"My father warned me about men and booze, but he never mentioned a word about women and cocaine."
Having already mentioned her in my earlier blog, I just felt the need to turn my attention to the magnificent Tallulah Bankhead, whose 108th anniversary it is today.
Nowadays Miss Bankhead is better remembered for her scandalous party-going, her alleged affairs with Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo (among others), and of course her excoriating wit. She is less well remembered for her acting skills - she worked with Hitchcock on the (now) cult movie Lifeboat, and on stage she starred in several plays that were later adapted for the big screen (mainly starring Bette Davis in the lead role), Little Foxes, Dark Victory and Jezebel among them.
From limited film success, Miss Bankhead instead turned to the newer media of radio and TV. Largely due to her relentless OTT self-parody, camp bitchiness and wise-cracking hutzpah she was destined to become a gay icon. This was at last a role she could play with relish - and so she did, in numerous guest appearances on shows such as I Love Lucy, and (inevitably) in kitsch classics such as Batman and Hammer Horror films, right up to her untimely death in 1968.
Her one-liners will inevitably out-live the memory of the woman herself:
"Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it."A few facts about Miss Bankhead:
"If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."
"I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right."
"They used to photograph Shirley Temple through gauze. They should photograph me through linoleum."
"I'll come and make love to you at five o'clock. If I'm late start without me."
"I've been called many things, but never an intellectual."
"I'm as pure as the driven slush."
"I've tried several varieties of sex. The conventional position makes me claustrophobic and the others give me a stiff neck or lockjaw."
"It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time."
"The less I behave like Whistler's mother the night before, the more I look like her the morning after."
"A frozen daiquiri of a scorching afternoon is soothing. It makes living more tolerable."
- She was named Tallulah for her grandmother, who was named for a waterfall, Tallulah Falls, in Georgia.But how can you fault someone whose screen debut is as atmospheric as this? RIP Tallulah.
- Her father was Alabama Congressman William Bankhead who was later Speaker of the House in the US government.
- One of her favourite party tricks was to arrive, knickerless, and cartwheel her way into the room. On other occasions she would simply arrive naked.
- In the early 1950s, she became the highest-paid performer in Las Vegas with her one-woman show.
- Her later attempts to return to the dramatic stage, in adaptations of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore were both monumental flops. (The self-parodic image she had created apparently defeated her attempts to "play it straight".)
Tallulah Bankhead biography