Friday, September 28, 2012

Tragic Hollywood

I had a request from a reader asking for some info on Peg Entwistle, aka "The Hollywood Sign Girl." It is unfortunate that her death is her only real contribution to Hollywood, considering she only appeared in one film. But, knowing her story, you can't help but thinking of her terrible sadness when you look up at the Hollywood least I can't.

While researching, I came across a newspaper article from 1934 that talked about other tragedies that happened in Hollywood that I thought were interesting, if not morbid. It is my favorite holiday soon, Halloween, so...why not read some deliciously spooky stories with some hauntings on the side?

Peg Entwistle was born on Millicent Lilian Entwistle in Port, Talbot. She was born to Robert and Emily Entwistle and her upbringing has a few discrepancies that need to be ironed out. First, the story goes that Emily Entwistle supposedly died when Peg was still a child and that her father then gained full custody of her. But, it seems like the reality of the situation was that Emily and Robert divorced, and Robert took his daughter to America because he didn't want her to have anything to do with her mother. Not sure if this is just sour grapes or perhaps Emily was mentally unstable or sick in some other manner. Robert Entwistle re-married to a woman named Lauritta and had two sons by her, Milton and Robert Jr. Sadly, Lauritta died in 1921, and Robert died the following year after being struck by a limo, so Peg and her two brothers were sent to live with an uncle.

It seems that Peg may have gotten the desire to act from her father, who appeared in a few plays while living in New York. One of her first stage roles was a tiny part in a production of "Hamlet" starring Ethel Barrymore.

She was soon a part of the New York Theatre guild and sharing the stage with more big names like George M. Cohen, Dorothy Gish, and Laurette Taylor. Her longest running show, and the one that was the real highlight of her stage acting career was "Tommy." It ran for over 200 performances!

She appeared in a string of other shows and in her last show, she was the understudy for Laurette Taylor. It was 1932, and it seemed like Peg's career was rising and rising fast!

Later that year she made her one and only film appearance, in Thirteen Women which also featured Myrna Loy and Irene Dunne. It wasn't a success when it first premiered but time has been kind to the film because it has been cited and appreciated as one of the first "female ensemble" pictures. It paved the way for Bridesmaids by the sound of it.

Because of the failure of her film debut, Peg's contract was not renewed and she didn't have enough money to get back to New York to work on the stage there. It seemed like her career, and her life, were over. All she wanted was to be a big star on the screen.

On September 16, 1932, Peg left a note for her uncle saying she was going to visit friends and run some errands. Two days later, a hiker found a coat, pair of shoes, and a purse up near the Hollywoodland sign. When the hiker looked further, she saw her body. The hiker grabbed her things, dropped them off on the steps of the police station and then called 911. Way to take your time dude!

The investigation concluded that Peg must have used a worker's ladder that had been left behind, climbed the letter "H" and jumped. The main cause of death was listed as "multiple fractures of the pelvis." In her purse was a suicide note she had written: "I'm afraid I'm a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this thing a long time ago it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E." Poor girl...

For a few days after her body was found, Peg was an anonymous body in the morgue. Her uncle finally pieced together her strange disappearance and the news of the jumper and realized it was his niece. The note found in her purse cinched the case.

A funeral was held for her in California where she was then cremated. Her ashes were interred in Oak Hill Cemetery in Glendale, Ohio next to her father. Her grave was unmarked for years until fans pooled donations together and bought her a brand new headstone (I believe in 2010). What a great thing to do for such a talented lady.

Peg was married once, to actor Robert Keith in 1927. She divorced him two years later, claiming that he was cruel to her and that he never told her that he had been married before and had a six year old son. Interesting side note, the son in question, later became an actor...Brian Keith, best known for his roles in "Family Affair" and The Parent Trap.

Here is one of those situations where you want to slap your head against your forehead. A few days after her death, a letter arrived at Peg's home offering her a role in a play...playing a woman who commits suicide. The role was a bit twisted considering the circumstances, but some people say that it would have made her a star. But, I don't know if this is just wishful thinking or what.

Bette Davis was inspired to act by Peg. After seeing her perform in a production of "The Wild Duck," Bette told her mother, "I want to be exactly like Peg Entwistle!" Now go and say Peg wasn't important to film history!!

It is rumored that if you go up around the sign at night, you can hear crying, and it is said to be Peg. Pretty sure that area is all off limits now because police didn't want any copy cat suicides.


