Thursday, June 17, 2021

Maybe She Didn't Jump: Guest Post by Robert Weibezahl

Robert Weibezahl:

Maybe She Didn’t Jump 

Peg Entwistle, “the girl who jumped from the Hollywood sign,” has an indelible place in the history and lore of the movie business in Los Angeles. On September 18, 1932, the body of the 24-year-old actress was found at the base of the giant letters that at the time spelled out the longer HOLLYWOODLAND in the hills above the city. A note found in her handbag 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.” 

Police ruled that she had died two days before, a suicide. Entwistle immediately became a legend, a perennial symbol of the callousness of Hollywood and the way it chews up young aspirants. In popular culture, the unfortunate Peg (or some allusion to her circumstances) has surfaced in pop songs by such disparate performers as Dory Previn, Protest the Hero, Jakko Jakszyk, Camille Saillant, and Lana Del Rey. Entwistle has been the subject of short films and documentary segments, and just last year the hyperbolic Netflix miniseries Hollywood revolved around a fictional production of a movie based on her grim cautionary tale. 

Legends, by definition, are driven by elusive details and unauthenticated facts that feed speculation. A few years ago, while reading a biography of a screen icon from Hollywood’s Golden Age, I read in the star’s own words about how, as a young aspiring actress herself, she had seen Peg Entwistle perform on the stage and dreamed of one day being exactly like her. 

Their eerie connection went further: The two women were born the same year, exactly two months apart. Both had played the same breakthrough role on stage. Certainly, one might presume that the two actresses’ paths crossed in Los Angeles, then a very small company town. My devious writer’s mind was triggered. How can we know, really, that Peg’s death was a suicide? Maybe she didn’t jump. What circumstances might have led to something more sinister, more violent? Could one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the screen have taken a dark truth to her grave? 

My short story, ‘Just Like Peg Entwistle,’ which appears in the new anthology Moonlight and Misadventure, poses an alternative scenario about the mythic death of “The Hollywood Sign Girl.” While it is speculation, and avowedly fiction, the historical details are drawn from the facts as they are known, with only certain names changed to protect the perhaps-not-innocent. If Peg hadn’t died, the story’s narrator reflects, “Maybe we could have played the sisters on screen that I always felt we were meant to be in real life.” Maybe, in the ensuing years, Peg Entwistle might have won an Oscar or two just like her admiring friend. Maybe now she’d be a Hollywood icon of equal stature, but for reasons beyond her storied death. Maybe she’d be forgotten. Maybe …. 


Robert Weibezahl’s stories have appeared in CrimeSpree, Beat to a Pulp, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, Mouth Full of Bullets, Kings River Life, and the anthology, Deadly by the Dozen. He has been a Derringer Award finalist for his short fiction and a two-time finalist for both the Agatha and Macavity Awards in the nonfiction category. His two Hollywood-set crime novels, The Wicked and the Dead and The Dead Don’t Forget, feature screenwriter-sleuth Billy Winnetka. Find him at

About Moonlight & Misadventure: Whether it’s vintage Hollywood, the Florida everglades, the Atlantic City boardwalk, or a farmhouse in Western Canada, the twenty authors represented in this collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “moonlight and misadventure” in their own inimitable style where only one thing is assured: Waxing, waning, gibbous, or full, the moon is always there, illuminating things better left in the dark. Release date: June 18, 2021 in all e-book formats and trade paperback at all the usual suspects.


Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Thanks for posting this. Very interesting!

KM Rockwood said...

Always interesting to read how a story got its origin, and equally fascinating when it's based on a true story. I can't wait to read this and all the other stories in the anthology.