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Tallulah Bankhead

Born: January 31, 1902, Huntsville, Alabama
Died: December 12, 1968 (aged 66), New York City, New York

Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was an American actress, talk-show host and bon vivant.

What do you know about Tallulah Bankhead?  Learn about her with this quick quiz.

Fact or Myth?

1. Bankhead came from a powerful Democratic political family in the South in general and Alabama in particular. Her father was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1936-1940 (in the 74th, 75th, and 76th Congresses).

2. At 15, Bankhead won a movie-magazine beauty contest and convinced her family to let her move to New York. She quickly won bit parts, first appearing in a non-speaking role in The Squab Farm. During these early New York years, she became a peripheral member of the Algonquin Round Table and known as a hard-partying girl-about-town. During this time she began to use cocaine and marijuana, going as far as saying "Cocaine isn't habit forming. I should know- I've been using it for years."

3. In 1923, she made her debut on the London stage, where she was to appear in over a dozen plays in the next eight years, most famously, The Dancers. Her fame as an actress was ensured in 1924 when she played the waitress Amy in Sidney Howard's They Knew What They Wanted. The show won the 1925 Pulitzer Prize. She was famous not only as an actress but also for her many affairs, infectious personality and witticisms like "There is less to this than meets the eye" and "I'm as pure as the driven slush."

4. Bankhead's first film was Tarnished Lady (1931), directed by George Cukor, and Cukor and Bankhead became enemies. Bankhead behaved herself on the set and filming went smoothly, but she found film-making to be very exciting and didn't have the patience for it. She loved Hollywood.

5. Bankhead was married to actor John Emery on August 31, 1927 in Jasper, Alabama and divorced on June 13, 1961 in Reno, Nevada.

6. In 1933, Bankhead nearly died following a five-hour emergency hysterectomy for an advanced case of gonorrhea, which she claimed she contracted either from George Raft or Gary Cooper. Only 70 pounds when she left the hospital, she stoically said to her doctor, "This has taught me a lesson!"

7. In 1944, Alfred Hitchcock cast her as the cynical journalist, Constance Porter, in Lifeboat. The performance is widely acknowledged as her best on film, and won her the New York Film Critics Circle Award. Almost childlike in her immodesty, a beaming Tallulah accepted her New York trophy and exclaimed, "Dahlings, I was wonderful!"

8. Although she had become a heavy drinker and consumer of sleeping pills (she was a life-long insomniac), Bankhead continued to perform in the 1950s and 1960s on Broadway, in the occasional film, as a highly-popular radio show host, and in the new medium of television. Her appearance as herself on The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show in 1957 is a cult favorite, as is her role as the "Black Widow" on the 1960s campy television show Batman, which turned out to be her final screen appearance.

9. Bankhead died in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia arising from influenza, complicated by emphysema, at the age of 66 on December 12, 1968.

10. She was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Jasper, Alabama.

 


Answers

1. Fact

2. Fact

3. Fact

4. Myth. Bankhead's first film was Tarnished Lady (1931), directed by George Cukor, and Cukor and Bankhead became fast friends. Bankhead behaved herself on the set and filming went smoothly, but she found film-making to be very boring and didn't have the patience for it. She didn't like Hollywood either.

5. Myth. Bankhead was married to actor John Emery on August 31, 1937 in Jasper, Alabama and divorced on June 13, 1941 in Reno, Nevada.

6. Myth. In 1933, Bankhead nearly died following a five-hour emergency hysterectomy for an advanced case of gonorrhea, which she claimed she contracted either from George Raft or Gary Cooper. Only 70 pounds when she left the hospital, she stoically said to her doctor, "Don't think this has taught me a lesson!"

7. Fact

8. Fact

9. Fact

Angels on your pillow10. Myth. She was buried at Saint Paul's Churchyard, Chestertown, Maryland.

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