Posted on January 19, 2015
She was one of Hollywood’s original bad girls and bon vivants. She loved booze, cocaine, pills, witty banter, and sex, sleeping with every man and woman in Hollywood that would have her. Censors couldn’t keep up with her and it’s likely that most of today’s young Hollywood stars couldn’t either.
Tallulah Bankhead is born in Huntsville, Alabama. Her mother dies from complications in childbirth. Her father, William B. Bankhead, served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1936 to 1940. Her grandfather, John H. Bankhead, was a United States Senator.
Moves to New York with her aunt Louise.
She and her aunt Louise move into the Algonquin Hotel where Tallulah becomes a peripheral member of Dorothy Parker’s Algonquin Round Table.
Moves to London and takes the West End by storm, spending eight years in the city and appearing in more than 12 plays.
After sending her father a letter that reads, “Hollywood for me I’m afraid,” Tallulah returns to New York and signs a contract with Paramount Pictures.
Her first movie, Tarnished Lady, premieres. Directed by George Cukor.
Stars in Devil in the Deep, receiving top billing over co-stars Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, and Charles Laughton. She would later say the only reason she accepted the role was “to fuck that divine Gary Cooper!”
She undergoes a five-hour emergency hysterectomy due to gonorrhea and almost dies during the surgery. Afterwards, she says: “I got it either from Gary Cooper or George Raft.”
Marries actor John Emery.
Divorces John Emery.
She stars in Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, directed by Elia Kazan. After audience members complain that she isn’t wearing any underwear, the Actors’ Equity orders her to wear panties onstage.
Receives the New York Screen Critics’ Award for her role in the Alfred Hitchcock film, Lifeboat.
Bankhead campaigns for the reelection of Harry Truman.
Tallulah sues Proctor and Gamble after they launch a radio advertising campaign for Prell shampoo with a character called “Tallulah The Tube”. The case is settled out of court.
She begins hosting a radio show called The Big Show. She says during the first episode: “This is radio, 1950. The greatest stars of our time on one big program. And the most fabulous part about this, darlings, is that every Sunday we will present other stars of the same magnitude. Uh, pardon me if I sound like a name dropper, but, uh, let’s look into three or four of the names we’ve lined up for next week’s show: Groucho Marx, Fanny Brice, Jane Powell and Ezio Pinnnn-za! (Laughter) Well, now, don’t just sit there with your mouths open, darlings. I know what you’re thinking: you think such a radio show every week is impossible. And I’m sure that, after you hear our first broadcast, you’re going to say that show was impossible.”
Tallulah and Ethel Merman have a “sing off” on It’s The Big Show radio show.
In the I Love Lucy episode “Lucy Fakes an Illness,” Lucy does a hilarious impression of Tallulah Bankhead.
Publishes her autobiography, Tallulah: My Autobiography. It is the fifth best-selling nonfiction book of 1952.
The last episode of The Big Show airs.
She appears on an episode of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour called “The Celebrity Next Door”. In the episode, Tallulah moves in next door to the Ricardos and Lucy convinces her to appear in her amateur theater production.
Nominated for a Tony Award for Best Dramatic Actress for her role in Midgie Purvis.
Her last film role is in Die! Die! My Darling! with Stephanie Powers.
Attends Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball.
Tallulah makes her final public appearance on the Tonight Show, chatting with fellow guests Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
Bankhead dies after a bout of influenza leads to double pneumonia. Her last words are: “Codeine … bourbon.”