Tuesday, September 27, 2011

L.A. Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson's Accidental Overdose 1944


Aimee Semple McPherson (October 9, 1890 – September 27, 1944), also called Sister Aimee, was a Canadian-born evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the Foursquare Church. McPherson has been noted as a pioneer in the use of modern media, especially radio, which she drew upon through the growing appeal of popular entertainment in North America.


International Church of the Foursquare Gospel

Weary of constant traveling and having no place to raise a family, McPherson had settled in Los Angeles, where she maintained both a home and a church. McPherson believed that by creating a church in Los Angeles, her audience would come to her from all over the country, she could plant the seed of the Foursquare gospel and tourists would take it home to their communities, thus taking the traveling out of her preaching, while still reaching the masses. For several years she continued to travel and raise money for the construction of a large, domed church building in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, named Angelus Temple. She raised more than expected and altered the original plans to build a "megachurch" that would draw many followers throughout the years. The church was dedicated on January 1, 1923. It had a seating capacity of 5,300 people and was filled to capacity three times each day, seven days a week. At first McPherson preached every service, often in a dramatic scene she put together to attract audiences. The church eventually evolved into its own denomination, called the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, which focused on the nature of Christ's character, that he was savior, baptizer with the Holy Spirit, healer and coming king. There were four main beliefs, the first being Christ's ability to transform individuals' lives through the act of salvation. The second focused on a holy baptism, the third was divine healing and the fourth was gospel-oriented heed to the premillennial return of Christ.


McPherson often based her sermons around events that took place in her life and then acted them out on Sunday evening. In August 1925, McPherson decided to charter a plane so she would not miss a Sunday sermon. Aware of the opportunity for publicity, she had at least two thousand followers and members of the press at the takeoff site. The plane failed after takeoff and the landing gear collapsed, sending the nose of the plane into the ground. McPherson boarded another plane the same day and used the experience as the narrative of an illustrated Sunday sermon called "The Heavenly Airplane." The stage in Angelus Temple was set up with two miniature planes and a skyline that looked like Los Angeles. In this sermon, McPherson described how the first plane had the devil for the pilot, sin for the engine and temptation as the propeller. The other plane, however, was piloted by Jesus and would lead one to the Holy City (the skyline shown on stage). The temple was filled beyond capacity. On one occasion, she described being pulled over by a police officer, calling the sermon "Arrested for Speeding." McPherson employed a small group of artists, electricians, decorators and carpenters who built the sets for each Sunday's service. Religious music played by an orchestra. Biographer Matthew Avery Sutton wrote, "McPherson found no contradiction between her rejection of Hollywood values for her use of show business techniques. She would not hesitate to use the devil's tools to tear down the devil's house." Collections were taken at every meeting, often with the admonishment, "no coins, please."


McPherson became a strong supporter of William Jennings Bryan during the 1925 Scopes Trial, in which John Scopes was tried for illegally teaching evolution at a Dayton, Tennessee, school. Bryan and McPherson had worked together in the Angelus Temple and they believed social Darwinism had undermined students' morality. According to McPherson, evolution "is the greatest triumph of Satanic intelligence in 5,931 years of devilish warfare, against the Hosts of Heaven. It is poisoning the minds of the children of the nation" She sent Bryan a telegram saying, "Ten thousand members of Angelus temple with her millions of radio church membership send grateful appreciation of your lion hearted championship of the Bible against evolution and throw our hats in the ring with you."[12] She organized "an all night prayer service, a massive church meeting preceded by a Bible parade through Los Angeles."[13]


Reported kidnapping

On May 18, 1926, McPherson went with her secretary to Ocean Park Beach north of Venice Beach to swim. Soon after arriving, McPherson was nowhere to be found. It was thought she had drowned.

McPherson was scheduled to hold a service that day and her mother Minnie Kennedy preached the sermon instead, saying at the end, "Sister is with Jesus," sending parishioners into a tearful frenzy. Mourners crowded Venice Beach and the commotion sparked days-long media coverage fueled in part by William Randolph Hearst's Los Angeles Examiner and stirring a poem by Upton Sinclair to commemorate the tragedy. Daily updates appeared in newspapers across the country and parishioners held day-and-night seaside vigils. One parishioner drowned whilst searching for the body and a diver died from exposure.

