Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was born on January 31, 1902 in Huntsville, Alabama. Her father was a mover and shaker in the Democratic Party who served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from June 4, 1936, to September 16, 1940. Tallulah had been interested in acting and, at age 15, started her stage career in the local theater troupes of Huntsville and the surrounding areas. At age 16, she won a beauty contest and, bolstered by this achievement, moved to New York City to live with her aunt and to try her hand at Broadway. She was offered a role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920/I), but did not take it after she refused John Barrymore's invitation for a visit to the casting couch. Unfortunately, for the young Miss Bankhead, she did not make any headway on the stages of New York, so she pulled up stakes and moved to London, in 1923, to try her luck there.
For the next several years, she was the most popular actress of London's famed West End, the British equivalent of Broadway. After starring in several well-received plays, she gained the attention of Paramount Pictures executives and returned to the United States to try her hand at the film world. Her first two films, Woman's Law (1927) and His House in Order (1928), did not exactly set the world on fire, so she returned to do more stage work. She tried film work again with Tarnished Lady (1931), where she played Nancy Courtney, a woman who marries for money but ultimately gets bored with her husband and leaves him, only to come back to him when he is broke. The critics gave it a mixed reception. Tallulah's personality did not shine on film as Paramount executives had hoped. She tried again with My Sin (1931) as a woman with a secret past about to marry into money. Later that year, she made The Cheat (1931), playing Elsa Carlyle, a woman who sold herself to a wealthy Oriental merchant who brands her like she was his own property and is subsequently murdered. The next year, she shot Thunder Below (1932), Faithless (1932), Make Me a Star (1932) (she had a cameo role along with several other Paramount stars) and Devil and the Deep (1932). The latter film was a star-studded affair that made money at the box-office due to the cast (Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton and newcomer Cary Grant). The films she was making just did not do her talent any justice, so it was back to Broadway--she did not make another film for 11 years. She toured nationally, performing in all but three states.
She was also a big hit at social affairs, where she often shocked the staid members of that society with her "untraditional" behavior. She chain-smoked and enjoyed more than her share of Kentucky bourbon, and made it a "habit" to take her clothes off and chat in the nude. A friend and fellow actress remarked on one occasion, "Tallulah dear, why are you always taking your clothes off? You have such lovely frocks." She was also famous--or infamous--for throwing wild parties that would last for days. She returned to films in 1943 with a cameo in Stage Door Canteen (1943), but it was Lifeboat (1944) for director Alfred Hitchcock that put her back into the limelight. However, the limelight did not shine for long. After shooting A Royal Scandal (1945) she did not appear on film again until she landed a role in Die! Die! My Darling! (1965). Her film and small-screen work consisted of a few TV spots and the voice of the Sea Witch in the animated film The Daydreamer (1966), so she went back to the stage, which had always been first and foremost in her heart. To Tallulah, there was nothing like a live audience to perform for, because they, always, showed a lot of gratitude. On December 12, 1968, Tallulah Bankhead died at age 66 of pneumonia in her beloved New York City. While she made most of her fame on the stages of the world, the film industry and its history became richer because of her talent and her very colorful personality. Today her phrase, "Hello, Dahling" is known throughout the entertainment world.
|John Emery||(1937 - 1941) (divorced)|
Husky resonant voice
Screen, stage, radio and television actress.
President Harry S. Truman once claimed that her 1952 autobiography was the best book he had read since coming to the White House.
Once owned a pet lion named Winston.
She was the first white woman to appear on the cover of 'Ebony' magazine.
Member of the Algonquin roundtable.
Sent to Catholic convent schools by her father in the hopes (unrealized) that she would learn to stay out of trouble.
The screen credit for her role as the Black Widow in "Batman" (1966) read "Miss Tallulah Bankhead".
She narrowly missed out getting the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).
In 1949, Proctor and Gamble launched a radio advertising campaign for its Prell shampoo, using a jingle and the character "Tallulah the Tube". Miss Bankhead was so closely identified by her first name that she sued, eventually settling out of court.
At a press conference once, she said, "I'm so glad to see there's a man here from the New York Times, because if I say 'goddammit', they will print it 'good heavens' or 'good gracious.'".
She was infamous for not wearing underwear. According to Hume Cronyn, during the filming of Lifeboat (1944) the crew complained about her flashing them when she had to climb a ladder to go into the mock-up of a lifeboat. When their objections to Bankhead's exhibitionism reached director Alfred Hitchcock, he reportedly quipped that he did not know if it was a matter for wardrobe or hairdressing.
