Short is far from the only beautiful girl who went to Hollywood to pursue the goal of fame and fortune. There are countless forgotten, pretty faces who have tried, survived, died or simply returned home, disillusioned and seeking a new path in life. Short was one of the unfortunate women who would be murdered, although there were many more beautiful, young victims like herself during the 1940s decade. A rather unusual story, however, stands out in its own right. It is the story of the Girl who Jumped from the Hollywood Sign.
Have you ever wondered whose idea the sign was and why he wanted it put at the top of Mr. Lee? Me neither but here’s a bit of background anyway. Built in 1923, the famous sign was the vision for a real estate development in Beachwood Canyon. The sign read “Hollywoodland” and cost $21,000 to construct. That would be the equivalent of about $10,000,000 today. The letters are 30 feet wide and 45 feet tall. They were originally lit by 4000 light bulbs but that cost a pretty penny and light maintenance was discontinued in 1939, The word land was removed in 1949. Eventually the sign became rundown and in 1978 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce restored it with the help of private donations. And that’s it. That’s the fabulous story of the Hollywood sign. However, there is a grim story about a girl and the sign.
Millicent Lillian Entwistle (Peg)
From an early age, Peg’s life was filled with tragedy. After the death of her mother when Peg was a child, she and her father moved to New York where he re-married. One day, however, Peg’s father was stupid enough to get run over by a car on Park Avenue. Peg the orphan began to pursue her acting career. At 17 she made her debut with the Boston repertory company, and Peg was soon working on Broadway in the prestigious Theater Guild productions. Pretty good beginning.
In 1927, Peg married Robert Keith a man 10 years her senior. However it wouldn’t be long before Keith admitted he was married and had a six-year-old son. Oddly, while divorcing this prize, Peg helped him stay out of jail by paying the back alimony he owed his ex-wife. Depression began to set in after Peg couldn’t find more theatre work and eventually she moved to Hollywood. In 1932, RKO signed her for the role of Hazel in the murder mystery Thirteen Women starring Irene Dunne. The movie got poor reviews from critics and the studio held back its general release so it could re-edit the film. RKO dropped Peg and that appeared to be the end of her acting career.
On September 18, 1932, after a night of drinking and overwhelming depression, Peg climbed up the rocky slope of Mt. Lee to the base of the “Hollywoodland” sign. She underwent a strange suicide ritual that many suicides do: she removed her black and tan silk coat, folded it neatly and placed it alongside her purse, which contained a suicide note. Most suicides don’t leave notes, Peg did. Peg climbed up to the bottom of the letter “H” then took a swan dive into the ground. She was only 24 years old. Police found Peg’s mangled body some 100 feet down the side of the ravine. To this day, Peg Entwistle remains the only documented case of suicide connected to jumping off the Hollywood sign.
Rumour has it that shortly after her death, The Beverly Hills Playhouse wanted her to star in their next production which, ironically, was about a young girl who commits suicide. Peg never did get her chance to twinkle. In the years following Peg’s suicide, hikers and park rangers in Griffith Park have reported sightings of a woman dressed in 1930’s era clothing who vanishes when approached. She has been described as a very attractive, blond woman, who seems very sad. Of course everyone speculates this is Peg’s ghost. Maybe there is no escaping Hollywood, for Short or anyone else who dies there.