The Tragically True Story Behind Hollywood‘s Movie Heroine, Peg

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: Spoilers are ahead for Hollywood.
Netflix's glamorous new series Hollywood is fan fiction that's not focused on shipping the biggest stars, but those still looking for their big break. Unfortunately, not everyone makes it in Hollywood, but in Ryan Murphy's Hollywood, one of Tinseltown's most notorious tragedies gets a powerful retelling.
Peg in Hollywood is based on real-life actress Peg Entwistle, a blonde from London who jumped to her death from the Hollywood sign in 1932. The actress born Lillian Millicent Entwistle in Wales in 1908 found success on Broadway in the '20s. She moved to Hollywood looking to become a movie star, but she had trouble finding work, getting cast in only one film, the thriller Thirteen Women, which she was eventually cut out of.
That is believed to be what led the 24-year-old Entwistle to climb up the "H" of the Hollywood sign, which then read Hollywoodland, on the night of September 16, 1932. “I am afraid, I am a coward," the note that was found at the scene read. "I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”
But, as the podcast You Must Remember This points out, her story likely wasn't that simple. Entwistle reportedly suffered from depression and had ended an abusive relationship only years earlier that she stated left her with emotionally unwell, according to court papers. She had left Broadway for Hollywood and might have felt she couldn't go back. The reality is, the whole truth died with Entwistle.
Unfortunately, Entwistle's life has become defined by her tragic death. Eighty-eight years later, people still believe she haunts the Hollywood landmark, but have forgotten that Bette Davis considered Entwistle her acting idol. "The reason I wanted to go into theatre was because of an actress named Peg Entwistle," Davis told Newsday in 1976.
She is also an apparition on Hollywood, kept alive by up-and-coming screenwriter Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope), whose first screenplay is dedicated to a woman immortalised in infamy, often not even by name. (Tabloids at the time of her death dubbed her the "Hollywood Sign Girl.")
Even Archie's movie gets a rewrite that turns Peg into Meg, a Black girl from Mississippi looking for her big break. Instead of ending her life because she didn't get the part, Meg realises that she needs to keep going, she can't let this town break her. She climbs up the "H" only to climb back down into the arms of the man she loves.
At first, it might feel as if Peg's narrative is being erased, but her story becomes a catalyst for Hollywood's stars to keep trying. Peg's life is a parable about how Hollywood treats outsiders like Meg star Camille Washington (Laura Harrier), a Black starlet who is the best actress at Ace Pictures, but can't get cast as anything other than the help. Peg's struggle to be seen isn't unlike Archie (Jeremy Pope) trying to become the first Black and openly gay screenwriter at a major studio or Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec) refusing to play the “oversexed, opium-addled courtesans, dangerously exotic far Eastern temptresses” Hollywood keeps throwing her way because she knows she is better than that.
All of them were made to feel invisible in hopes that they completely fade away, but Hollywood creates a world where that never happens. Where Hollywood takes more chances and embraces the Pegs and the Megs and everyone in between. In seven episodes, Hollywood makes it clear that Peg deserves to be remembered. Not as the girl who jumped from the Hollywood sign, but as something more.
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