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 history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
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