Kenneth G. Ormiston, the engineer for KFSG, had also disappeared. Some believed McPherson and Ormiston, who was married, had developed a close friendship and run off together. After about a month her mother received a ransom note (signed by "The Avengers") which demanded a half million dollars, or else kidnappers would sell McPherson into "white slavery.." Kennedy later said she tossed the letter away, believing her daughter was dead.

Shortly thereafter, on June 23, McPherson stumbled out of the desert in Agua Prieta, Sonora, a Mexican town across the border from Douglas, Arizona. She claimed she had been kidnapped, drugged, tortured and held for ransom in a shack by two people, Steve and Mexicali Rose. Her story also alleged that she had escaped from her captors and walked through the desert for about 13 hours to freedom.

However, her shoes showed no hint of a 13-hour walk in the desert but rather, carried grass stains. The shack was not found. McPherson had vanished wearing a bathing suit. She returned fully dressed, wearing a wristwatch (a gift from her mother) which she had not taken on the swimming trip. A grand jury convened on July 8, 1926, but adjourned 12 days later citing lack of evidence to proceed.

Five witnesses claimed to have seen McPherson at a seaside cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea. One claimed to have seen Mrs. McPherson at the cottage on May 5 (he later went to see her preach at Angelus Temple on August 8, to confirm she was the woman he had seen at Carmel). His story was confirmed by a neighbor who lived next door to the Carmel cottage, by a woman who rented the cottage to Ormiston (under the name "McIntyre"), by a grocery clerk and a Carmel fuel dealer who delivered wood to the cottage.

The grand jury reconvened on August 3 and took further testimony along with documents from hotels, said to be in McPherson's handwriting. McPherson steadfastly stuck to her story, that she was approached by a young couple at the beach who had asked her to come over and pray for their sick child, that she was then shoved into a car and drugged with chloroform. However, when she was not forthcoming with answers regarding her relationship with Ormiston (now estranged from his wife), the judge charged McPherson and her mother with obstruction of justice. To combat the bad newspaper publicity, McPherson spoke freely about the court trials on her private radio station.


Theories and innuendo abounded, that she had run off with a lover, that she had gone off to have an abortion, taken time to heal from plastic surgery or had staged a publicity stunt. The Examiner newspaper then reported that Los Angeles district attorney Asa Keyes had dropped all charges, which he did on January 10, 1927.

The tale was later lampooned by Pete Seeger in a song called "The Ballad of Aimee McPherson," with lyrics claiming the kidnapping had been unlikely because a hotel love nest revealed "the dents in the mattress fit Aimee's caboose."


Milton Berle's claim

In Milton Berle: An Autobiography, Milton Berle claimed he had a brief affair with McPherson in 1930, saying he met McPherson at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles where both were doing a charity show. Upon seeing her for the first time, Berle recalled, "I was both impressed and very curious ... She was all dignity and class when it came her turn. The house went wild when she walked out into the lights." Backstage, she invited him to see the Angelus Temple. Instead, Berle wrote, the two of them went to lunch in Santa Monica, then to an apartment of hers where McPherson changed into something "cooler [...] a very thin, pale blue negligee." Berle said he could see she was wearing nothing underneath and that she only said, "Come in." Berle said they met for the second and last time at the same apartment a few days later, writing, "This time, she just sent the chauffeur for me to bring me straight to the apartment. We didn't even bother with lunch. When I was dressing to leave, she stuck out her hand. 'Good luck with your show, Milton.' What the hell. I couldn't resist it. 'Good luck with yours, Aimee.' I never saw or heard from Aimee Semple McPherson again. But whenever I hear 'Yes, Sir, That's My Baby,' I remember her." Biographer Matthew Avery Sutton commented, "Berle, a notorious womanizer whose many tales of scandalous affairs were not always true, claimed to have had sex with McPherson on this and one other occasion" both during a year when McPherson was often ill and bedridden. Sutton also wrote that Berle's story of a crucifix in her bedroom was not consistent with the coolness of Pentecostal/Catholic relations during that era.


