The Hall of Hams #14: Tallulah Bankhead

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The Hall of Hams is my series on some of my favorite actors who have brought the art of melodramatic acting into the modern era.

Today is the birthday of Tallulah Bankhead (1902-1968). I’ve always felt a special connection to her because she comes from my family’s hometown of Hunstville, Alabama. There the connection stops: her father was the Speaker of the House (that’s the U.S. House) and she was the granddaughter and niece of Senators.

While she had been a professional actress on the New York stage from the age of sixteen, a London and NY stage star from the age of 21, and later a star of radio and film as well, history has unfairly (though understandably) remembered her mostly for her offstage lifestyle, her huge appetite for booze, drugs, and indiscriminate sex, and her ribald witticisms. As a mature actress, she created roles like Regina in The Little Foxes (1939), Sabina in The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), and the newspaper lady in Alfred Hitchock’s Lifeboat (1944). her performance as Amanda in a revival of Noel Coward’s Private Live’s ran nearly two years.

Her untold hundreds of quotable quotations are amply quoted elsewhere. Here, we just give her a shout-out, and present some clips from her appearance on I Love Lucy, which she was enough of a professional to consider sufficiently up to her standard of dignity:

For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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2 Responses to “The Hall of Hams #14: Tallulah Bankhead”

  1. Columbia904 Says:

    So you’re from Huntsville. I’m from Columbia, Tennessee. it is a small world. I’d like to send you a copy of my play, set in Columbia in 1942.

    • well, my dad (and all his people) are from that areas! I was actually born and raised in Rhode Island, thanks to World War 2! But I’d be happy to read your play. I also wrote a play about Columbus, but it was very silly. I’ll send you an e-mail with my address.

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