Does the name Sigrun Solvason ring any bells? No? Didn't think so. She was an Icelandic actress who was known for her striking resemblance to Greta Garbo and once even worked as Garbo's double. But, Sigrun wanted more than to just be another star's shadow, she wanted to BE the star! She too became too despondent over her non existing career that she too committed suicide. She dressed in her best silk pajamas, stood before a large mirror in her bedroom, and drank poison. She was found days later, collapsed on the ground, the walls surrounding her covered in pictures of herself...and of Garbo. She left a note simply saying, "I would like to be cremated and my ashes scattered without any ceremony at all."

Sigrun Solvason

Marie Stanley worked as an extra on various films but could never break into bigger roles. Along with her desire to be famous was her desire to meet her idol, Jack Gilbert. She absolutely adored the actor, and when she found out he had married actress Ina Claire, it broke her heart. A few days after the news of the marriage broke, a friend found Marie lying unconscious on the floor and the room filled with gas. In Marie's hand was a picture of Jack Gilbert and nearby was a letter saying how much she loved him. She was only 19 years old. When questioned by police, Jack said he had no idea who Marie was. Not sure what happened to her after this incident, but I am hoping she was taken to a sanitarium of some sort.

We have all heard the stories about women killing themselves after Valentino's death, but it is also said that these stories are just hype. Apparently, only a few woman ATTEMPTED to commit suicide, but none actually ever died. One of the women who did make an attempt was 20 year old Angeline Celestina who tried to shoot herself. She was later charged for having the gun in the first place. I did find an article about a 12 year old girl named Evelyn who supposedly died with a picture of Valentino clutched in her hands, but I can't access the full article.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Miss Mae Marsh


Mae Marsh was born Mary Wayne Marsh on November 9, 1894 in Madrid, New Mexico. Her parents, Charles and May, divorced when she was still a child. Apparently there are some rumors that her father was killed when she was four while working for a railroad company, but this is false. Charles Marsh worked as a bartender and was still alive around 1900. What happened to him after that, I don't know.

Marguerite, the oldest Marsh child, also became an actress. Mae also had an older brother named Oliver, and younger sisters, Frances and Mildred.

May Marsh remarried a man named William Hall and moved with her new husband and children to California. By this time, older sister Marguerite (born Margaret) was married to Donald Loveridge and had a daughter named Leslie.

While her older sister was working on films, Mae worked as a shop girl and sometimes followed her sister to the studio to watch her work. Eventually she began working as an extra until 1910 when she earned her first real role in the film Ramona with Mary Pickford.

In fact, it was actually the queen of silent film herself, Ms. Pickford, that inadvertently gave Mae her big break in film. Mary was getting sick and tired of playing scrappy little girl roles and put her foot down when another film of the same ilk came her way. In response, D.W. Griffith blackmailed her by saying she wouldn't get a bigger role in another picture if she turned the other one down. This just pissed Mary off even more, as well as the other actresses in the studio. Well, everyone that is but Mae, who just wanted any part! She got the role and I am betting both she and Mary recovered.

In 1915, she had lead roles in Griffith's epics The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance a year later.

After appearing in two of the biggest films in silent history (well, they are now at least) her career went downward. She signed with a different studio but failed to find any strong vehicles. Her last silent screen appearance was in 1925's The Rat with Ivor Novello.

Unlike many of her fellow silent stars, Mae made a smooth transition into talkies. She appeared in such notable films as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1932) with Marian Nixon, The Grapes of Wrath (1940) with Henry Fonda,  and How Green Was My Valley (1941) with Walter Pidgeon.

Her last screen appearance was in 1964.

Mae Marsh passed away after a heart attack on February 13, 1968 in Hermosa Beach, California.

She was buried at Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach, California.

Mae was only married once, to publicity agent Louis Lee Arms. They were married from 1918 until her death. They had two daughters, Mary and Marguerite, and a son, Brewster. Louis Arms actually lived to be 101!

So, around 1918, Ernest Hemingway told family and friends that he at one time was engaged to Mae but she had decided against marrying him. Years later Mae was asked about this story and said that she never met Hemingway but would have like to! Interesting...

It seems like the acting bug ran through the veins of the Marsh children. As I stated earlier, sister Marguerite was also an actress. She appeared in such films as The New York Hat (1912) with Mary Pickford and Boomerang Bill (1922) with Lionel Barrymore. Sadly, Marguerite passed away from bronchial pneumonia in 1925. She was only 37 years old. Oliver Marsh worked a cinematographer in Hollywood and was the favorite cameraman of actress Jeanette Macdonald. He passed away at a young age as well in 1941 after a heart attack.