Later life and career

McPherson carried on with her ministry but fell out of favor with the press. She became caught up in power struggles for the church with her mother and daughter and suffered a nervous breakdown in August 1930.

On September 13, 1931, McPherson married again, to actor and musician David Hutton. The marriage got off to a rocky start. Two days after the wedding Hutton was sued for alienation of affection by Hazel St. Pierre (Hutton claimed he had never met her). He eventually settled the case by paying St. Pierre US$5,000. While McPherson was away in Europe, she was angered to learn Hutton was billing himself as "Aimee's man" in his cabaret singing act. The marriage also caused an uproar within the church: The tenets of Foursquare Gospel, as put forth by McPherson herself, held that one should not remarry while their previous spouse was still alive and McPherson's indeed was. McPherson and Hutton separated in 1933 and divorced on March 1, 1934.


Drawing from her childhood experience with the Salvation Army, in 1936 McPherson opened the temple commissary 24 hours a day, seven days a week and became more active in creating soup kitchens, free clinics and other charitable activities as the Great Depression wore on. With the later outbreak of World War II, she became involved in war bond rallies, with sermons linking the church and Americanism.


Death

On September 26, 1944, McPherson went to Oakland, California, for a series of revivals, planning to preach her popular "Story of My Life" sermon. When McPherson's son went to her hotel room at 10:00 the next morning, he found her unconscious with pills and a half-empty bottle of capsules nearby. She was dead by 11:15.

The autopsy did not conclusively determine the cause of death. She had been taking sleeping pills following sundry health problems (including "tropical fever") in the 1940s. The pills found in the hotel room were Seconal, a strong sedative which had not been prescribed for her and how she obtained them was unknown.

The coroner said she most likely died of an accidental overdose compounded by kidney failure. Seconal has a hypnotizing effect which can make a person forgetful about how much medication has been taken and lead to an overdose. There was some conjecture of suicide but most sources generally agree the overdose was accidental as put forth in the coroner's report.

McPherson is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. The Foursquare Gospel church was led by her son Rolf McPherson for 44 years after her death and claims over eight million members worldwide.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Celebrity Grave: Actor Don Adams 2005


Don Adams (April 13, 1923 – September 25, 2005) was an American actor, comedian and director. In his five decades on television, he was best known as Maxwell Smart (Agent 86) in the TV situation comedy Get Smart (1965–1970, 1995), which he also directed and wrote. Adams won three consecutive Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Smart (1967–1969). He provided the voices for the animated series Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (1963–1966) and Inspector Gadget (1983–1986) as their title characters. He voiced Sid Pickles (appeared all episodes) called Mike and Spike (1993-2005).


Personal life

Adams was married: to Adelaide Efantis Adams, Dorothy Bracken Adams and Judy Luciano. His brother, Richard Paul Yarmy also known as Dick Yarmy (February 14, 1932– May 5, 1992), was an actor. His sister, Gloria (Yarmy) Burton, was a writer.


Adams was an avid gambler — according to his longtime friend Bill Dana, "He could be very devoted to his family if you reminded him about it, [but] Don's whole life was focused around gambling."


Death

Don Adams died on September 25, 2005 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California from a lung infection and lymphoma. Among his eulogists was his decades-long friend, Barbara Feldon. Adams was interred in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. His funeral mass was held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. Adams was survived by three daughters from his first marriage, two children from his second marriage, and a daughter from his third marriage; he was also survived by five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.






Saturday, September 24, 2011

Susan Atkins - Manson Family Murderer Died in Prison 2009


Susan Denise Atkins (May 7, 1948 – September 24, 2009) was a convicted American murderess who was a member of the "Manson family," led by Charles Manson. Manson and his followers committed a series of nine murders at four locations in California, over a period of five weeks in the summer of 1969. Known within the Manson family as Sadie Mae Glutz, Atkins was convicted for her participation in eight of these killings, including the most notorious, "Tate/LaBianca" murders. She was sentenced to death, which was subsequently commuted to life in prison. Incarcerated from October 1, 1969 until her death, Atkins was the longest-incarcerated female inmate in the California penal system, having been denied parole 18 times.


