In 1923 Bankhead starred in the London production of The Dancers. ... remained in London for eight years, appearing in more than a dozen plays--including Michael Arlen's The Green Hat (1925), Sidney Howard's They Knew What They Wanted (1926), The Lady of the Camelias and Rachel Crother's Let Us Be Gay! (1930)--all the while becoming a celebrity's celebrity. All five feet three inches of her became, for eight teeming years....a West End cult!
But, let's not forget that Ms. B was also featured in a lot of clinkers. During her second production in London, a vehicle entitled Conchita, in which Tallulah played a sultry Cuban dancer, ... had to make her first entrance wearing a hideous black wig, with a live monkey on her shoulder. When the animal spied the audience, he went berserk, snatched off Tallulah's wig and waved it frantically to the audience. The actress was so amused ... started doing cartwheels. Many attributed this show-stopping moment to Tallulah's amazing athletic ability. The fact that she never wore underwear could have been a factor.
Original playbill [see above] for the 1925 production of Fallen Angels at the West End's Globe Theatre in London; a very young Ms. Bankhead was offered this play after losing the role of Sadie Thompson in Rain; Somerset Maugham (the author of Rain) had doubts regarding her acting abilities, which in turn prompted a half-hearted suicide attempt by Tallulah; ... swallowed a handful of aspirins before retiring to bed ..., leaving a note behind that read: "It ain't gonna rain, no more!!"
Bankhead later recounted "... had never felt better" the next morning upon awakening; ... took up the challenge offered her by Noel Coward of learning the leading role of his new play, WHICH WAS DUE TO OPEN IN FOUR DAYS; demanding a then astronomical fee, (as Tallulah would put it: ... "had wanted to play the role of Sadie Thompson; and, didn't give a SHIT about playing in Noel Coward's play!") ... practically overnight committed the dialogue to memory and went on to make a hit of his play.
Noel Coward later recalled: "She came flying into the theatre with a vitality a little short of fantastic. ... tore off her hat, flipped her furs into a corner and embarked on the first act. On the first night ... gave a brilliant and completely assured performance. It was a tour de force of vitality, magnetism and spontaneous combustion."
With regard to "His House in Order" - (Gaumont):
Tallulah Bankhead had a difficult task to fulfil when she took on the
leading character in "His House in Order," the adaptation of Sir Alfred
Pinero's famous drama.
A screen debut is always an important matter, and stage training does not
prepare the actress for the different technique which is needed for the
film. Also, she had poor material to work with; this subject is far less
satisfactory for the screen than the stage.
Tallulah is as good as might be expected; she is at least natural, in spite
of the drawback of an atrocious make-up.
This film is a step in the wrong direction, and brings to mind many of the
poor British films of the past. All the characters, with the exception of
Tallulah and Ian Hunter, move about with a gloomy and unnatural manner which
renders the picture almost destitute of entertainment.
[Critical review appeared in Film Weekly, Issue No.17 - Monday, February 11, 1929; courtesy of Jeremy M., U.K.]