[Background image: Tallulah Bankhead, age 15, photograph by Arnold Genthe; Library of Congress collection.]
"'Tarnished Lady,' 'The Cheat,' 'My Sin,' 'The Devil & the Deep,' etc.
[With titles] like the names of cheap perfumes... leaving behind a bad smell."
TIME magazine, Nov.'48
Her Broadway Bombs ...
Re: "Antony & Cleopatra," New York critics had a field day:
"A serpent of the Suwanee, the Queen of the Nil,
not more dangerous than a garter snake!"
who kept distracting her with his
"Method Acting" mannerisms,
i.e., "pickin' his nose and scratchin' his ass!"
He was quickly replaced.
(sometimes forgetting to wear underwear).
Tennessee Williams wrote the part of
Blanche DuBois with Tallulah in mind;
but the opening night audience did not take her seriously,
Despite such dialogue as
"The sisters (the Pleides) are OUT tonight!"...
[Cruelly,] "Everyone who attended that production was instantly struck gay,
including the usherettes, the candy sellers, the stage crew, and
- on Tallulah's good nights -
even those who were passing outside the theater."
Ethan Mordden, (author of "Buddies")
"She smoked 120 gaspers a day, swore like a fisherman,
drank like a fish, and was promiscuous with men, women
and Etonians. To these vices she added the sin for which
there can be no redemption. She allowed - nay, arranged -
for all these activities to be known. Theatergoers
went to see her on stage chiefly to marvel that such
a debauchee could still speak and still stand!
This woman did not fly to extremes; she lived there." --Quentin Crisp.
[though it also helped to have a daddy
who was the Speaker of the House
and a grand papa and an uncle
who were Senators from Alabama.]
she told Louis B. Mayer where to go.
As a consequence,
Bette Davis brought many
of Lullah's roles on Broadway
to the silver screen: "Dark Victory,"
"Reflected Glory," "The Little Foxes," etc.
Her fun-loving, capricious
and carousing ways,
her accessibility to her fans,
endeared her to them.
Her portrait by Augustus John
now hangs in
(Re: "The Skin of Our Teeth") - "No one, but NO ONE,
NOT EVEN the author, director, or the other actors,
including myself, had even an inkling of
WHAT it was all about!"
In Noel Coward's "Private Lives," the role of Amanda fit her like a glove.
But, then, why not; afterall, she was playing herself.
(everyone including Lullahs seemed to overlook that the MAID was on trial),
Tallulah wrote her autobiography to put everything to right
(adding more fuel to the already blazing controversies).
The Locals still tell
about "Her Caddies" at "Windows,"
the Country Estate at Bedford Village, NY.
As her godchild, Ms. Brook Ashley, recalls:
"I rescued the maltese, 'Doloras,' (Tallulah's spelling) from the pool
and had 'Gaylord' (the parakeet) nest in my hair.
"I played happily at Windows (in spite of the frequent conflagrations).
Auntie Mame was an amateur at childrearing.
Tallulah showed me how to kill Joe McCarthy with voodoo pins!!"
And, I haven't the heart
to chronicle her accident-prone
later years ...
["MY GawD!, I've set Doloras ON FIRE!!"]