Susan Atkins died on September 24, 2009, at the Central California Women's facility in Chowchilla. A prison spokesperson announced to reporters that her death was due to natural causes. Her husband, James Whitehouse, subsequently released the following statement:

"Susan passed away peacefully surrounded by friends and loved ones and the incredible staff at the Skilled Nursing Facility at the Central California Women's Facility ... Her last whispered word was 'Amen.' No one (on) the face of the Earth worked as hard as Susan did to right an unrightable wrong."


Friday, September 23, 2011

Celebrity Grave: L.A. Times Publisher Harry Chandler 1944


Harry Chandler (May 17, 1864 – September 23, 1944) was an American newspaper publisher and investor who became owner of the largest real estate empire in the U.S.


Biography

Born in Landaff, New Hampshire, Chandler attended Dartmouth College. On a dare, he jumped into a vat of starch that had frozen over during winter, which led to severe pneumonia. He withdrew from Dartmouth and moved to Los Angeles for his health.

In Los Angeles, while working in the fruit fields, he started a small delivery company that soon became responsible for also delivering many of the city’s morning newspapers, which put him in contact with Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis. Otis liked this entrepreneurial young man and hired him as the Times’ general manager. Harry’s first wife had died in childbirth and he went on to marry Otis’s daughter, Marian Otis. Upon Otis’s death in 1917, Harry took over the reins as publisher of the Times, transforming it into the leading newspaper in the West and at times the most successful: for three straight years in the 1920s, under his leadership, the Times led all other American newspapers in advertising space and amount of classified ads.

Much of his boundless energy and dreams were however directed to transforming Los Angeles. As a community builder and large-scale real estate speculator, he became arguably the leading citizen of Los Angeles in the first half of the 20th century. Chandler was directly involved with helping to found the following: the Los Angeles Coliseum (and bringing the 1932 Summer Olympics to L.A.), the Biltmore Hotel, the Douglas Aircraft Company, the Hollywood Bowl, The Ambassador Hotel, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the Auto Club of Southern California, KHJ radio station, Trans World Airlines, the San Pedro Harbor, the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the California Club, The Pacific Electric Cars, the Los Angeles Art Association, the Santa Anita Park racetrack, the Los Angeles Steamship Company, the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, and the restoration of downtown’s Olvera Street and Chinatown.

As a real estate investor, he was a partner in syndicates that owned and developed much of the San Fernando Valley, as well as the Hollywood Hills (Hollywoodland), where he borrowed the idea for an electric sign from H J Whitley, the Father of Hollywood. Whitley had the first electric sign in Hollywood that read "Whitley Heights." The Hollywoodland sign was used to promote the development. Chandler's other real estate projects included Mulholland Drive, much of Dana Point, the Tejon Ranch (281,000 acres (1,140 km²) in Southern California), the Vermejo Park Ranch (340,000 acres (1,400 km²) in New Mexico), and the C and M ranch (832,000 acres (3,370 km²) in northern Baja, Mexico). At one point these investments made him the largest private landowner in the U.S., while at the same time, he was an officer or director in thirty-five California corporations, including oil, shipping, and banking.

Harry Chandler was a notable eugenicist during his time as President of the Los Angeles Times, and was a member of the Human Betterment Foundation, an organization headed by Ezra Gosney.[1]


He and Marian had eight children;, his oldest son, Norman, followed him as publisher of the Times.


Harry Chandler died on September 23, 1944 from a heart attack. He and Marian are buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard. Harrison Gray Otis's memorial is nearby.




Chandler Boulevard, a major street in the San Fernando Valley, is named for Harry Chandler.