"I tagged my way into motion pictures. I used to follow my sister Marguerite to the old Biograph studio and then, one day, Mr. Griffith noticed me, put me in a picture and I had my chance. I love my work and though new and very wonderful interests have entered my life, I still love it and couldn't think of giving it up." ~~ Mae Marsh

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Hello my silent readers! I am slowly starting to get back into a normal(ish) routine here in Tennessee so I can take a few minutes and sit down and reach out to the blogging universe.

I started working at a used books store and boy oh boy do I work! This past weekend was like Christmas at the mall and I am not exaggerating on that. It was crazy. What is the plus of working here besides the fact that they pay me? One groovy discount! I have already been shopping three times because I can't help myself! On top of books we also sell movies, CDs, video games, video game systems, phones, vinyl...etc. I bought three DVDs: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with John Barrymore and Martha Mansfield, a TCM collection of Jean Harlow films (I already have one of the films, but oh well), and The Big Bang Theory (because I have become kind of addicted to that show). On top of the movies, I went to their tv/movie section and pretty much lost my damn mind and about cleaned them out. Let me share my new buys:

Hollywood Picks the Classics by Afton Fraser
This book is pretty cool because it has pretty pictures, and who doesn't love that? The movies are divided by chapters such as "Must See," "Screen Teams,"Film Noir," etc. It also has various celebrities naming their favorite classic films in the sidebars which, eh...take or leave. Each movie section has a little summary of the plot, cast list, award list, movie quotes, snippets about the stars, and behind the scenes gossip. I dig it :)
And You Thought You Knew Classic Movies! by John DiLeo
Man, I went through this one night and some of the questions really stumped me! Especially questions to do with the director, producer, and production type stuff. Stuff I don't really pay attention to when it comes to movies. I felt kind of dumb after this! But, definitely try out your movie knowledge on this!
Who Is That? by Warren B. Meyers
This book is just pictures with a little intro before each section, which is fine with me because you know how much I love looking at old movie star pictures. What the book basically is is a visual guide of character actors from the good ole days. I was looking through it and had a lot of, "Oh that guy/girl!" No biographies or info on said actors, but it is still a fun book.

The Stars by Richard Schickel
The title pretty much says it...a book of movie stars. It begins with "The Prototypes" of the cinema: Mack Sennett, William S. Hart, Theda Bara, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. Which, can I just say how much I love when the early greats get the recognition they deserve? It is then broken down to the different eras up until the 1950s which I think is a great ending date because the movies get more modern when the 60s came about. One bad thing is that they have a comedian section and Chaplin gets like six pages devoted to him while Keaton, Langdon, and Lloyd get two. Sad face.
Love in the Film by William K. Everson
This book is kinda like the one written about the best romantic movies, but this one includes silent films so it is the better. Great synopsises and pictures and helpful if you are in the mood for watching a love story. For me, I have to be in the right state of mind. If I am in a guy hating mood, I can't watch a romance without screaming obscenities to the screen. Am I alone in this?
Great Lovers of the Movies by Jane Mercer
Yep, you can guess what this one is about. The men this chick adores and loves. The book of course starts out with Valentino but what is kind of annoying to me is that the author differs in the spelling of his first name. In the table of contents and in the heading of his chapter his name is spelled "Rudolf" but then later in the chapter, it is "Rudolph." I don't know......anyways! Other dashing gents include Ramon Novarro, John Barrymore, John Gilbert, Gary Cooper, Robert know, the real men? No Buster though...sad face. He will be my lover, that is fine by me!
Hollywood: The Pioneers by Kevin Brownlow
I can't believe it has taken me so long to have this book! Brownlow is one of THE silent film gurus! He should be worshipped alongside Anthony Slide! This book has amazing pictures from the earliest days of film making including behind the scenes and advertisements. It is incredible and definitely needs to be in your movie book collections.
TCM Classic Movie Trivia by Turner Classic Movies
Uh, this your money. It is big and looks fancy but really what it is is a big book with lots of questions that are repeated throughout the whole book. I had one question that had already been asked on the previous page! I don't know if the editor had a migraine or was suffered from narcolepsy or what but this is not a product that TCM should be proud of having produced. I would say get the trivia book I mentioned above instead of this one.
** sorry that some of the pictures are rough. They are mostly from Amazon because I am too tired to take a picture of them with my camera/phone.