Hello, Bette Fans!
What a wonderful website! My name is James Zeruk, Jr. I am the author of Peg Entwistle: The Girl on the Hollywood Sign, which is going to be published by Mcfarland. (No release date yet.) Bette often mentioned Peg as her inspiration. I thought you might like to see this image I made showing a crop from an interview Bette had with Newsday entertainment editor Al Cohn. It was done in November 1976, almost 51 years after Bette saw Peg portray Hedvig in Ibsen's The Wild Duck at the Boston Repertory in January 1926.
How marvelous that after more than a half century Bette still remembered and thought so highly of Peg! Bette and Peg are so entwined that I used the dramatic details of that evening as my Prologue. I look forward to visiting this site when I can and please feel free to meet me on Facebook or visit Peg's website at www.hollywoodsigngirl.com (Moderator, I will link this site to it!)
I look forward to meeting you all!
If Bette and her mom and sister stayed, they all would have met Peg. All the players of the Boston Repertory were required to mingle with the patrons following each performance. After having been so emotionally overwhelmed by Peg, it isn't likely Bette would have wanted to hurry out! So It strongly assumed they met at least that one time.
Other than that there is nothing suggesting they met again. If you carefully read Bette's first memoir The Lonely Life, her view of Peg is quite telling. I use all her quotes. (I never used a Bette-Peg-related quote from anyone except Bette directly. i. e. Charlotte Chandler's book is considered highly suspect, I never site or source it). But Lonely Life, and numerous Bette interviews in the press and documentaries seem to show Bette following Peg's career, at least early on.
If anyone cares to, please have a look at the Prologue for my book! It describes what happened the night Bette first saw Peg Entwistle on stage. I detail it more later on in the pages, but this is how I introduce the readers to Peg and Bette's introduction!
I should add that all the quotes by Bette are directly from her autobiography The Lonely Life.
Peg Entwistle: The Girl on the HOLLYWOOD Sign
James Zeruk, Jr. ©2012
What’s Past Is Prologue
Bette Davis wants to be an actress, but she is sad, confused, her life seems hopeless….
January 1926. Bette Davis’s mother cannot afford to send her to a good acting school, one which could properly prepare her for Broadway. To ease her daughter’s pain, Ruthie surprises the future Hollywood legend with a trip to see Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck at Henry Jewett’s highly regarded Boston Repertory. Starring in the play is Blanche Yurka, the famous Broadway player and director. Yurka will play the role of a mother named Gina Ekdal.
Filling the role of Gina’s daughter Hedvig is a lovely new addition to the Boston stage, an English girl by the name of Peg Entwistle. When Bette sees Peg for the first time, she gasps; astounded at the face of this young actress. “My heart almost stopped,” Bette will write in her memoirs many years hence. “She looked just like me!”
They were both just seventeen years old.
Bette sits erect, her large blue eyes mesmerized at the resemblance, her soul captivated by Peg’s interpretation of Ibsen’s tragic Hedvig—whose own eyes are going blind. “I was watching myself. Miss Entwistle had lost herself in Hedvig. Now I did too. There wasn’t an emotion I didn’t anticipate and share with her.”
Bette remains hushed, attentive to every nuance Peg brings to her role, every subtle gesture, every word of dialogue. She is profoundly attached to Peg’s Hedvig … ache for ache, sigh for sigh, and tear for tear. Peg has given life to Hedvig and Hedvig has in turn changed Bette’s. An epiphany has taken place fore and aft of the footlights—the three girls have become as one. The last moments of the play begin to unfold. Bette watches with an intensity she has never before known. Hedvig agonizes. She is being shunned, rejected, abandoned by the father she loves—just as Bette had been not long before.
“Father! Father! No, no! Don’t turn away from me,” cries Hedvig as she clings to him; hysterical and broken-hearted. Enduring unbearable torment, the poor child is tossed aside and watches in horror as Father storms out of the house. Desperate for help, for love, for understanding, she runs frantically to the woman who only minutes ago confessed to her husband that Hedvig may not be his daughter. “Mother, you must get him home again! Why won’t Father have anything to do with me anymore?”
The scene is gut-wrenching; the finale, more so. Hedvig takes a pistol and disappears into the attic to prove to Father that nothing is more important to her than he … she will destroy her most treasured possession—a beautiful wild duck that had been wounded by a hunter and then nursed back to health by the love and innocence of Hedvig. But the play is allegorical—Hedvig is The Wild Duck, and her wound is beyond nursing.
A gunshot! The family rushes to the attic.
A moment later Hedvig is brought center stage, lifeless, carried down in Father’s arms.
He had come to his senses and then desired to forgive his wife and once again love dear Hedvig with all his heart. But it is too late and poor Hedvig will never learn that Father really does love her.
The audience weeps for the girl but no one has as much feeling for her as Bette Davis … “When ‘the little wild duck’ shot herself in the breast, I died with her.”
The curtain falls and Bette is more determined than ever to fulfill her dream. “A whole new world opened up to me,” she said. “I was thrilled with Miss Entwistle’s performance.” As they were leaving the theater, Bette cried out, “Mother! Someday I will play Hedvig.”
Three years later Blanche Yurka needs a Hedvig. Bette Davis will be The Wild Duck. Bette begins her climb up the ladder to the top of the Hollywood heap. Three years later Peg begins her climb up the ladder to the top of the Hollywood Sign.
Peg Entwistle wants to be an actress, but she is sad, confused, her life seems hopeless….