City Politics

Chandler used the influence of his newspaper in efforts to sway political decisions, with mixed success. In 1949, Chandler attempted to use his influence with the Los Angeles Police Department to ensure that Thad Brown was named the next chief of police. His efforts were foiled, however, when a commissioner thought to be under Chandler's control died shortly before the vote. Instead, William Parker was selected.[2]


Sources

1.^ Gosney, E.S. (1929). Twenty-eight Years of Sterilization in California. Pasadena, California: The Human Betterment Foundation. p. 38.
2.^ Buntin, John (2009). L.A. Noir. New York: Harmony Books. pp. 419. ISBN 978-0-307-35207-1.


Further reading

The Powers That Be, David Halberstam, Dell Books, 1986
Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty, Dennis McDougal, Perseus Publishing, 2001
The Ancestry of Harry Chandler by Gwendolyn Garland Babcock


Thursday, September 22, 2011

UNMARKED Celebrity Grave: Actor George C. Scott 1999


George Campbell Scott (October 18, 1927 – September 22, 1999) was an American stage and film actor, director and producer. He was best known for his bravura stage work, as well as his portrayal of General George S. Patton in the film Patton, and an early flamboyant film performance as General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. He has also widely been known for his rather gravelly voice.


Scott had a reputation for being moody and mercurial while on the set. "There is no question you get pumped up by the recognition," he once said, "Then a self-loathing sets in when you realize you're enjoying it." He said he'd seen a psychiatrist four times. "I kept laughing. I couldn't get serious. If it helps you, it helps you. If standing on your head on the roof helps you, it helps you—if you think so." A famous anecdote relates that one of his stage costars, Maureen Stapleton, told the director of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite, "I don't know what to do—I'm scared of him." The director, Mike Nichols, replied, "My dear, everyone is scared of George C. Scott."


Scott was married five times:

1.Carolyn Hughes (1951–1955) (one daughter, Victoria, born December 19, 1952)
2.Patricia Reed (1955–1960) (two children: Matthew – born May 27, 1957 – and actress Devon Scott – born November 29, 1958).
3.The Canadian-born actress Colleen Dewhurst (1960–1965), by whom he had two sons, writer Alexander Scott (born August 1960), and actor Campbell Scott (born July 19, 1961). Dewhurst nicknamed her husband "G.C."
4.He remarried Colleen Dewhurst on July 4, 1967, but divorced for a second time on February 2, 1972.
5.The American actress Trish Van Devere on September 4, 1972, with whom he starred in several films, including the supernatural thriller The Changeling (1980). They remained married until his death in 1999. He also had a daughter, Michelle, born August 21, 1954, with Karen Truesdell.


Scott died on September 22, 1999 at the age of nearly 72 from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California. He is buried next to Walter Matthau, in an unmarked grave.




Celebrity Grave: Actress Marion Davies 1961


Marion Davies (January 3, 1897 – September 22, 1961) was an American film actress. Davies is best remembered for her relationship with newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, as her high-profile social life often obscured her professional career.


Hearst and Davies lived as a couple for decades but were never married, as Hearst's wife refused to give him a divorce. At one point, he reportedly came close to marrying Davies, but decided his wife's settlement demands were too high. Hearst was extremely jealous and possessive of her, even though he was married throughout their relationship. Davies was aboard the Hearst yacht when film producer Thomas Ince took ill, and died.

An "urban legend" having to do with a rumored relationship with Chaplin has endured since 1924 surrounding Hearst; Chaplin (among other actresses and actors) and Davies were on board. Despite the lack of evidence to support them, rumors have circulated since that time that Hearst mistook Ince for Chaplin and shot him in a jealous rage. The rumors were dramatised in the play The Cat's Meow, which was later made into Peter Bogdanovich's 2001 film of the same name starring Edward Herrmann as Hearst, Kirsten Dunst as Davies, Eddie Izzard as Chaplin, Joanna Lumley as Eleanor Glyn, Jennifer Tilly as gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and Cary Elwes as Ince. Patty Hearst co-authored a novel with Cordelia Frances Biddle titled Murder at San Simeon (Scribner, 1996), based upon the death of Ince.