A bisexual, she had a one-time affair with actress Hattie McDaniel, according to chronicler of the Hollywood underground Kenneth Anger, and a longer-term arrangement with singer Billie Holiday, according to Joe Lobenthal's "Tallulah! The Life and Times of a Leading Lady".
An incident in her life was the inspiration for movie All About Eve (1950). It is ironic that Bette Davis played the Bankhead character, as Davis played in films two great roles originated by Bankhead on Broadway: Judith Traherne in "Dark Victory" and Regina in Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes." It's even more ironic that both Davis and Bankhead despised each other.
Marlon Brando, who co-starred with her in the play "The Eagle Has Two Heads" in the mid-1940s, said that Bankhead was primarily a personality actor--that is, someone who did not have developed acting skills but got by on the basis of their personality. Brando believed that she could have been a great actress and a major movie star if she hadn't been addicted to sex and alcohol.
Was nominated for Broadway's 1961 Tony Award as Best Actress (Dramatic) for "Midgie Purvis."
Loved jazz music and was a mainstay at many popular jazz clubs in New York and Los Angeles.
Her role as the black widow on the "Batman" (1966) television series is the last on-screen appearance she made.
Her last coherent words were "Codeine... bourbon".
She smoked 150 cigarettes a day.
Was in consideration for the role of Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950) after Claudette Colbert dropped out due to a back injury before filming began. However, Bette Davis, who went on to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance, was cast instead.
Profiled in book "Funny Ladies" by Stephen Silverman. 
Her father was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1936 to 1940.
Was an avid baseball fan, especially of the New York Giants and Willie Mays.
She was a close friend of Zelda Fitzgerald and Estelle Winwood.
Once told an interviewer that the reason she addressed everyone she saw as "Dahling" was because she was bad at remembering names.
Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6141 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
[when asked by gossip columnist Earl Wilson if she had ever been mistaken for a man on the telephone] No, have you?
I was there in the south of France when Zelda [Fitzgerald], poor darling, went off her head. She had gone into a flower shop and suddenly for her all the flowers had faces. Of course, some flowers, such as pansies, DO have faces.
[on seeing a former lover for the first time in years] I thought I told you to wait in the car.
I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education.
The only man in theater who can count on steady work is the night watchman.
The only thing I regret about my past is the length of it. If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.
Acting is a form of confusion.
[on why she called everyone "dahling"] Because all my life I've been terrible at remembering people's names. I once introduced a friend of mine as Martini. Her name was actually Olive.
If you want to help the American theater, don't be an actress, dahling -- be an audience.
It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.
I'm as pure as the driven slush.
I have three phobias which, could I mute them, would make my life as slick as a sonnet, but as dull as ditch water - I hate to go to bed, I hate to get up, and I hate to be alone.
My father warned me about men and booze, but he never mentioned a word about women and cocaine.
Cocaine isn't habit-forming. I should know - I've been using it for years.
Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it.
No man worth his salt, no man of spirit and spine, no man for whom I could have any respect, could rejoice in the identification of Tallulah's husband. It's tough enough to be bogged down in a legend. It would be even tougher to marry one.
Don't think I don't know who's been spreading gossip about me . . . After all the nice things I've said about that hag [Bette Davis]. When I get hold of her, I'll tear out every hair of her mustache!
Say anything about me, dahling, as long as it isn't boring.
I've tried several varieties of sex, all of which I hate. The conventional position makes me claustrophobic; the others give me a stiff neck and/or lockjaw.
On strategy: I'm the foe of moderation, the champion of excess. If I may lift a line from a die-hard whose identity is lost in the shuffle, 'I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right.
[when a young actress told her that she drank cranberry juice every morning] Oh, my God, cranberry juice? When I was 16, dahling, I had a shoebox full of cocaine.
[When researcher Alfred Kinsey asked her for details about her sex life]: Of course, darling, if you'll tell me yours.
[To twenty-seven year old bride-to-be Helen Hayes, who was getting married to Charles MacArthur, who asked her what she could do to avoid getting pregnant]: Just what you've always been doing, darling.
[on being told there was no toilet paper available] Well, do you have two fives for a ten?
There have been only two geniuses in the world, Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare. But, darling, I think you'd better put Shakespeare first.
Do you want to know why the Giants are going to win the pennant? Well, darlings, I can tell you in two words: Willie Mays.
I've played 'Private Lives' everywhere except underwater.
|His House in Order (1928)||£500/week|
|Tarnished Lady (1931)||$50,000|
|My Sin (1931)||$5,000/week|
|The Cheat (1931)||$5,000/week|
|Thunder Below (1932)||$6,000/week|
|A Royal Scandal (1945)||$125,000|
|Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)||$50,000|
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