Tallulah Bankhead!

Published January 7, 2015 by Sandee

Tallulah

I had the flu, so I stayed home and watched Cary Grant movies and this Tallulah Bankhead movie, “Die! Die! My Darling!” I know Tallulah Bankhead had done worthier films and in fact, I had always been intrigued by her, so I looked her up. We all know Wikipedia is “iffy,” but if the basics stand, Tallulah was completely deranged, someone I’d like to party with. Here are excerpts from the page:

…During these early New York years, she became a peripheral member of the Algonquin Round Table and was known as a hard-partying girl-about-town. …[She] began to use cocaine and marijuana, going as far as saying, “Cocaine isn’t habit-forming and I know because I’ve been taking it for years.”

…She didn’t like Hollywood either; when she met producer Irving Thalberg, she asked him, “How do you get laid in this dreadful place?”

Her 1932 movie Devil and the Deep is notable for the presence of three major co-stars, with Bankhead receiving top billing over Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton and Cary Grant. It is the only film with Cooper and Grant as the film’s leading men. She later said, “Dahling, the main reason I accepted [the part] was to fuck that divine Gary Cooper!”

In 1933, Bankhead nearly died following a five-hour emergency hysterectomy due to venereal disease. Only 70 pounds (32 kg) when she left the hospital, she stoically said to her doctor, “Don’t think this has taught me a lesson!”

She rented a home at 1712 Stanley Street, in Hollywood and began hosting parties that were said to “have no boundaries”.

Bankhead circulated widely in the celebrity crowd of her day and was a party favorite for outlandish stunts, such as doing cartwheels in a skirt while wearing no underwear or entering a soirée stark naked.

Rumors about Bankhead’s sex life have lingered for years, and she was linked romantically with many notable female personalities of the day, including Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Eva Le Gallienne, Hattie McDaniel, and Alla Nazimova, as well as writer Mercedes de Acosta and singer Billie Holiday. Actress Patsy Kelly claimed she had a sexual relationship with Bankhead when she worked for her as a personal assistant.

Bankhead never publicly described herself as being bisexual. She did, however, describe herself as “ambisextrous”.

She had been investigated by MI5 during the 1920s amid rumors she was corrupting pupils at Eton. The documents alleged that she seduced up to half a dozen private schoolboys into taking part in “indecent and unnatural” acts.

On December 12, 1968, Bankhead died in St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan at 7:45 a.m., aged 66. The cause of death was pleural pneumonia, complicated by emphysema, malnutrition, and possibly a strain of the Hong Kong flu which was running worldwide at that time. Her last coherent words reportedly were, “Codeine … bourbon.”

Hattie McDaniel? The Hong Kong flu? Even her death was extravagant.

Well folks, my next post may be about how I had to quit Clark Gable for Cary Grant. Until next time!

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27 comments on “Tallulah Bankhead!

    • I know right?! It’s ridiculous that there hasn’t been a movie completely about her, though I think actors have played her in movies or in plays, however, if I’ve read correctly. I see you’ve discovered who Hattie McDaniel was — crazy right?!

      And thanks, Amy, I am feeling much better!

  • About five years ago, Milton and I saw a hilarious play on Broadway called “Looped”. It starred Valerie Harper as Bankhead. It’s set in 1965 where she has to re-record one single line from “Die! Die! My Darling!” Bankhead is a total trainwreck and it takes forever to accomplish. That play was a blast and Valerie Harper was brilliant.

  • I’ve always thought of sex as simply being about friction, Sandee. In that context, does it really matter who the rub-er and who the rub-ee is? My one caveat, of course, is mutual consent. Who’s to say that bi- or ambi-sexual isn’t, in fact, our natural state and that society pushes us to conform to hetero or homo? xoxoxoM

    • “Rub-er” and “rub-ee”! — Hahahaha! — I never thought it should matter either! It scares me sometimes, even in contexts other than sexual, how easy it is to control people’s thought patterns — how the media and popular opinion pretty much can shape the way people think about themselves and life, etc. In the context of this post, I’m thinking of all the people who put themselves in a box sexually.

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