The factual record shows that Thomas Ince suffered an attack of acute indigestion while aboard the yacht and was escorted off the boat in San Diego by another of the guests, Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman. Ince was put on a train bound for Los Angeles, but was removed from the train at Del Mar when his condition worsened. He was given medical attention by Dr. T. A. Parker and a nurse, Jesse Howard. Ince told them that he had drunk liquor aboard Hearst's yacht. Ince was taken to his Hollywood home where he died the following day of a heart condition.


By the late-1930s, Hearst was suffering financial reversals. After selling St Donat's, Davies bailed him out by writing out a check for $1 million to him. Hearst died on 14 August 1951.

The California State Parks staff at Hearst Castle now report at the time of his death, 51% of his fortune had been willed to Davies.


Ten weeks after Hearst's death, Davies married Horace Brown on October 31, 1951 in Las Vegas. It was not a happy marriage; he allegedly encouraged her drinking. Davies filed for divorce twice, but neither was finalized.

In her last years, Davies was involved with charity work: in 1952 she donated $1.9 million to establish a children's clinic at UCLA, which still bears her name. She also fought childhood diseases through the Marion Davies Foundation. Part of the Medical Center at UCLA is named the Marion Davies Clinic.


She suffered a minor stroke in 1956, and was later diagnosed with cancer of the jaw. She had an operation which appeared to be successful; she soon after fell and broke her leg, however. The last time Davies was seen by the American public was on January 10, 1960 on an NBC television special called Hedda Hopper's Hollywood.


Davies died of cancer on September 22, 1961 in Hollywood, California. Her funeral at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Hollywood (donations to the church were from Hollywood celebrities such as Louis B. Mayer and Bing Crosby) was attended by many Hollywood celebrities, including Mary Pickford and Mrs. Clark Gable (Kay Spreckels), as well as President Herbert Hoover. She is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. She left an estate estimated at more than $30 million.


After the death of Davies' niece, Patricia Lake (née Van Cleeve), Lake's family announced that she was in fact the birthdaughter of Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst. Prior to the announcement, it had been said that Lake was the daughter of Rosemary Davies (Marion's sister) and her first husband, George Van Cleeve.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Peg Entwistle Hollywood Sign Suicide 1932


Peg Entwistle (5 February 1908 – 16 September 1932)[1] was a Welsh-born English actress of stage and screen, who gained notoriety after she killed herself by jumping from the Hollywood sign, shortly following her appearance in the film Thirteen Women.


Life and career

Entwistle was born Millicent Lilian Entwistle in Port Talbot, Wales, to English parents Robert S. and Emily (née Stevenson). She spent the first eight years of her life in West Kensington, London.[2] She later adopted "Peg" as a stage name and retained it for the remainder of her life. As a very young girl in March 1916, Entwistle came to America, via Liverpool with her father (Robert), her uncle (Charles Harold), and their two wives, Lauretta and Jane, aboard the SS Philadelphia.[3] Robert Entwistle had previously been brought to the U.S. from England by famed Broadway producer Charles Frohman and worked as Frohman's stage manager. After their father was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 1922, Entwistle and her two half-brothers were taken in by their uncle, Charles Entwistle, an actor and then manager of Broadway star Walter Hampden.[4]

Broadway

In 1925, Entwistle was living in Boston as a student of Henry Jewett's Repertory (now called The Huntington Theatre), and was one of the pioneering Henry Jewett Players who were gaining national attention. Walter Hampden gave Entwistle an uncredited walk-on part in his Broadway production of Hamlet which starred Ethel Barrymore.[5] She carried the King's train and brought in the poison-cup.[6]

Later, Entwistle played the role of "Hedvig" in Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck. It was Entwistle's performance that inspired a young Bette Davis to pursue acting. After the play, Bette Davis told her mother, "...I want to be exactly like Peg Entwistle."[7] Over the years, as she recounted her career, Bette Davis made several public references crediting Entwistle as her inspiration. Some years later, Yurka sent a note to Davis asking if she would like to play Hedvig. Davis sent word back to the Broadway director that ever since she had seen Entwistle in The Wild Duck, she knew she would someday play Hedvig.[7]

