. After the first set-up page (establishing), she has dialogue in the next 21 pages of the script. Of course, now we see just the 3-plus minutes of her.

My book has three chapters dedicated to the production of “Thirteen Women” alone.

Also, RKO did option her. Oh, there are so many amazing things that will astound!

I like what you say about her place in history with the Sign. My book shatters the myths of her suicide, but will in no way diminsh the legend.

I have lived with Peg and her family for 5 years now. (Both figuratively and literally.) While her brother and niece have been a joy to know, Peg’s life and end have become a two-edged sword.

If not for my mentor, author Eve Golden, I would probably have climbed the damn Sign myself.

Again, thanks for writing a thoughtful, well-researched article about Babs. I sent the link to her family.

Wish I could tell you more–actually I can, but not here!

Please feel free to write me. You can see pics of me with her brother on my FaceBook, too.

Best to you–
James Zeruk Jr.

Posted By AdamT. : April 15, 2012 11:02 pm

If I could, if it were possible. I’d buy a place on the hollywood walk of fame, and have a star placed there, with her name. She deserved recognition for her acting abilities, but sadly some wires were crossed along the line which lead to her demise.

Posted By AdamT. : April 15, 2012 11:02 pm

If I could, if it were possible. I’d buy a place on the hollywood walk of fame, and have a star placed there, with her name. She deserved recognition for her acting abilities, but sadly some wires were crossed along the line which lead to her demise.

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