Soon after, Entwistle was recruited by the prestigious New York Theatre Guild. Her first credited Broadway performance was in June 1926 as "Martha" in The Man from Toronto, which opened at The Selywn Theatre and ran for 28 performances.[8] Entwistle performed in ten Broadway plays as a member of the Theatre Guild between 1926 and 1932, and worked with some of the most notable of her day, including George M. Cohan, William Gillette, Bob Cummings, Dorothy Gish, Hugh Sinclair, Henry Travers and Laurette Taylor. Her longest-running play, the 1927 smash hit Tommy in which she starred with Sidney Toler, ran for 232 performances and was the play for which she was best remembered.[9]

In April 1927, Entwistle married fellow actor Robert Keith at the chapel of the New York City Clerk's office.[10] She was granted a divorce from him in May 1929, when telling the judge that Keith "pulled a handful of hair from her head and that only intervention of a New York hotel detective saved her from great bodily injury."[11] Aside from charging him with cruelty, she claimed that he did not inform her that he had been married before and was the father of a six-year-old boy (actor Brian Keith).[9]

The play The Uninvited Guest closed after only seven performances in September 1927. Despite the play's poor reception, Entwistle was given positive reviews for her work. New York Times critic, J. Brooks Atkinson, wrote, "...Peg Entwistle gave a performance considerably better than the play warranted."[12]

She went on tour with the Theater Guild between Broadway productions. Changing characters every week, Entwistle drew a certain amount of publicity. She was featured in a number of articles, such as one from the Sunday edition of the New York Times in 1927,[6] and the Oakland Tribune several years later.[13]

Aside from a part in the suspense drama Sherlock Holmes and The Strange Case of Miss Faulkner, and despite her desire to play more-challenging roles, Entwistle was often cast as a comedienne; usually the attractive, good-hearted ingénue. In 1929, she told a reporter:

"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. I feel that I am cheating myself. I don't know whether other actresses get this same reaction or not, but it does worry me."[13]

Entwistle's last Broadway appearance was in J.M. Barrie's Alice Sit-by-the-Fire.[14] Also starring was Laurette Taylor, one of the most popular and well-loved performers of her day. Due to her chronic alcoholism, Taylor failed to appear for two evening performances in less than a month, forcing the producers to refund the ticket-holders,[15] and end the show's run several weeks short of its schedule.[16] Entwistle and her co-players only received a week's salary at the time of the closing and not a percentage of the box office gross as had been agreed upon before the show opened.[17]

Hollywood Sign Suicide Jumper Peg Entwistle's House on Beachwood



Hollywood

On May 4, 1932, a Los Angeles paper announced that West Coast producers Edward Belasco and Homer Curran had brought Entwistle to Los Angeles to co-star with Billie Burke in the Romney Brent play, The Mad Hopes.[18] It was staged solely as a tryout in preparation for a Broadway opening, then opened to rave reviews on May 23, 1932 at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The Belasco had 1,600 seats but the house was standing-room only to the doors. The Mad Hopes was a hit and closed on June 4, 1932 as scheduled. Theatre critic Flo Lawrence commented:

"...Belasco and Curran have staged the new play most effectively and have endowed this Romney Brent opus with every distinction of cast and direction. (producer) Bela Blau ... has developed the comedy to its highest points. Costumes and settings are of delightful quality, and every detail makes the production one entirely fit for its translation to the New York stage. In the cast Peg Entwistle and Humphrey Bogart hold first place in supporting the star (Billie Burke) and both give fine, serious performances. Miss Entwistle as the earnest, young daughter (Geneva Hope) of a vague mother and presents a charming picture of youth..."[19]

Despite the play's success and Entwistle's attempts to impress the critics, nothing came of her efforts.[9] She was set to return to New York when the play closed but Radio Pictures (RKO) called her for a screen test. On June 13, 1932, Entwistle signed a contract for a one-picture deal with RKO Studios and reported early in July to shoot her part as Hazel Cousins in Thirteen Women.[20] By this time, Entwistle already had played screen bits in several films.[9]

The film received poor reviews and negative feedback from test screenings. The studio held it back and edited out scenes deemed unnecessary to reduce running time, cutting back Entwistle's screen time greatly. The film would premiere after Entwistle's death at the Roxy Theater in New York City on October 14, 1932, and was released on November 11, 1932 to poor reviews.

Hollywood Sign Suicide Jumper Peg Entwistle's House on BeachwoodHollywood Sign Suicide Jumper Peg Entwistle's House on BeachwoodHollywood Sign Suicide Jumper Peg Entwistle's House on Beachwood

Death

On Friday, September 16, 1932, Entwistle jumped from the "H" of the Hollywood sign (which then read "Hollywoodland"). Her body lay in the 100-foot ravine below until it was found two days later by a woman who wished to remain anonymous. Acting on this anonymous tip, a detective and two radio car officers found the body of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who was moderately well-dressed. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.[21]

After identifying her body, Harold Entwistle filled in some of the blanks for authorities and the press. Entwistle was upset at not being able to impress the studios, and told her uncle that she was going to walk to a nearby drugstore and then visit friends. Instead, she made her way up the southern slope of Mount Lee, near her uncle's home, to the foot of the Hollywoodland sign. After placing her coat, shoes and purse containing the suicide note at the base of the sign, she made her way up a workman's ladder to the top of the "H".[21] The cause of death was listed by the coroner as "multiple fractures of the pelvis."[22]

Peg Entwistle's suicide note 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. P.E."[23]

Her funeral was held in Hollywood and the body cremated. Her ashes were later sent to Glendale, Ohio for burial next to her father in Oak Hill Cemetery; her remains were interred on January 5, 1933.[24]


References

1.^ As explained elsewhere in the article, Entwistle almost certainly died on the night of September 16, 1932, but her body was not discovered until two days later, at which time the coroner pronounced her dead. Therefore, her date of death was listed as September 18, 1932, on the death certificate.
2.^ Official Port Talbot Registrar's Births Certificate Feb 5, 1908
3.^ List or Manifest of Alien Passengers of S.S. Philadelphia. March 11, 1916.
4.^ "Actor Dies; Struck By Auto That Fled". New York Times. 1922-12-20.
5.^ Hamlet at the Internet Broadway Database
6.^ a b "And Who Is Peg Entwistle?". New York Times. 1927-02-20.
7.^ a b Chandler, Charlotte (2006). The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, a Personal Biography. Simon and Schuster. pp. 38. ISBN 0-743-26208-5.
8.^ "The Play by J. Brooks Atkinson: Smart Comedy in June". New York Times. June 28, 1926.
9.^ a b c d "Girl Ends Life After Failure In Hollywood", Syracuse Herald, September 20, 1932, p. 5
10.^ NYC Marriage license #12687. April 18, 1927.
11.^ "Pulled Hair - Stage Star Gets Divorce After Tale of Fight With Husband", The Pittsburgh Press, May 3, 1929, p. 47
12.^ "'Uninvited Guest' Falters". New York Times. 1927-09-28.
13.^ a b "English Actress With Guild". Oakland Tribune. 1929-05-05.
14.^ Atkinson, J. Brooks (1932-03-08). "A Night of Barrie ... Alice Sit-by-the-Fire". New York Times.
15.^ "Two Barrie Revivals Suddenly Canceled". New York Times. 1932-03-15.
16.^ "Laurette Taylor Absent". New York Times. 1932-04-06.
17.^ Courtney, Marguerite (1968). Laurette. Atheneum. pp. 342.
18.^ Yeaman, Elizabeth, 1932-05-04; 1932-06-07, Hollywood Citizen-News
19.^ Lawrence, Florence, 1932-05-24, Los Angeles Examiner
20.^ RKO contract dated June 13, 1932.
21.^ "Suicide Laid To Film Jinx". Los Angeles Times. 1932-09-20. pp. A1.
22.^ County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health/Vital Statistics--Standard Certificate of Death #10501, sections 24-25; Filed September 20, 1932
23.^ "Girl Leaps To Death From Sign". Los Angeles Times. 1932-09-19. pp. A1.
24.^ "Peg Entwistle". Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=4704.